Timberwolves The 6th pick comes to the Timberwolves by way of New Jersey as part of the Stephen Marbury trade.  Their GM for the 6th pick is Ryan Fortson who selects:

Wally Szczerbiak, SF, 6'8", Miami (Ohio)

Minnesota Timberwolves 1999 Season: A Time of Turmoil

Key personnel losses: Tom Gugliotta, Terry Porter, Stanley Roberts, Stephon Marbury and Chris Carr (both traded in-season to New Jersey)

Key personnel gains: #17 pick Radoslav Nesterovic (who did not sign with the team until the last two games of the regular season), #46 pick Andrae Patterson, Dean Garrett and Bobby Jackson (acquired in a three-way trade with Denver and Toronto for Michael Williams, the rights to C Zelko Rebracca, and a conditional first-round pick), Malik Sealy (free agent), Joe Smith (free agent), and Terrell Brandon (acquired for Stephon Marbury et. al. in a three-way trade with Milwaukee and New Jersey)

Record: 25-25, 4th Place Midwest Division, 8th Place Pacific Conference

I. Season Overview:

The Timberwolves came off the new Collective Bargaining Agreement expecting to be contenders for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and perhaps even first place in the Midwest Division. Instead, they were rocked by free agent (and potential free agent) defections and injuries. Still, they beat out Seattle for the final playoff spot because of owning the head-to-head tie-breaker and then even managed to beat San Antonio, something the Lakers and Trailblazers could not accomplish, before being ousted 3-1 in the first round.

This season can best be discussed in terms of who they did not have instead of who they did. The first major loss was Tom Gugliotta. Minnesota offered him the maximum salary they could ($86 mil for 7 years), which was about $17 mil more than any other team could offer. Googs turned down the Wolves’ offer and (after waiting for the McDyess situation to be resolved) signed with Phoenix. Gugliotta said at the time that he wanted to sign with a team that he knew would be a contender, but given that Minnesota and Phoenix were at similar levels, it is hard to believe this was a deciding factor. Part of the reason for his signing may have to do with the desire of his wife, a competitive triathlete, to be in a better training environment. A more likely reason, as revealed later by McHale, is that Gugliotta hated Marbury, who he (correctly) saw as a prima donna, and wanted to be with a point guard who was a better distributor of the ball (which Kidd certainly is, even though assist totals are not overly disparate between him and Marbury). During the free agent signing period, there was a rumor that the Lakers had offered Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell in a sign-and-trade for Gugliotta. McHale did not want anything to do with Campbell and his large contract. Plus, Jones’s agent told McHale that Eddie would never stay in Minnesota, which essentially nixed that deal. Jones subsequently fired his agent for his statements. In retrospect, this deal, if indeed it actually was on the table, definitely would have been of benefit for Minnesota, though at the time this was far from clear.

One fall-out from the Gugliotta situation was the loss of Terry Porter to Miami. Porter reportedly felt neglected by McHale and signed with Miami out of fear that all of the lucrative deals would dry up. Likely, the signing of Malik Sealy and the trade for Bobby Jackson, which meant that Porter would be the third option at both point guard and shooting guard, also had something to do with it. Given the injuries to Sealy and the generally poor play by Jackson, it is a shame that Porter could not have been retained. There were a few minor free agent losses like DeJuan Wheat, Cherokee Parks, and Stanley Roberts (the first two to Vancouver). Wheat and Parks might have helped at times, but one cannot blame them for seeking more playing time elsewhere, and their loses were not especially damaging either. Roberts would have provided interior muscle, but was too slow to be especially effective.

The other major loss (in addition to Gugliotta), was Stephon Marbury, who was traded to New Jersey in a three-way deal with Milwaukee after threatening not to re-sign with the Timberwolves this summer. The deal involved Minnesota sending Marbury, Chris Carr, and Bill Curley to New Jersey in exchange for Brian Evans (quickly cut after a few games with the team) and New Jersey’s first-round pick this year (or their first-round picks in 2000 and 2003, but they chose the certain lottery pick) and Terrell Brandon from Milwaukee (who received Sam Cassell and Chris Gatling from New Jersey and Paul Grant from Minnesota). Marbury was being groomed to be the next dynamic duo along with Kevin Garnett. Instead, Marbury could not handle sharing the spotlight. Marbury provided a driving energy late in games that ignited the team and often carried them to victory. His willingness to take the team on his shoulders, though, led to some out of control play and poor shot selection. At the time, Marbury was the only player that seemed willing to take on this responsibility, and he probably won more games than he lost. Yet, there were indications of his growing resentment of the team and the attempts of Saunders to get him to play more under control. Many say the turning point that convinced Marbury he no longer wanted to be with the team occurred in a nationally televised game against Seattle. Down one with only a few seconds remaining, Marbury drove the lane and attempted an ugly shot over a Seattle player that had no chance of going in. Fortunately for the Wolves, KG was there to slam home the rebound and provide the winning margin. Marbury was furious: not only had he been made a fool of by his poor shot selection, but Garnett grabbed all the glory for the victory on national television. After the lockout ended, Marbury had said that even though he was not going to sign an extension, he wanted to remain with the Timberwolves. By this point, he had changed his mind. Hence, he had to be traded for the best deal that Minnesota could find. (Marbury would almost certainly left for Chicago this summer if he had not been traded.) Marbury complicated matters further, however, by saying he would only sign an extension (a condition of any trade) with either New York or New Jersey. This nixed a rumored deal to Miami for Tim Hardaway. Marbury later said that he could not handle getting only $81 mil when Garnett was getting $126 mil and the two players were supposed to be equal. If this was truly his attitude, then perhaps it is best that he left.

At the time of the Marbury trade, Minnesota was 12-6 and in 4th place in the West. Following the trade, not only did Minnesota need time to adjust to new players, something not easy in a condensed season without much practice time, they also suffered a rash of injuries to their guards. Both Sealy and Peeler went down for major stretches of the season. The newly acquired Brandon, after playing a few games for his new team, suffered a deep thigh bruise and missed nine games. Such losses forced the team to sign off of waivers such players as Dennis Scott and James "Hollywood" Robinson. These players provided some short-term assistance, but were clearly stop-gap measures. Indeed, with Scott in the starting line-up, Coach Saunders even moved Garnett over to starting shooting guard for a couple of games.

Somehow, following a long losing streak that threatened to doom the season even further, the Timberwolves managed to regroup just enough (winning an impressive late-season home victory over Miami) to finish with a .500 record and make the playoffs because of tie-brakers won over Seattle (when Marbury was still with the team). That they would lose to San Antonio was almost a foregone conclusion.

