20 Greatest Basketball Players from Minnesota

Minnesota is known as the State of Hockey. Well, not anymore, it’s the state of basketball. Since the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments this season featured two huge stars from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers, Minnesota has been at the forefront of the basketball conversation. So, with the Eye of Sauron fixed on Minnesota for the time being, I thought it would be a great chance to remember the greatest players in Minnesota history. A few quick stipulations. First, they either have to have been born in Minnesota, or spent a majority of their childhood in Minnesota. No Gophers, Timberwolves, Lakers, or Lynx stars who don’t actually hail from the state were consider as much as I wanted to slip Mychal Thompson and Seimone Augustus in here. Secondly, we’re going both men’s and women’s players, but just a heads up it’s not going to be even as there are far more men from Minnesota to go on to the pros. That being said we’re taking into account everything from high school, college, and NBA/WNBA careers and will be weighted in the reverse order that I just listed them (I don’t care/wasn’t going to look up what you did in Europe so don’t cry when Ben Woodside doesn’t make the list).

A few honorable mentions before we crack on with the top 20. Sam Jacobson was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1994, was a huge part of the Gopher’s 1997 Final Four team that must not be named, and was drafted in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft. If I had counted coaches instead of players I would have added Dave Joerger from Staples who played at MSU Moorhead and was the head coach for the Grizzlies and Kings. The better Minnesotan coach though is John Kundla who coached the Lakers to their first five championships in Minneapolis. But alas this is the best players in Minnesota history, not best people who are involved with basketball in some way. So without further ado, here are the top 20 basketball players from Minnesota.

20.) Chet Holmgren

High School: Minnehaha Academy, 2021 Mr. Basketball

For the last spot on the list I look to the future with a bet that Chet Holmgren is going to be at least a serviceable NBA player going forward. He just won Mr. Basketball, his fourth state title, and is the number one prospect in the 2021 recruiting class according to ESPN and Rivals. Holmgren is said to be following in his former teammate Jalen Suggs’ footsteps and likely to declare his intent on playing for Gonzaga next season. Some think he could potentially be the first pick in the 2022 NBA draft, and if that all happens he will shoot up this list. For now we’ll save the last spot for the unknown potential of a budding superstar named Chet.

19.) Jim Petersen

High School: St. Louis Park High School, 1980 Mr. Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, 96 games, 5.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg

NBA: Three teams from 1984-92, 51st overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, 491 games, 6.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1 apg

Most people my age know Jim Petersen as the longtime Timberwolves color commentator. Most forget that the 6’10” St. Louis Park native averaged 5.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in the 1986 NBA Finals for the Houston Rockets alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, losing in six games to the Boston Celtics. Or that he was the fourth member of Run TMC with Golden State. Like most players on this list, Petersen wasn’t the sexiest or flashiest, but he got the job done and was trusted to hold down the fort during some of the biggest games of his career.

18.) Joel Przybilla

High School: Monticello High School, 1998 Co-Mr. Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, 49 games, 9.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg

NBA: Four teams from 2000-13, ninth overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, 592 games, 3.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Przybilla is the poster boy for what people think Minnesota basketball is. A bunch of seven-foot farm boys who just stand around and block the shit out of any shots around the rim. It’s a miracle he stuck around in the NBA for 13 seasons, but he did mostly play for some pretty bad Bucks and pre-Lillard Trail Blazers teams.

17.) Randy Breuer

High School: Lake City High School, 1979 Mr. Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 119 games, 14.9 games, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 apg

NBA: Four teams from 1983-94, 18th overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, 681 games, 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg

Another seven-footer from a small town in Minnesota, Breuer was a force for the Gophers nabbing two First Team All-Big Ten honors before becoming a first round pick. In the NBA he was a key component of the ’80s Bucks teams led by Sidney Moncrief that made the Eastern Conference Finals in 1986.

