Fans of every team in the NBA can talk about wishing their team had drafted a different guy, or what could have been if they drafted the right guy. The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t alone in this phenomenon, at least.
But, until your team has passed on six MVP award-winners, 30 All-NBA team members, 37 All-Star appearances, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, 13 All-Defensive team awards, 10 league statistical leaders, a Sixth Man of the Year, and nine All-Rookie team appearances … you can’t really complain.
This is the case for the Timberwolves, and the player chosen exactly one pick after the Wolves’ selection. The exercise will take place in three parts; this is the first installment, covering the start of the franchise through 1999.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and the history of the next pick, 1989 to 1999
Here are the rules for this scenario before we start:
- The Timberwolves player considered only has to have been selected by the Wolves franchise or traded to them on draft night. They don’t have to have actually played for the team.
- The player passed on by Minnesota has to be the very next pick. Otherwise, almost any team could make this unfortunate argument.
- We’re starting in 2018 because it isn’t fair to entirely judge the careers of second-year players and rookies.
1989 NBA Draft: Wolves take Pooh Richardson over Nick Anderson
With the Timberwolves’ first draft choice in team history, they selected guard Pooh Richardson with the No. 10 pick. He played 10 seasons with the Wolves, Pacers, and Clippers and appeared in 639 games, averaging 11.1 points, 6.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Richardson was also on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. A solid career nonetheless, with his best season clocking in at 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game.
But, with the No. 11 pick, the Orlando Magic selected guard Nick Anderson. He played for 13 seasons and appeared in 800 games, averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Although he did not make the All-Rookie teams, he had more points, rebounds, blocks, and steals throughout his career, and he also put up a better free throw percentage, field goal percentage, and 3-point field goal percentage.
Anderson put up a line of 19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game in his best season.
1990 NBA Draft: Wolves take Felton Spencer over Lionel Simmons
With the No. 6 pick, the Timberwolves selected center Felton Spencer. He played for 12 seasons and appeared in 640 games, averaging 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Spencer was on the All-Rookie Second Team, and his best season was 9.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
With the No .7 pick, the Sacramento Kings selected Lionel Simmons. A seven-year player who appeared in 454 games, Simmons averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game for his career. Simmons also made the All-Rookie First Team.
Although he played in five fewer seasons, Simmons had more points, assists, and steals for his career than Spencer, and his best season saw him put up 18.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
The 1990 draft woes didn’t stop there, either. The Timberwolves selected Gerald Glass with the No. 20 pick, while the Phoenix Suns took big man Jayson Williams at No. 21.
Glass played for four seasons and appeared in 201 games, averaging 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 and assists per game. Not a bad player for the pick.
But, Williams played for nine seasons and appeared in 475 games, averaging 7.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Williams made one All-Star appearance and averaged 12.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game in his best season, finishing with more points, rebounds, blocks, and steals than Glass for their respective careers.
1992 NBA Draft: Wolves select Marlon Maxey over PJ Brown
With the No. 28 pick, the Timberwolves selected Marlon Maxey, who played for two seasons and only appeared in 98 games, averaging 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
With the following pick, the New Jersey Nets selected forward PJ Brown. He played for 15 seasons and appeared in 1,089 games, averaging 9.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and a block per game. Brown was a beast on the defensive end, earning All-Defensive Second Team honors three times — just a slight upgrade from Maxey.
1993 NBA Draft: Timberwolves pick Sherron Mills over Gheorghe Mureson
With the No. 29 pick, the Timberwolves selected forward Sherron Mills. He never made the roster.
Washington owned the next pick and selected 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan. A six-year player whose career was cut short due to injuries, Mureson still managed to leave his mark. He appeared in 307 games with the Bullets and New Jersey Nets, averaging 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
He won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1996 and lead the NBA in field goal percentage in back-to-back seasons. His best year included averages of 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. Mureson was a definite fan favorite.
1994 NBA Draft: Wolves take Donyell Marshall over Juwan Howard
With the No. 4 pick, the Timberwolves selected power forward Donyell Marshall. He played for 15 seasons and appeared in 957 games, averaging 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. Marshall made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, and his best season was 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and one block per game. It was a solid career, but only the first half of his rookie season was spent in a Timberwolves uniform.
Once again, Washington benefitted from picking one spot after the Timberwolves, happily selecting power forward Juwan Howard with the No. 5 pick. Howard played for 19 seasons and appeared in 1,208 games, averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Howard also made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
His best season included a line of 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Howard had 11 seasons averaging over 17 points per game, he made one All-Star appearance and was on the All-NBA third team once.
1997 NBA Draft: Timberwolves select Paul Grant, pass on Anthony Parker
With young stars in Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury already generating wins, the Timberwolves owned the No. 20 pick and selected center Paul Grant. He played for two seasons and only appeared in 16 games, averaging 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
The Nets once again selected behind the Timberwolves, this time taking shooting guard Anthony Parker. He played for nine seasons and appeared in 494 games, averaging 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Parker’s best season included averages of 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and a steal per game. Although he wasn’t a star, it sure beats a 16-game career.
The Timberwolves weren’t finished with their lackluster 1997 draft, as selecting Gordon Malone with the No. 43 pick. He never made the roster.
The following pick belonged to the Cavaliers. They picked Cedric Henderson, who played for five seasons and appeared in 260 games while averaging 7.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.
Henderson made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. While he was far from a star, he was a solid role player.
1999 NBA Draft: Timberwolves take Wally Szczerbiak over Rip Hamilton
Yes, this is the year the Timberwolves selected our beloved Wally Szczerbiak with the No. 6 overall pick.
Szczerbiak played for 10 seasons and appeared in 651 games, averaging 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game and shooting north of 40 percent on 3-point tries. He made the All-Rookie First Team and was on the All-Star roster once. Szczerbiak’s best season was his All-Star campaign when he averaged 18.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game while shooting an eye-popping 45.5 percent from deep.
But with the No. 7 pick, it was Washington once again swooping in to take an arguably superior player. Hamilton appeared in 921 games over 14 seasons, averaging 17.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game. Hamilton was a three-time All-Star, and his best season came in 2005-06 when he averaged 20.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Although Wolves fans love Wally World, it was Rip who had the better career.
In the second round, the Timberwolves selected Louis Bullock with the No. 43 pick. Like many second-round picks before him, he never made the roster.
The following pick went to the Hornets, who selected Lee Nailon. He played for six seasons and appeared in 306 games, averaging 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, with his best season clocking in at 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
Nailon was yet another role player whom the Wolves passed on that was solid in the NBA and found success overseas in the latter portion of his career.
Recapping the Minnesota Timberwolves’ drafts of the 1990s
Over the Timberwolf’s first 11 seasons, they made five selections that had better careers than the next player: Doug West in 1989, Luc Longely in 1991, Howard Eisley in 1994, Garnett in 1995, and Rasho Nesterovic in 1998.
But they made 10 selections where the next player had a better career.
They had two selections that deserved some consideration in Laettner in ’92 and Rider in ’93, and seven selections that neither player had a successful career, although all but one of those seven came in the second round. (The one selection that did not fit criteria as Minnesota was also the next pick, when they took both Mark Davis and Jerome Allen in the second round in ’95.
Oh, and we can’t forget about the draft-night trade in 1996 that sent Ray Allen to the Bucks in exchange for three years of Marbury, although that selection did not fit the criteria, either.
Stay tuned for Part Two and Part Three, coming soon…