What started out as a season with great promise, with many pundits calling the Minnesota Timberwolves the team of the future, finished a resounding disappointment. Furthermore, the turmoil may still not be over. Brandon is a free agent and insists on testing the market; Joe Smith is also a free agent, and all the Wolves can offer him is a continuation of his middle-class exemption. Still, there is reason for hope. Minnesota managed to wrangle a first-round pick out of New Jersey, which turned into the #6 pick overall. (The Nets finished with the 5th worst record, but the pick dropped a slot after Charlotte moved up. In eight trips to the lottery, Minnesota has moved down in six of them and remained steady in the other two.) Minnesota also has their own pick at #14. (This pick could have been sent to Toronto to complete the Garrett-Jackson trade, but Minnesota decided to keep it.) Many rumors are swirling as to whether these picks will be kept or traded for a new superstar to complement Garnett.

II. Draft History

  • 1989:
    • Jerome "Pooh" Richardson (10th)
    • Gary Leonard (34th)
    • Doug West (38th)
  • 1990

    Felton Spencer (6th)

    Gerald Glass (20th)

  • 1991
    • Luc Longley (7th)
    • Myron Brown (34th)
  • 1992
    • Christian Laettner (3rd)
    • Marlon Maxey (28th)
    • Chris Smith (34th)
    • Tim Burroughs (51st)
  • 1993
    • Isaiah Rider (5th)
    • Sherron Mills (29th)
  • 1994
    • Donyell Marshall (4th)
    • Howard Eisley (30th)
  • 1995
    • Kevin Garnett (5th)
    • Mark Davis (48th)
    • Jerome Allen (49th)
  • 1996
    • Ray Allen (5th; traded same day with Andrew Lang to Milwaukee for Stephon Marbury)
  • 1997
    • Paul Grant (20th)
    • Gordon Malone (44th)
  • 1998
    • Radoslav Nesterovic (17th)
    • Andrae Patterson (46th)

McHale took over starting with the 1995 draft. He showed great courage in taking Garnett, the first highly touted high school player in quite some time, with the #5 pick. This was clearly the pick that turned the franchise around. And to think that many people predicted Minnesota taking Ed O’Bannon there! At the time of the trade, Marbury said that he wanted to play in Minnesota, having become friends with KG at a summer camp the year before. Had Marbury stayed, this trade definitely would have been worth it, though in retrospect it might have been better to stick with Allen. The next two picks were made by a team desperate for a center. Grant has still not played an NBA minute, mostly because of ankle and foot injuries, and was eventually shipped to Milwaukee in the Marbury deal for salary cap reasons. Malone, to put it bluntly, did not have the intelligence to play in the NBA, as he could not grasp the complexities of the pro game. Nesterovic and Patterson both show promising futures for the Timberwolves. Indeed, some say Nesterovic, who played most of the year in Italy, would have been a lottery pick this year if he had not entered the draft last year.

III. Management and Coaching

After years of being one of the most mismanaged franchises in the history of major professional sports, the Minnesota Timberwolves have now obtained respectability and before the setbacks of this season were seen by many as one of the teams of the future. The T’Wolves were tentatively sold in 1994 to a group from New Orleans headed by boxing promoter Bob Arum before Commissioner Stern stepped in and voided the sale. This allowed Glen Taylor, whose offer to buy the team helped sway the NBA Relocation Committee, to become the new owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Upon doing so, he installed former Celtic great Kevin McHale as Vice President of Basketball Operations. In essence, McHale is the general manager, though that title is officially held by Phil "Flip" Saunders, whom McHale installed as coach in December of 1995, replacing Bill Blair in that position. On the GM side, McHale has been wonderful, especially compared to what we had in the past. He was able to trade Donyell Marshall (who admittedly is finally starting to look mediocre) to Golden State for superstar Tom Gugliotta and someone who absolutely cannot score, Doug West, to Vancouver for someone who can, Anthony Peeler. Because of the loss of players this year, the T’Wolves have many needs, but there is every reason to expect that the team is in good hands with McHale. His drafts have also been quite fruitful. Three years ago he drafted Kevin Garnett at #5 before drafting high school seniors became fashionable. Now Garnett is widely accepted as the best player in that draft and one of the cornerstones of the NBA. The next year he drafted Ray Allen at #5, but was able to trade him and Andrew Lang to Milwaukee (probably a deal engineered before the draft) for Stephon Marbury, arguably the second best player from that draft (after Iverson). Not only is McHale able to evaluate talent well, but players respect him and want to play for Minnesota. Thanks for this is also partially due to the strong (financial) support given by Taylor.

Despite his lack of fame, Saunders seems to be an excellent coach for a developing team. Before coming to the Timberwolves, he coached for many years in the CBA (winning the championship twice and coach of the year twice), so he knows how to bring out the best in struggling young players. The key to this is patience and the willingness to let young players like Garnett make mistakes. Saunders seems to have excellent knowledge of basketball strategy; the team finished with the lowest number of turnovers of any team in the league and played fairly respectable defense considering the personnel available. I think Saunders might have a slight problem on defense with defensive rotations; I do not have exact stats, but I think Minnesota allowed close to the most 3-pointers of any team in the league, though there did seem to be some improvement on last year. Part of this, though, might be due to the team being undermanned. Not having a real center resulted in needing to double-team more down low. Still, Saunders does an excellent job of having his team ready to play and achieve their maximum potential. He is always pacing the sidelines and is always eager to teach.

One of the keys to Minnesota’s success in comparison to "the early years" has been team unity, which has been stressed by both McHale and Saunders. Both of them realize that championship teams need to develop over time and play well together instead of as a collection of individuals (see the Lakers this year [and every other]). To this end, they have traded away troublemakers like Isaiah Rider and Christian Laettner for lesser talent and are unlikely to draft anyone who has serious questions about their attitude or behavior. The duo understands the importance of stability and continuity, especially among the core players, and try to carry this philosophy into their roster decisions. McHale learned these virtues in his days with the Celtics and is instilling them in the entire organization. Unfortunately, today’s players do not value character as much as McHale does. He echoed this sentiment following the defection of Marbury. Between Gugliotta and Marbury, McHale has suffered a great deal of frustration this year, leading some to suggest that he will resign. Do not expect this to happen. Saunders is rumored to be a candidate for the Minnesota Golden Gopher’s coaching position if Clem Haskins is forced out, but this is unlikely. McHale and Saunders have the full support of Taylor and are both committed to bringing a championship back to Minnesota (how do you think the "Lakers" got their name?). Neither of them will quit until that is accomplished.