16.) Kris Humphries

High School: Hopkins High School, 2003 Mr. Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, First Team All-Big Ten, 29 games, 21.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 0.7 apg

NBA: Nine teams from 2004-17, 14th overall pick in 2004 NBA Draft, 800 games, 6.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.7 apg

More famous for his 72 day marriage to Kim Kardashian than his actual basketball career, Humphries was actually kind of good. It seems like he’s been out of the league forever, but he last played for Atlanta during the 2016-17 season, retiring just under four years ago. Anyways, his place in history will always be as the jackass that didn’t get along with Khloe and made yee-haw Minnesota (AKA Lake Minnetonka, the nicest part of the state) a thing people say.

15.) Devean George

High School: Benilde St.-Margaret’s

College: Augsburg University, 2x DIII National Champion, 2x MIAC MVP, 2x DIII All American, 96 games, 25.5 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.6 apg

NBA: Three teams from 1999-2010, 23rd overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, 3x NBA Champion, 630 games, 5.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg

Deavean George is one of the only DIII players to ever make it in the NBA. He was a beast at Augsburg and a key member of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers dynasty of the early 2000’s.

14.) Troy Bell

High School: Academy of Holy Angels

College: Boston College, 2x Second Team All-American, 3x First Team All-Big East, 2x Big East Player of the Year, 122 games, 21.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 apg

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies 2003-04, 16th overall pick in 2003 NBA Draft, six games, 1.8 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.7 apg

I’m going to be honest, when I set out to do this I had no idea that Troy Bell was from Minnesota. There are Minnesotan’s who didn’t make the list who had way better NBA careers than Bell, but the reason he’s here is because he balled out in college. At Boston College he was a two-time All American, and twice took home the Big East Player of the Year award. You could make the argument that Bell had the best college basketball career of any Minnesotan in history.

13.) Tayler Hill

High School: South High School, 2009 Miss Basketball

College: Ohio State University, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 3 Big Ten All-Defensive Team, 132 games, 15.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg

WNBA: Washington Mystics 2013-18, Dallas Wings 2018-19, 4th overall pick in 2013 WNBA Draft, 145 games, 8.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg

His was. two-way force at Ohio State and worked her way into becoming the fourth overall pick. She had a breakout season in 2016 averaging 15.4 points for the Mystics. The one knock is that she’s in a relationship with David Lighty which is unforgivable.

12.) Mark Olberding

High School: Melrose High School

College: University of Minnesota, 26 games, 16 ppg, 8.2 rpg

ABA/NBA: Four teams from 1975-87, 1976 ABA First Team All-Rookie, 946 games, 9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg

Olberding was a solid contributor to the late-’70s/early-’80s Spurs teams and got to play alongside George Gervin, which is pretty cool. In 1979 the Spurs lost game seven to the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals, marking the closes he ever got to playing for an NBA Championship.

11.) Whitey Skoog

High School: Brainerd High School

College: University of Minnesota, 2x All-Big Ten, 65 games, 15.2 points

NBA: Minneapolis Lakers 1951-57, 3x NBA Champion, territorial selection in 1951 NBA Draft, 341 games, 8.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg

Whitey Skoog is the most ’50s white guy Minnesota basketball name anyone could ever come up with. He won three championships with the Lakers and gets pushed out of the top ten because he rode George Mikan’s coat tails to glory.

10.) Rachel Banham

High School: Lakeville North High School, 2011 Miss Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, 4x All-Big Ten, 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year and First Team All-American, 8th leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s history, 144 games, 21.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.6 apg

WNBA: Connecticut Sun 2016-19, Minnesota Lynx 2020, fourth overall pick in 2016 WNBA Draft, 127 games, 4.5 ppg, 1 rpg, 1.2 apg

The Maroon Mamba caught Kobe’s attention after dropping 60 points in a game. The two cultivated a relationship for years to come after words and Banham ended her college career as the second best Gopher Women’s basketball player in history. She’s the 8th leading scorer in NCAAW history and has since had a solid WNBA career.

