There is precious little time left in the 2022-23 NBA season. In just a little more than three weeks, the Finals will have concluded, and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be racing toward an exciting new chapter in 2023-24.
For now, the Wolves’ opponent from the first round of the playoffs will be competing for their first ever championship. As the rest of the NBA watches, it is encouraging to know that the current title favorites had to give their all to take down Minnesota in round one.
But there is an additional storyline around the Denver Nuggets that is less encouraging for Timberwolves fans, and that is the reality that Jamal Murray could be playing in the Twin Cities right now. Watching what he is doing in these playoffs is especially difficult for those in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Timberwolves had a chance to draft Jamal Murray in 2016.
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a history of mistakes in the NBA Draft that have significantly altered the direction of the franchise. The most famous of which is likely their sixth overall selection in the 2009 draft, which they used to select Jonny Flynn. Of course, Stephen Curry went to the Golden State Warriors with the very next pick.
It is memories like this that make Wolves fans cringe and look the other direction. There is little doubt that if Minnesota had selected Curry in 2009, the next decade would have been far more successful for the franchise. While Jamal Murray is a less extreme example, it still hurts to know what kind of consistency he could have brought the Timberwolves at the point guard position.
In the 2016 NBA Draft, Minnesota owned the fifth overall pick and used it to select Kris Dunn. He would only last one season with the Wolves before being included in the trade with Chicago for Jimmy Butler the following summer. Two picks later, the Nuggets took Jamal Murray out of the University of Kentucky.
Jamal Murray would have helped the Timberwolves from day one.
Players developed under Head Coach John Calipari at Kentucky are notorious for being NBA-ready players. This rang true with Murray, as he played all 82 games his rookie year in 2016-17 and averaged a hair under 10 points per game. He would go on to earn a full-time starting role in Denver the next season.
Heading into the fall of 2016, the Minnesota Timberwolves were rolling with Ricky Rubio at point guard, but ended up trading him the following summer. They subsequently executed the infamous signing of Jeff Teague, which ultimately limited the team’s ceiling.
Minnesota’s point guard carousel continued when they traded for D’Angelo Russell in 2020, then dealt him away earlier this year to bring in Mike Conley. The Timberwolves are finally set up for success at that position now, but the process could have been significantly expedited if they had drafted Jamal Murray in 2016.
Of course, the flip side to this argument is that if Minnesota had employed Jamal for four seasons heading into the 2020 draft, the duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Murray would have likely ensured they had too good a record to draft Anthony Edwards first overall. It would have been nice to acquire a franchise point guard in 2016, but the Wolves are still in a fine position now.