IV. Players

(Regular season statistics)
Garnett 47 47 37.9 .460 .286 .704 3.5 6.9 10.4 4.3 1.66 1.77 20.8
Brandon 36 34 33.8 .418 .255 .833 0.8 3.0 3.7 8.6 1.75 0.28 13.9
Smith 43 42 33.0 .427 .000 .755 3.6 4.7 8.2 1.6 0.74 1.53 13.7
Mitchell 50 20 26.9 .408 .237 .764 1.1 2.5 3.6 2.0 0.70 0.32 11.2
Peeler 28 28 28.9 .379 .298 .732 1.1 1.9 3.0 2.8 1.25 0.21 9.6
Sealy 31 7 23.6 .411 .261 .902 0.7 2.2 3.0 1.2 0.97 0.16 8.1
Jackson 50 12 18.8 .405 .370 .772 0.9 1.8 2.7 3.3 0.78 0.06 7.1
Scott 36 9 20.5 .408 .381 .742 0.2 1.4 1.6 1.1 0.42 0.08 6.5
Robinson 31 0 16.3 .362 .284 .683 0.6 1.4 2.0 1.8 0.71 0.26 5.9
Garrett 49 37 21.5 .502 -- .745 2.0 3.2 5.2 0.6 0.61 0.92 5.5
Hammonds 49 0 14.6 .458 -- .640 1.1 1.7 2.8 0.4 0.16 0.14 4.3
Nesterovic 2 0 15.0 .250 -- 1.000 1.5 2.5 4.0 0.5 0.00 0.00 4.0
Patterson 35 0 8.1 .443 .000 .778 0.9 1.0 1.9 0.4 0.54 0.20 3.3
Curley 35 7 10.6 .403 .200 .864 0.6 0.9 1.5 0.4 0.49 0.26 2.2
Jordan 27 1 11.0 .278 -- .553 1.0 1.2 2.2 1.5 0.44 0.19 1.9
Team Totals 50 250 240.5 .425 .298 .743 15.1 27.8 42.9 24.4 8.52 5.44 92.9
Opponents 50 -- 240.5 .439 .326 .718 11.8 31.3 43.1 22.3 7.26 5.24 92.6
              OFF DEF TOT        
Garnett 47 47 1780 414-900 4-14 145-206 166 323 489 202 78 83 977
Brandon 36 34 1217 212-507 12-47 65-78 27 107 134 309 63 10 501
Smith 43 42 1418 223-522 0-3 142-188 154 200 354 68 32 66 588
Mitchell 50 20 1344 213-522 9-38 126-165 55 127 182 98 35 16 561
Peeler 28 28 810 103-272 34-114 30-41 30 54 84 78 35 6 270
Sealy 31 7 731 95-231 6-23 55-61 23 69 92 36 30 5 251
Jackson 50 12 941 141-348 10-27 61-79 43 92 135 167 39 3 353
Scott 36 9 738 87-213 37-97 23-31 8 50 58 40 15 3 234
Robinson 31 0 506 67-185 21-74 28-41 18 44 62 56 22 8 183
Garrett 49 37 1054 116-231 0-0 38-51 99 158 257 28 30 45 270
Hammonds 49 0 716 82-179 0-0 48-75 54 82 136 20 8 7 212
Nesterovic 2 0 30 3-12 0-0 2-2 3 5 8 1 0 0 8
Patterson 35 0 284 43-97 0-5 28-36 30 35 65 15 19 7 114
Curley 35 7 372 29-72 1-5 19-22 20 31 51 14 17 9 78
Jordan 27 1 296 15-54 0-0 21-38 27 32 59 41 12 5 51
Team Totals 50 250 12025 1838-4327 122-410 849-1143 754 1392 2146 1218 426 272 4647
Opponents 50 -- 12025 1680-3823 213-654 1055-1470 591 1563 2154 1114 363 262 4628


A. Centers:

Dean Garrett (6’11", 250 lbs, dob: 11/27/66, years NBA: 3, Indiana ’88): Garrett took the league by storm – well, relatively speaking, at least – as a 30-year old rookie in 1996-97. He shot 57% and averaged 8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, before promptly fleeing to the bigger bucks (if not greener pastures) of Denver in 1997-98. Once there, he discovered that playing on one of the worst teams in history was nowhere near as much fun as being on the receiving end of passes from Stephon Marbury. He wanted out, and the Nuggets were happy to oblige, sending Garrett back to the Wolves along with Bobby Jackson in the three-way deal that sent Micheal Williams and a future first-round draft pick to Toronto (who sent Chauncy Billups to Denver). Unfortunately, once back in a Minnesota uniform, Garrett never found his 1996-97 form. He shot a respectable 50% from the field but disappeared at times and never provided the physical presence in the paint that the Wolves needed. The Nuggets signed him to a five year deal for $15 million, which has three more years to run. The Wolves hope that Nestorevic develops, which will allow Dean to slide into a role as a backup center. He’ll fit that role quite well, but if this season was any indication, the 32-year old is not the quality starter at center that the Wolves need.

Radoslav (Rasha, Rasho, Nesty) Nesterovic (7’0", 248 lbs, dob: 5/30/76, years NBA: 1, Slovenia): Cries of "who?" greeted the announcement of the Timberwolves’ selection in the 1998 draft, as the team drafted a little-known center who was signed to play for Virtus Kinder Bologna in the Italian League during 1998-1999. The pick was all but forgotten by the average Timberwolves fan, so the question "who?" arose again when, with two days left in the 1998-1999 NBA season, the Wolves reported that they were signing that player, Radoslav Nesterovic, and bringing him on board that very night. Nesterovic’s Italian season had come to an end when his team was knocked out of the playoffs not long before, and he had expressed an interest in joining the Wolves. The reason for signing him now was two-fold: first, he had had a great season in Italy and had attracted the attention of a number of European teams who, unfettered by the salary cap, would have been able to offer him far more money during the summer than was available in the Wolves’ rookie deal; and, second, it ensured that he would be on board over the summer and thus give the team the entire offseason (minus a few weeks playing for his national team) to work with him. The signing did cost the Wolves money and, maybe more importantly, counted as a full year towards the four-year limit on rookie contracts, but seems to have been a good idea. Nestorevic is currently pegged as the Wolves’ starting center for next season and the more time he has to work with McHale and crew, the better. While in Italy, he averaged 13.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg and and a league-leading 1.42 bpg, and shot .652 from the field. Although it is impossible to judge his potential from a few appearances when he had only had days to learn the system, he displayed a nice shooting touch and a good head for the game. McHale missed the boat a couple years ago by bringing Stojko Vrankovic back from overseas; Wolves fans, for years desperate for a quality center, are hoping for better results from this latest European import.

