The Minnesota Timberwolves start their 2014-15 regular season Wednesday night in Memphis against the Grizzlies. The Timberwolves open the home season Thursday night against the Detroit Pistons.
It’s a brand new era for the Timberwolves as they traded away the face of the franchise in the offseason for what they hope is the new man to represent the organization. Kevin Love is gone, and in return the Timberwolves got Andrew Wiggins. There’s a host of other new faces, which includes Zach LaVine, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett and Glenn Robinson III.
How it will it all mesh? What should Timberwolves fans expect? Can this team compete? Those questions will all take time to answer. Minnesota hasn’t been to the playoffs in 10 years, so it’s prompted us with a new era starting this season to look back at some of the top Timberwolves players of all time. Here’s 10, in no particular order.
Pooh Richardson was the first player drafted in the history of the Timberwolves organization. He was point guard and an efficient one at that, averaging about 17 points a game in the 1990-91 season, his best in Minnesota. He spent three years in Minnesota and was also a standout defender.
It’s a slam dunk when you ask a Timberwolves fan who the best player in franchise history is, it’s Kevin Garnett. Drafted out of Farragut Academy High School, fans quickly fell in love with his passion for the game and his leadership. He led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals in the 2003-04 season. It was his best year, where he averaged more than 24 points and 13 rebounds per game. He was a 10-time All-Star and won an MVP award. He could do just about everything, but eventually went to the Boston Celtics and won an NBA title.
Sam Cassell was only with the Timberwolves for two seasons, but he was the floor general during the team’s 2003-04 run to the Western Conference Finals. He averaged nearly 20 points per game that season and more than seven assists. He was an All-Star in 2004, and had he stayed healthy in the playoffs, the Timberwolves could’ve made the NBA Finals.
There wasn’t a shot he didn’t like, but Latrell Sprewell was the third key piece in the Timberwolves 2003-04 season along with Garnett and Cassell. He averaged nearly 17 points per game that year and shot about 41 percent from the field. Sprewell always seemed to get the shot in the clutch situations. He retired after 2004-05 season.
Christian Laettner was a player many loved to hate, but his numbers over three years with the Timberwolves can’t be ignored. His rookie season in 1992-93, after winning a national title with Duke and being the No. 3 overall pick, was his best. He averaged more than 18 points and nearly nine rebounds per game.
Despite not playing any defense at all, Isaiah Rider was a dynamic player for the Timberwolves over three seasons. He could score from anywhere and averaged more than 20 points per game during his best season in 1994-95. He’s best known for winning a Slam Dunk contest and for hitting a bizarre three-pointer while falling out of bounds and heaving the shot backwards in a game.
Sam Mitchell was a fan favorite, largely because he played tough defense and did a lot of little things that usually go unnoticed. He played 10 seasons in Minnesota and averaged more than 14 points per game in the 1990-91 season.
Tom Gugliotta was a volume scorer for the Timberwolves in the mid-1990s and also developed into a rebounder over his career. In four seasons, he became a fan favorite for his defense and hustle. He earned an All-Star selection in the 1996-97 season, where he averaged more than 20 points per game and nearly nine rebounds.
Tony Campbell spent the best part of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and scored more than 20 points per game in two of his three seasons here. His best year was the 1989-90 season, where he scored about 23 points per game. He was the all-time leading scorer until being passed by Doug West in 1996.
Whether he wanted to be or not, Kevin Love became the face of the franchise when the Timberwolves drafted him six years ago. He was a dominant player for Minnesota during his time, but never got the franchise to the playoffs. He just finished the best season of his career, averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per game. He also shot nearly 38 percent from three-point range. But he’s now in Cleveland after an offseason trade.
Between Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Bennett, Young, LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, there’s enough young talent on the Timberwolves now that somebody can emerge and lead the team to the next level. The early favorites are Wiggins and Rubio, but the season will have to play itself out before we know more.