9.) Khalid El-Amin

High School: Minneapolis North High School, 1997 Mr. Basketball

College: University of Connecticut, 1999 National Champion, 3x All-Big East, 106 games, 15.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.4 apg

NBA: Chicago Bulls 2000-01, 50 games, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.9 apg

Khalid El-Amin is a legend for Minnesota basketball fans growing up in the ’90s. He led Minneapolis North to three straight state titles in 1995, ’96, and ’97. In College Khalid El-Amin led UConn to a National Championship in 1999 as a sophomore. He made wearing super baggy shirts under a basketball jersey cool and along with KG, and the shamed Gopher Final four team that must not be named, were part of a basketball revolution in Minnesota, and made kids like me want to play basketball.

8.) Jalen Suggs

High School: Minnehaha Academy, 2020 Mr. Basketball

College: Gonzaga University, Second Team All-American, First Team All-WCC, 2021 Final Four, 30 games, 14.4 ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.5 apg

Some might say that this is too high for a 19-year-old kid who has one year of college basketball under his belt. To that I say it was a pretty damn good year of college basketball. Suggs is perhaps the Khalid El-Amin for this generation. He led Minnehaha Academy to three straight state titles and was a consensus top-15 recruit who ended up at Gonzaga. Suggs became a household name when he banked in the game winning three against UCLA to send the Zags to the National Championship. Unlike El-Amin, Suggs lost in the title game but does have a brighter NBA outlook. He’s likely to go somewhere between 2-5 in the upcoming NBA draft and is pegged as a budding star for the next decade and a half. If I redo this list in 2035 there’s a good chance Suggs breaks into the top four.

7.) Tyus Jones

High School: Apple Valley High School, 2014 Mr. Basketball

College: Duke University, 2015 National Champion, NCAA Tournament MOP, Third Team All-ACC, 39 games, 11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.6 apg

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves 2015-19, Memphis Grizzlies 2019-21, 24th overall pick in 2015 NBA Draft, 364 games, 5.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.6 apg

Tyus Stones rises above the likes of Khalid El-Amin and Jalen Suggs because he won the 2015 National Championship with Duke, but mostly because he was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Jones turned his one-and-done season into a serviceable NBA career so far as the perfect back-up point guard. He’s still the gold standard for Minnesota men’s point guards until Suggs proves he’s better in the pros.

6.) Coco Miller

High School: Rochester Mayo, 1997 Co-Miss Basketball

College: University of Georgia, 4x All-SEC, 1999 Final Four, 130 games, 16.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3 apg

WNBA: Three teams from 2001-2012, Ninth overall pick in 2001 WNBA Draft, 2002 Most Improved Player, 352 games, 5.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.4 apg

A dominant player at Georgia and a solid contributor in the WNBA, Coco was just 2% worse than her twin sister.

5.) Kelly Miller

High School: Rochester Mayo, 1997 Co-Miss Basketball

College: University of Georgia, 2x SEC Player of the Year, 4x All-SEC, 1999 Final Four, 131 games, 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.9 apg

WNBA: 7 teams from 2001-2012, Second overall pick in 2001 WNBA Draft, 2007 WNBA Champion, 2004 Most Improved Player, 364 games, 7.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg

Gets the nod over Coco because Kelly was the one who was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and the second pick in the draft. She won a championship and had a slightly better overall career than her sister, but this is about as close as it gets for twins in professional sports.

4.) Dick Garmaker

High School: Hibbing High School

College: Hibbing Community College, University of Minnesota, 2 First Team All-Big Ten, 1955 First Team All-American, 44 games, 22.9 ppg, 7.7rpg

NBA: 4x All-Star, 1956-57 Second Team All-NBA, 13.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 apg

If you split everyone on this list into two teams and had those teams play each other, all in their primes, Dick Garmaker would likely get destroyed by some of the players behind him in the rankings. He’s likely not the fourth best actual basketball player, so why is he here. Garmaker is all the way at number four because of what he did in the early days of the NBA. He was a four-time All-Star a made an All-NBA second team in 1957. Garmaker came into the league just after the Minneapolis Lakers won five championships, but he cemented himself as an early great with his all-around game. Garmaker is unbelievably fourth on the list, but (spoilers) only the second best player from Hibbing, Minnesota. Hibbing is pound-for-pound the greatest talent producing city in the world.