Trevor Winter (7’0", 280 lbs, dob: 1/7/74, years NBA: 1, Minnesota ’97): Trevor Winter, another local favorite from his days playing at the University of Minnesota, is the latest in a long line of tall Minnesota guys playing in the NBA. Unfortunately, he’s no Kevin McHale or even Randy Breuer. Winter played exactly five minutes in one game for the Wolves in 1999 (I think he even scored a basket) but talks as if he’ll be back with the team this coming season. He may well be, but only as one of those oft-injured IR-shuttlees.

B. Forwards:

Kevin (KG, Da Kid, Big Ticket, The Franchise) Garnett (6’11", 220 lbs, dob: 5/19/76, years NBA: 4, Farragut Academy High School ’95): What more can be said that hasn’t already been said? KG is not just the best player on the Timberwolves, at age 23, he already ranks among the NBA’s elite players. This past season, he was named to the All-NBA Third Team. When the defections of Marbury and Gugliotta left the weight of the team squarely on his shoulders, he stepped up his game yet another notch, at times seemingly carrying the team by himself. Early in the season, he had a tendency to disappear at the end of games, but he turned that around as it became clear Minnesota had no one else to go to. He ranked 11th in the league in scoring and displayed an ability to score from both inside and outside, displaying a remarkably soft touch on his jumper for a guy who unofficially stands over 7 feet tall (he has requested to be listed at 6’11" because he thinks that 7’ sounds slow). He’s a terrific rebounder and probably the team’s best defensive player, both in terms of guarding his man and playing weak-side defense. He ranked in the top twenty in the league in rebounds, blocks, steals, and double-doubles. To top it off, he’s a great ballhandler for someone his size and one of the best passing forwards in the game (ranking 5th in assists among forwards). The superlatives could go on, but you get the point. What can’t he do? Very little, though there is room for improvement in his game. He tends to be more of a finesse player than a player of his size and athletic ability should be – he likes to give a couple shoulder fakes and go to the turn-around jumper from the low post. Sometimes it falls, but when you’re three or four inches taller and quicker than the defender, you should be going to the hoop, not away from it. As a result of his finesse game, Garnett, who ranked 3rd in the league in field goal attempts, didn’t even finish in the top 40 in free throws attempted. Why does it matter, so long as he scores? Two main reasons: first, he shot only 46% from the field, which isn’t bad but isn’t great either and could have been improved if he took the ball to the hoop more strongly, and second, the Wolves desperately need someone who can get to the foul line and get opponents in foul trouble. Lacking either a slashing guard or a bruising center, Garnett is the obvious answer. That is just nitpicking, though – Garnett will be a fixture on the All-NBA team for years to come. He is signed until 2004 with the now-famous $125mil contract extension that began this year.

Joe Smith (6’10", 225 lbs, dob: 7/25/75, years NBA: 4, Maryland ’95): Drafted four picks ahead of Garnett in 1995, Joe Smith now finds himself playing second fiddle to Da Kid. Smith signed as a free agent in the Wolves middle-class exception slot under the salary cap, a nice move by McHale that allowed to Wolves to patch up at least some of the damage done by Gugliotta’s departure. Smith had a nice year, though he has yet to live up to his status as the top pick in the draft. When Smith was on – as in a three game stretch in March when he averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game – he was great, but he had a tendency to disappear just as frequently as he exploded. A slim 225 pounds, he is a bit undersized in the post (as evidenced by his getting overpowered by David Robinson in the playoffs) and sometimes resorts to playing a face-up shooter’s game rather than the banging power game that the Wolves need. The result is that Smith shot only 42.7% from the field, an atrociously lower percentage for a power forward. He did provide a degree of athleticism that matched up nicely with Garnett’s game and proved to be a surprisingly good offensive rebounder (finishing 10th in the league in offensive rebounds per game, and 19th in rebounds per game). If Smith could bulk up a bit and, perhaps more importantly, if the Wolves can find themselves a true center with a power game to complement the finesse of Garnett and Smith, the Wolves would have a frontcourt to be reckoned with. A power player would mitigate the problems the Wolves often face with guarding opposing big men and Smith and Garnett would cause significant matchup problems. Smith is a free agent this year and under the collective bargaining agreement will be able to make more money by signing elsewhere (the Wolves can only offer him around $2 million for the next two years before they can give him big money). However, Smith has said that he enjoys playing alongside Garnett and, after shuttling through three teams in his first four years in the league, is looking for stability. Sources with the Timberwolves are highly optimistic that he will be back in 1999-2000.

Sam (Sam-I-Am) Mitchell (6’7", 210 lbs, dob: 9/2/63, years NBA: 10, Mercer ’85): If Garnett is the soul of the franchise, Sam Mitchell is its heart. A charter member of the Timberwolves (after playing a few years in Europe), Mitchell was traded to Indiana in 1992 and played three seasons there before returning as a free agent in 1995. The aging warrior never was the most athletic or graceful player, but he makes up for it with determination and hustle – he’s the kind of guy every coach wishes he had on his team. One example jumps out: with five games to play in the season, the Wolves, in a battle to make the playoffs, realistically had to win at least three games to make the postseason and were facing the Phoenix Suns, with whom they were fighting for position. Garnett had an off-night, but Mitchell refused to let the Wolves lose, driving hard to the hoop, knocking down jumper after jumper, and hurtling himself after loose balls. He finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in a win that served to break the team out of a slump and begin a run that put them into the playoffs. Mitchell is perhaps the team’s most physical player, able to defend both small forwards and power forwards, and he likes to take it hard into the lane and get fouled. He has an uncanny ability to knock down the mid-range jumper from the baseline and often finds himself open as teams are slow to recover from doubling Garnett. Sam is the epitome of the NBA bench player, providing spark and hustle on the floor and leadership off it. This year he was forced to start in several games while Joe Smith was injured and Garrett was in the doghouse, but he is much better suited to a role as a sixth man, a role he definitely excels at. He is signed for next year and should provide valuable minutes coming off of the bench. (There is conflicting information on Mitchell’s contract; I am going with the Minnesota beat writer, though he is listed as a free agent in a couple of other places. If he is a free agent, he almost certainly will be brought back for another year.)

Tom Hammonds (6’9", 225 lbs, dob: 3/27/67, years NBA: 10, Georgia Tech ’89): Hammonds, the prototype NBA journeyman, came to the Timberwolves in November 1997. He fills much the same role that Mitchell does – veteran leadership, hustle, and physical play off the bench. He’s not the scorer that Sam is but the two share the ability to play hard-nosed defense. He is probably the strongest player currently on the Timberwolves. Because of the Wolves’ lack of a true center, Hammonds is often called upon to guard opposing centers and is generally up to the task. Hammonds is a free agent and may be brought back depending on whom the Timberwolves get in the draft and through free agency and trades.

Andrae Patterson (6’9", 238 lbs, dob: 12/12/75, years NBA: 1, Indiana ’98): Patterson, the Wolves’ second-round pick in 1998 (46th overall), was a pleasant surprise. McHale and Saunders like what they see in the youngster, bringing him off the bench for quality minutes late in the season. He averaged 11 rebounds per 48 minutes played, with nearly half of those on the offensive glass. He needs to bulk up and improve his defense but will provide useful backup minutes at PF. He is being groomed as a successor to Sam Mitchell, though Patterson does not quite have the range on his shot that Mitchell does. He is a free agent this year, but unless he gets a huge offer from another team (not likely), he will be back next season.

Dennis (3D) Scott (6’8", 229 lbs, dob: 9/5/68, years NBA: 9, Georgia Tech ’90): After being cut by the Knicks early in the season, "3D" caught on with the Wolves in March at the minimum salary. He seemed a decent fit, since a three-point shooter has been a key need for years, but his lack of defense and, well, inability to do anything besides a stroke it from downtown cost him a spot on the playoff roster. He won kudos for sticking around to practice during the playoffs rather than going on an early vacation, but don’t look for him to be back.

Bill Curley (6’9", 245 lbs, dob: 5/29/72, years NBA: 5, Boston College ’94): Curley, a former Boston College star, has seen his NBA dreams hampered by leg injuries. He rejoined the Wolves after being sent to – and then cut by – the Nets in the Marbury deal. He’s a crowd favorite and McHale called him one of the most fundamentally sound players on the squad. Unfortunately, fundamentals without athleticism don’t get you very far in today’s NBA. Curley may stick around as a banger at the end of the bench but does not figure prominently in the Wolves’ future plans.


Terrell (TB) Brandon (5’11", 173 lbs, 5/20/70, years NBA: 8, Oregon ’90): Brandon came to Minnesota in the Marbury deal and was supposedly a player that McHale really coveted. After roughly half of a half-season, it is not clear that this marriage is going to work out. Brandon is a free agent and has always insisted that he wants to test the market. While he has not said that he doesn’t want to play in Minnesota, he has talked favorably of playing for other teams and reportedly wants to stay in the Western Conference. It is not entirely clear the that T’Wolves see him as a long-term solution either. Though Brandon was labeled the best point guard in the NBA a few years ago by Sports Illustrated, few people believed it then and he has done little to improve his assessment. Brandon is certainly a very good player, but he is more of a role player than a star. He is an excellent passer, finishing 5th in the NBA in assists per game, but is not especially fast and almost never drives to the basket. Minnesota based much of their offense on Marbury driving to the hoop and then dishing off if necessary (though probably not as many times as he should have dished off). This is not a skill that Brandon possesses; Brandon cannot create his own shot. Brandon is more of a spot-up shooter up to about 20’, but has no three-point shot. One problem with the Timberwolves is that they do not have anyone who can take advantage of Brandon’s spot-up abilities by themselves driving to the lane and dishing off. Brandon has neither the ability to shoot on the run nor does he have the 3-point ability to stretch the defense. Consequently, he has trouble with what is generally demanded of a point guard in the NBA today. This is not to say that Brandon does not have valuable skills; his passing ability and skill at running an offense can be put to good use in the proper offensive scheme. If Minnesota does keep Brandon, they will definitely need to redesign plays away from Marbury’s slashing style and more toward a motion offense. In order to do this, they will need a shooting guard with reasonable range to stretch the opposing defense. Speaking of defense, Brandon is not especially strong here, though he is not quite the defensive liability that some have accused him of being. His sub-six-foot height means that he can be posted up easily by many point guards in the NBA, and those that cannot post him up can often run past or around him. Brandon is an intelligent player and not a huge defensive liability, but his limitations must be taken into account when designing a defensive scheme. Brandon also has a reputation for getting injured easily (he missed two-weeks this season [which translated into nine games because of the compressed schedule] with a thigh bruise) and not wanting to play through pain, which makes teams wonder if he can be depended upon in a championship run. In sum, Brandon is a decent (maybe top 10) point guard, but one with serious question marks, especially regarding his fit with the Timberwolves. He will certainly be a starting point guard somewhere in the NBA next season. McHale was a college teammate of Brandon’s agent, so it is hoped that if Brandon does not re-sign that he will be amenable to participating in a sign-and-trade deal so that Minnesota is not left out in the cold, so to speak, as they were when Gugliotta departed.

Bobby Jackson (6’1", 185 lbs, 3/13/73, years NBA: 2, Minnesota ’97): While Brandon (and certainly Marbury before him) was a quality starter, Jackson was a huge disappointment as a back-up point guard. Early in the season his flaws were not apparent because Marbury played so many minutes, but when Brandon came over, and especially when Brandon was injured, Jackson’s weaknesses became clear. Anyone who saw how Minnesota completely fell apart against San Antonio in the playoffs during the few minutes when Brandon got a rest knows this to be the case. Jackson often, both in the playoffs and during the regular season, seemed lost and out of control on the basketball court, with no clear idea of how to run an offense. He had decent assist numbers as a rookie in Denver, but, then again, they were one of the worst teams in the history of basketball. In retrospect, Jackson’s inability to run an offense might have contributed to that. Indeed, toward the end of the year he was removed from the starting line-up and Denver started to win a few games. Jackson is the classic case of a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He is only a decent shooter, but that seems to be acceptable in the NBA today. Jackson has decent speed and is somewhat effective in driving the lane (which he tends to do too much). He is decent (better than Brandon) defensively when matched up against other team’s point guards. It is not clear what his future in the NBA is. He is really too short to be the kind of back-up shooting guard that teams want, which means he is going to have to learn to play the point. The hope is that a full training camp will allow Jackson to learn the offense and develop into a back-up point guard, but this is far from a certainty. He is signed through next year and really needs to prove himself if he wants a future in this league.

Anthony Peeler (6’4", 208 lbs, 11/25/69, years NBA: 7, Missouri ’92): As with Jackson, Peeler also had a disappointing season, though he had a bit better of a record with which to justify that disappointment. After coming over from Vancouver in the middle of the 1997-98 season, Minnesota felt that it had finally found a competent shooting guard to replace J.R. Rider. This season, Peeler had what can only be hoped was an off year. Not only are his stats down, he also was far more inconsistent than you would want in a starter. Most importantly, he could not be counted on as an outside shooter (his 3-pt% fell from a bit over 42% to under 30%), which was his primary function in the offense. In Peeler’s defense, he injured his left calf in the pre-season and never really recovered, missing an entire month in the middle of the season in the process. Even when healthy, though, Peeler comes across as a player who would be better as an offensive spark (though his defense is decent if not stellar) off the bench rather than a regular starter. There seems to be an increasing emphasis in the NBA on reserve shooting guards who can anchor an offense when the starters are out. Peeler, if he can regain some of his earlier form, is well-suited for that role. Peeler is signed through 2002, and if the T’Wolves do not trade him, he will likely be moved into a back-up position.