3.) Paige Bueckers

High School: Hopkins High School, 2020 Miss Basketball

College: University of Connecticut, 2021 First Team All-American, AP Player of the Year, 2021 Final Four, 29 games, 20 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.8 apg

I get it. She just finished her freshman year of college. No championship, no WNBA accolades, just one year making the Final Four. If her career ended today (knock on wood that it doesn’t) Paige Bueckers probably wouldn’t be the third best player ever from Minnesota. But she’s definitely going to end her career at the top of this list. Bet on it. She was the consensus number one recruit in the 2020 class. Bueckers became the first ever freshman to take home the player of the year honors. And if it wasn’t for a stupid rule, she would have been the number one pick in the WNBA draft, and is almost guaranteed that spot when she’s eligible in 2023. When her career comes to an end sometime in the 2030’s she has a chance to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, male or female.

2.) Kevin McHale

High School: Hibbing High School, 1976 Mr. Basketball

College: University of Minnesota, 1979-80 First-Team All-Big Ten, 112 Games, 15.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg

NBA: Boston Celtics 1980-93, 3rd overall pick in 1980 NBA Draft, Hall of Fame, 3x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 6x All-Defensive, 1986-87 All-NBA First Team, 2x Sixth Man of the Year, 971 games, 17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg

Most people might be surprised to see Kevin McHale at number two on the list and not at the top. He’s a Hall of Famer, three time NBA Champion, and one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. A menace on offense and defense, McHale had one of the most diverse assortments of post moves ever seen on the court. He was Larry Bird’s right hand man when battling the Lakers in the ’80s and will always get points for beating the shit out of Kurt Rambis.

All-in-all Mchale had one heck of n NBA career. We went on to both save and then destroy the Timberwolves as a member of the front office. While that doesn’t factor into his demotion to second place, it’s important to note in the history books of Minnesota basketball. McHale has been the gold standard for Minnesota basketball for the last 35 years, but there is one player who finally eclipsed what he accomplished on the court.

1.) Lindsay Whalen

High School: Hutchinson High School

College: University of Minnesota, 3x All-American, 3x All-Big Ten, 2002 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2004 Final Four, 113 games, 20.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.1 apg

WNBA: Connecticut Sun 2004-09, Minnesota Lynx 2010-18, 4x WNBA Champion, 5x All-Star, 3x All-WNBA First Team, 2x All-WNBA Second Team

Team USA: 2x Gold Medalist (2012, 2016)

Lindsay Whalen is the best basketball player ever from the great state of Minnesota. She’s the greatest Gopher of all time, probably the second greatest player in Lynx history, and anywhere from 10-20 on the list of greatest WNBA players ever. Whalen made women’s basketball appointment viewing in Minnesota in 2004 when she and Janel McCarville led the Gophers to a surprising Final Four berth. She Ranks third all-time in the WNBA in career assists, fifth in games played, 17th in scoring, and seventh in win shares while steering the hometown Lynx to four WNBA Championships. After her playing days were done, Whalen became the head coach at her alma mater, guiding the Gophers to 21 wins in her first season (and only eight in her second, but we don’t talk about that). Whalen has been the face of Minnesota basketball for the better part of the last two decades. Only time will tell if Suggs, Holmgren, or most likely Paige Bueckers will ever get the chance to knock her off the number one spot, but for now let’s marvel at the small town baller turned larger than life figure across these here 10,000 lakes.

Justice for George Floyd

With everything going on back home in Minnesota and around the country, I will not be blogging for a few days or weeks. It’s not the right time to write stupid meaningless lists about movies I’ve watched during quarantine or make dumb sports arguments or whatever other utterly meaningless shit I write on this website when George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight in Minneapolis, a place I love and call home.

Instead of reading the stupid crap I usually write about on here, please take the time to learn about the incredibly important issues at hand.