Malik Sealy (6’8", 200 lbs, 2/1/70, years NBA: 7, St. John’s ’92): Sealy was brought in primarily for defensive purposes and also to be the back-up shooting guard behind Peeler. His solid offense was a pleasant surprise, and the Wolves missed him greatly when he was out for a month with injuries. Sealy is big enough and talented enough to guard any opposing shooting guard. Sealy has a decent mid-range game, but does not have especially good range, nor are his moves around the basket anything to be excited about. He does always play hard, though, and serves as an example to the rest of the tem with his effort. Sealy would make a decent back-up, though in a completely different vein than Peeler, but should not be expected to become a starter. Sealy signed last year for the million dollar exemption and might be re-signed for that amount this year. Sealy is very dependable for what he does and should be re-signed as the back-up shooting guard as protection against a continued collapse by Peeler. (I have seen some places where Sealy is listed as being signed through next year.)

Reggie Jordan (6’4", 195 lbs, 1/26/68, years NBA: 5, New Mexico St. ’91): Jordan, definitely not to be confused with the other guy, also shows a great deal of heart and is a very good defensive stopper, but his range is a lay-up. This is not good when your size dictates that you play guard. The night that he started at shooting guard (because of injuries and a not-yet finalized trade) was truly one of the most frightening nights in Timberwolves history. His effort makes you root for the guy, but his talent definitely places him in the CBA. Toward the end of the season he came down with a phantom injury because it was clear he had no place on the team. He is a free agent, and if he is re-signed it is an indication of serious off-season failures.

James "Hollywood" Robinson (6’2", 180 lbs, 8/31/70, Alabama ’93): Robinson, after being cut by the Clippers (!), was signed essentially as an injury replacement mostly because he knew the system from his previous stint with Minnesota two years ago. Indeed, it was his decent play in Minnesota that got him a three year deal with the Clippers. Robinson was kept on the playoff roster over Dennis Scott because it was thought that Robinson could provide some minutes at point guard since Coach Saunders had lost all confidence in Bobby Jackson. Robinson fared no better. As with Scott, Robinson was also counted upon to hit 3-point shots, but unlike Scott he fared miserably there as well. Since he signed with Minnesota for the league minimum, he is a free agent, even though I think he still has a guaranteed year on his Clippers contract. Regardless, he will not be back.

V. Team Needs and Possible Offseason Moves

Going into the season, the Timberwolves thought they had their starting line-up of the future set, with Marbury at PG, Peeler at SG, KG at SF, Gugliotta at PF, and Nesterovic (in a year) at C. Little did they know how much things would change. Garnett is still solid at small forward, and there are strong hopes for Nesterovic at center, but everything else, including the bench, is up in the air. Joe Smith will probably be back and be a solid starter at power forward. He needs to develop more strength and a better inside game, but he seems to have the talent to do this and is almost certainly a better option than anyone else the T’Wolves could get. If Brandon is back, he will be the starting point guard. Peeler might start at the beginning of the season, but is probably not a long-term solution at shooting guard. It would also be nice to have a bit more strength at center for teams like the Lakers and Spurs; Nesterovic is still somewhat thin, though this can at least partially be corrected with the proper off-season training regimen. The frontcourt is very good at blocking shots, but has trouble with being backed-down because of a general lack of strength. Minnesota was only slightly out-rebounded on average, but the lack of strength on the inside forced double-teaming on defense that left shooters open on the outside. Their own outside shooting was quite poor, with the team finishing 26th out of 29 teams in 3-point percentage. Outside shooting will be a priority for any guards that Minnesota acquires. The Timberwolves finished only slightly better (23rd) in field goal percentage. Much of this was due to a lack of a dependable shooting guard who could stretch the defense with outside shooting and consequently open up room for other players to drive to the hoop. As a result, the T’Wolves were forced to settle for far more mid-range jump shots than a winning team should have to. This problem was only exacerbated with the substitution of Brandon, who cannot drive the lane, for Marbury, who could quite well. Overall, the team finished 11th in the league on offense and 16th on defense. On the bright side, the Wolves finished 2nd in the league in the number of assists, 1st in fewest turnovers, and 4th in forcing turnovers. This is all a sign of excellent coaching, as the talent level is certainly not appreciably better than that of other teams. Indeed, with better talent, this coaching should translate into a much better record.

Essentially all of Minnesota’s draft strategy depends on what they think will happen with Brandon. If Brandon is retained, then the biggest team needs are (in order): 1) starting shooting guard (to create more spacing in the offense); 2) back-up point guard (if nothing else because of Brandon’s frailty); 3) interior muscle (which I place third because you can only play five players at a time and Hammonds and Mitchell are decent enough off the bench). If Brandon is sent elsewhere in a sign-and-trade, then you need to take into account who the Timberwolves get in return. Brandon could be traded for one or more of these needs, though this would obviously open up a huge gap at starting point guard. If Brandon is traded for a starting point guard, then the old needs remain. In addition to Brandon, pretty much anyone else other than Garnett is a possibility for trades, though Minnesota only has KG, Mitchell, Peeler, Jackson, Garrett, Nesterovic, and maybe Sealy signed for next season. (Joe Smith probably could not be included as part of a sign-and-trade: he is signed for the middle-class exception, so if he wanted to go elsewhere he would just sign for the exception there.) Minnesota will only have money under the cap if they renounce their rights to Brandon (along with all of their other free agents), so expect them to make trades to acquire the players they want. Saunders has been quoted as saying, "Our No. 1 thing is we have to bring in a dynamic player. We owe it to our team and our fans to show our commitment." In the same interview, he promised, "I guarantee we will do a lot of things and put a spark back into our organization, to where it was last year at this time with the expectations and the enthusiasm." McHale seems to share the same sentiments. This would indicate that there are many changes that can and will be made this off-season (i.e. Brandon is probably gone). Both of them realize that the franchise is at a crucial crossroads, and that if they want to avoid becoming mired in mediocrity, significant changes need to be made. The organization needs to recapture the vision of the future it had only two years ago. McHale and Saunders seem to know what they want the identity of this team to be, though this identity is not presently clear to the public, and are determined to make the changes necessary to achieve this identity.

Possible trades that have been rumored include (in no particular order):

  1. Brandon (and maybe Peeler, #6 or # 14) to Portland for Damon Stoudamire: This is the most likely sign-and-trade of Brandon, as there are many in Portland who do not think that Stoudamire will be happy there. Brandon is also from Portland, so he would probably do a sign-and-trade to go there. This deal would make sense for Minnesota if it is straight up, but throwing in the draft picks may be too much.
  2. Brandon and some combination #6, #14, and/or Peeler to Seattle for Payton: This rumor arose after Payton blew his top about not getting into the playoffs. He now seemingly wants to stay in Seattle. Plus, it is hard to see Seattle trading away their most marketable superstar and not getting one in return.
  3. Brandon to the Lakers for Glen Rice: Rice would have to shift over to shooting guard; he would be a bit slow there, but not terrible. However, I do not think Rice would want to come to Minnesota, and Flip does not want people on the team who do not want to be here. Also, Rice is rumored to be headed to Houston for Pippen.
  4. Brandon and #14 to the Lakers for Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, and LA’s second round pick (#30): This does not sound like a very good deal for Minnesota. There is especially no reason to include #14. Fisher is good, but not that good. Horry is a problem child who is better suited for the bench than the starting line-up. Why would Minnesota relieve the Lakers of the two positions they most want to replace?
  5. Brandon (and maybe Peeler, #6 or #14 [actually, this goes for all possible trades of Brandon]) to Orlando for Penny Hardaway in a double sign-and-trade: No way Saunders and McHale take on his bad attitude. Stoudamire’s pouting can be dismissed to youth, but Penny is a real whiner and would threaten to drag the team down. The only hope would be if Penny could accept side-kick status to KG like he more or less did to Shaq. It sounds like Saunders wants to get another star, so he might be thinking about Penny. However, Phoenix is supposedly offering Gugliotta and #9, which is probably a better offer for Orlando.
  6. Brandon to Dallas for Finley: This is Crazy Don Nelson we’re dealing with here, but I can’t see him trading away Finley. I don’t think he has given up on Nash yet.
  7. Brandon (and other stuff) to New York for Houston: If the Knicks had lost in the first round, this might have happened, but not now.
  8. Brandon to Golden State for players other than Antawn Jamison: Golden State is really high on Brandon and Brandon has expressed interest in playing for them (which makes you question his commitment to winning). Golden State has some salary cap room. I’m not sure how much, but it is not enough to offer Brandon the maximum salary like Minnesota could. Basically, we would take enough players so that the Warriors could get under the cap enough to give Brandon the max. Possible players include Donyell Marshall, Erick Dampier (in a sign-and-trade), John Starks, and maybe Jason Caffey. This deal would be more or less a last ditch effort if we thought we were going to lose Brandon and wanted to make sure we got something for him. Dampier might be the most intriguing of these: He would provide needed inside muscle, but is still very raw and somewhat of an offensive liability. He is also asking for more money than he is worth. He might be useful in a three-team trade, though (as would any player potentially).
  9. Pick #6 to Utah for Byron Russell or to Toronto for Doug Christie: Both of these players are decent, but at #6 we have a chance to get a player who could develop into a star, which I think is the way we should go.
  10. Bobby Jackson and Dean Garrett to the Clippers for Lorenzen Wright in a sign-and-trade: Wright is definitely out of Clipper-land. Los Angeles will probably get better offers for Wright than this, but if they do not this one may be intriguing. It all depends on what Wright is offered on the free agent market, since this deal would only be for about $4 mil/year. (To be honest, that is probably about what he is worth, but centers tend to be overpaid.) Wright would definitely be a player who could provide interior muscle and would form an effective change of pace combo with Nesterovic.
  11. If Szczerbiak is available at #6, take him and trade him (and maybe #14) to Cleveland for #8 and #11 and/or Wesley Person/Derek Anderson/Brevin Knight: Cleveland wants Wally so badly that we could probably name our price. Personally, I would take #8 and Wesley person if they limited our choices to two. Then again, there is growing consensus that Szczerbiak may be good enough defensively to fill our needs at shooting guard. He can definitely shoot from anywhere on the court. However, it is also becoming increasingly likely that he will be gone by #6. (BTW, with #8 I would draft Jason Terry.)

As you can see, there are a multitude of possibilities. I did not even mention all of the minor trades involving just Peeler, Garrett, and Bobby Jackson that have been suggested. What do I think will happen? I think the Brandon for Stoudamire deal will happen, especially given his poor performance against the Spurs. We may need to throw in #14 for this to happen, but then again, the last thing Portland needs is more players. Minnesota supposedly offered this deal after the Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs; Portland said they would think about it, which indicates to me that they want to trade Brandon and are hoping for better offers. I am not totally enamored with Stoudamire, but he would probably be a better fit for us than Brandon (though ultimately perhaps not a better player overall). Damon could definitely help while a young point guard was being groomed as the successor. Or, Stoudamire could be traded, as he would likely have more appeal than Brandon. I have real hopes about landing Lorenzen Wright, but expect those hopes to be dashed. Even if Wally is available, I’m not sure I would make that trade. I have not seen him play enough to evaluate how he would fit in with Minnesota, but he seems to be a keeper.

VI. My Selection

Wally Szczerbiak, 6’8" SF, University of Miami (Ohio): Minnesota desperately needs someone to stretch the opposing defense, and there is no better player to do this than Wally. Szczerbiak is able to get his shot either on the run or as a set shot. He will be a player that other teams have to account for, which is something Minnesota does not really have other than Garnett. Wally is also strong enough to drive the lane with some effectiveness; this will open up the offense for other players as well. The knock on him is that he is too slow on both offense and defense. His workouts for various teams have somewhat dispelled this fear. He should be a solid defensive player, though maybe not one of the best at his position. It is entirely possible that his shooting has been so highly touted that people have overlooked his defense. Wally says he patterns himself after Glen Rice, probably a good comparison, and you could do worse than that at #6.

The question becomes where you play Szczerbiak. Assuming you want to give him major minutes and probably put him in the starting line-up, there are two options: 1) Against teams that do not have an especially strong center (most teams), play a three forward line-up, with Smith shifting over to de facto center and Wally playing power forward (he is heavier than KG). On defense, the power forward on the other team will probably not be fast enough to be a problem for Wally. There might be a slight height differential, but I do not think it will be too much of a problem. Any of the forwards could flip positions depending upon what the opponent throws at the Wolves. On offense, this would leave Minnesota without much of a post game, so expect a lot of slashing and ball movement. Minnesota would also need to find a shooting guard (and maybe a point guard) who could shoot from outside. 2) Against teams that required us to play a genuine center, shift Szczerbiak over to shooting guard. I am not so worried about offense. Wally might not have quite the speed you would want from a perimeter player, but it should not be too hard to incorporate him into plays. On defense, things would depend on how fast or slow Wally really is. He might be fast enough to guard many of the opponents’ shooting guards. If he could, this would be great. Having shot blockers like Smith and Garnett gives the T’Wolves a little bit of leeway in allowing penetration. If Wally is not fast enough, then you could try putting KG on opposing shooting guard; he is incredibly quick and often guards the best scorer on the opposing team. Wally could then guard the opposing small forward, which he should be capable of doing.

None of these options are ideal, but at some point you have to go with talent and worry about fitting it in later. Just ask yourself, did the Minnesota Vikings really need Randy Moss at wide receiver when they already had Chris Carter and Jake Reed? Not really. Are they a better team because they did draft him? Absolutely. Too many teams have ended up worse off by selecting for need when a potential superstar is available. Furthermore, the fact that Wally played four years in college means that he will be ready to step in right away for the T’Wolves, something they are looking for in whomever they draft.

VII. Other Players Considered

Jason Terry, 6’2" PG, Arizona: Few people have Terry going this high, but I think that he is going to end up being the best "pure" point guard in this draft in a few years. I project Francis as a shooting guard in the Iverson mode. Davis is too inconsistent and will end up as a disappointment, though I have to admit that he has the potential to be something special. Miller has neither the outside shooting or athleticism to excel at this level; he is sort of a poor man’s Mike Bibby. I do not think that Avery is especially talented. Terry only spent one year running the offense at Arizona because of sitting on the bench behind Bibby, but he showed some adeptness and much promise at the position. Terry has a great outside shot and can use his speed to drive the lane successfully. (A former Arizona coach said Terry is the fastest player he has ever coached, which is something considering Stoudamire is on that list.) Terry is also the best defensive point guard in the draft (he is the all-time leader in steals at Arizona), which is definitely an area where Minnesota could use some help. He make take a couple of years to develop his point guard skills, but I think he will end up being a very good player in the NBA.

Another reason to take Terry at #6 is that point guard is definitely a position of need for the Timberwolves. At the time of the draft, they cannot be certain what will happen with Brandon. I think the chances of him leaving without a sign-and-trade are probably not great, but they are also not negligible. It would be tough for Minnesota to start over with a rookie point guard, but they may not have much other choice. If they wait until #14, all of the point guards of starting caliber will be gone. Avery might slip down, but I would not count on it. After that, you are left with players like Arthur Lee and Vonteego Cummings, who are suited to a back-up role at best. In short, Minnesota is more likely to find a decent shooting guard at #14 than they are a point guard. This may be one reason why Minnesota would trade Wally and #14 to Cleveland for #8, #11, and Wesley Person. Minnesota would still be able to pick Terry at #8 (Washington has greater needs than point guard), would get a decent shooting guard with Person, and would still have #11 to play with. This could turn out to be better for Minnesota, though I would still probably keep Wally unless I was sure Brandon would leave without compensation. (Note: As of this writing, Cleveland had not yet exercised its rights to the #8 pick, but it is expected they will do so.)

Richard Hamilton, 6’6" SG, UConn: Given that Minnesota needs a shooting guard, it would make some sense for them to take Hamilton. Hamilton has certainly faced pressure situations and should be ready to step in quickly in the NBA. He has a decent outside shot, though certainly not as good as Szczerbiak’s, and can play solid if not spectacular defense. However, there are questions as to whether Hamilton’s thin frame can withstand the rigors of the NBA. Perhaps more importantly, he comes across as a player who will be a decent role player, but never develop into a star. He does not have the athleticism of, say, Ray Allen. Some have compared him to Reggie Miller, but he is probably more like Kerry Kittles. I do not think that he will be a bad player by any means, but I think the upside for Wally is much better.

Corey Maggette, 6’6" SG, Duke: Maggette is tempting because he has the potential to be absolutely great. However, I have heard that too often about too many players. He has boundless athleticism, but there are questions about his abilities as a shooter, especially following a poor workout for scouts recently. Because he did not start at Duke, he is not much more advanced than a high school player. Minnesota did take a chance on a high school player a few years ago and it worked out well, but at the time, there were not many expectations on this team and Garnett had to opportunity to develop more at his own pace. Now, there are pressures on Minnesota to do well and advance in the playoffs. Consequently, Maggette is not a good fit for the Wolves. He is at least a few years from developing up to his potential if he ever does. I see him in the mode of a Larry Hughes – great athleticism and a player who will help the team, but not yet an integral part of the offense.

VIII. Likely Timberwolves Selection

Minnesota has reportedly cooled on Richard Hamilton, who was the player that many prognosticators had penciled in as Minnesota’s pick. McHale and Saunders seem to want to go after someone who has a chance to develop into a star, which is probably not the case for Hamilton (a decent player, but no star). They supposedly really covet Steve Francis and Baron Davis, but Francis will be gone by #2 at latest and Davis is almost already a Clipper. Minnesota does not have what it takes to move up in the draft. I actually think they would shy away from Brand if available because they do not want to scare away Joe Smith. Smith is more than capable at power forward, and the T’Wolves have more pressing needs. (Plus, I think Brand will be a bust, at least for a high lottery pick, because of his height and lack of shooting range.) Maggette is probably a bit too far away from developing into a quality NBA player for the Timberwolves to take him. If Wally falls to #6, I expect Minnesota to draft him. Whether they keep him or trade him to Cleveland is another matter. Given their serious need for another scorer to go along with Garnett, I actually think they would keep Szczerbiak (plus, Minnesota may be one of the few places he could go where people could actually spell his name). He might not be the perfect shooting guard, but Saunders is a good enough coach to make the necessary adjustments, maybe playing without a center against all but a few teams in the league (which would probably work). However, I predict that Toronto will make some sort of trade with Chicago to move up to #1 to take Francis; Chicago would then take Szczerbiak at #5. If Wally is gone, I expect the Wolves to go with the best remaining point guard. Regardless of whether Brandon stays, the Wolves really need another point guard, so it will probably come down to Jason Terry or Andre Miller. Terry has supposedly been outplaying Miller in one-on-one workouts, so he might get the nod here. Terry would be the one I would chose between those two.
Prepared jointly by:

Ryan Fortson (Sections I, II, III, IV [guards], V, VI [pick #6], VII [pick #6], VIII [pick #6])


Jonathan Vessey (Sections IV [centers, forwards], VI [pick #14], VII [pick #14], VIII [pick #14])


Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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