You can read an op-ed that Kareem-Abdul Jabbar wrote in the LA Times here. Before you ask why you should be reading something written by the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Abdul-Jabbar has been a leading civil rights activist in the community for the better part of 50 years. Take a look at a few other articles to get educated about the reasons black people have been killed by the police, history of systemic racism and police brutality in America for 400 years, or the racist origins of the phrase Trump used in a tweet “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

If you have the means I encourage you to donate to some great community programs as well.

George Floyd’s brother Philonise set up a GoFundMe page which goes to funding funeral and burial costs for George and taking care of his children.

Reclaim the Block is a Minneapolis community group committed to defunding the MPD and using those funds to invest in community health and safety initiatives.

If you want you can donate to help Minneapolis communities directly affected by the protests, think about making a donation to We Love Lake Street or Support the Cities.

Just a couple of thoughts to wrap this up. If you find yourself watching the violent protests across the Twin Cities and the country and saying “that’s not the right way to protest”, remember that Collin Kaepernick silently took a knee and was told to stand up and respect the flag. Remember that Black Lives Matter protested the Philando Castile killing by peacefully protesting on I-94 and were told that is not how you protest. Remember when LeBron James and other NBA players stood up after the killing of Eric Garner and wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” during warm-ups and were told to shut up and stick to sports.

To my friends, family members, neighbors, and community members who are protesting throughout the Twin Cities, and my journalist friends covering the protests across the country, I just wanted to say that even though I’m 4,000 miles away I love you, I’m with you, I’m proud of you all, stay safe and keep fighting.

Minnesota Timberwolves season review

The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally bounced from the playoffs on Wednesday by the Rockets in Game 5 of the first round series 122-104. It was the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 2004. This season definitely had its ups and downs, but the season as a whole should be seen as a success.

Minnesota won 47 games this season, 16 more than the previous year. A lot f that can be contributed to the new additions of Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Butler was the key piece as he led the team in scoring and was top-10 MVP candidate until his knee injury in February. Karl-Anthony Towns notched his first all-star selection and is still coming into his own as a 22-year-old budding superstar. Role players like Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica showed improvement in their third years with the team. There is plenty to like about the Timberwolves going forward but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bad signs this year.

The team struggled without Jimmy Butler in the lineup. Butler missed 23 games this year, in which Minnesota went 10-13. That could be chalked up to tough competition in those games, but it shows the Wolves relied too heavily on Butler this season. The young duo of Towns and Wiggins couldn’t step up to lead the team without Butler, and that resulted in sliding to the 8th seed and barely making the playoffs.

Speaking of Wiggins, he regressed majorly from the 2016-17 season to have his worst season as a pro. His shooting was down across the board, especially looking at his unexplainable 12% drop in free throw percentage. He seemed especially disengaged this year, and disappeared for quarters and halves at a time this season. While he may have made marginal improvements on defense, his overall game took a huge dive.

Overall though I think the season was a success, and showed why the Butler trade was necessary. I’ll grade it out as a B since the trajectory the Wolves were on before the Butler injury was the three or the four seed. If they grabbed a higher seed, maybe they would still be playing.

Looking ahead to next year it will be really interesting to see who they can add through free agency and the draft. Limited cap space may make adding a significant piece difficult. Hopefully they can add a three and D player or two to improve the bench and take the team to the next level next season.

The Timberwolves finally don’t suck anymore

For the first time since I was 13 years old the Minnesota Timberwolves are headed to the playoffs. That long gap spanning half my life sucked since I grew up in the Kevin Garnett era and watched the Timberwolves make the playoffs eight straight years from 1996-97 to 2003-04. I thought that as long as Garnett was on the team they would be contenders forever. But those dreams came crashing down as they missed the playoffs the season after making it to the Western Conference Finals. After that they traded the greatest player in franchise history for Al Jefferson and a bunch of nobodies. That’s when I figured out it was time for a rebuild, but I had no idea that rebuild would take well over a decade to complete.

The one thing that comes to mind during 14 years between playoff appearances, other than god awful basketball, was really crappy drafts. I always got excited for the drafts, especially when the Wolves had high picks, because it meant a new era could possibly start. They had some seemingly nice drafts from 2006-2008 drafting Brandon Roy, but trading him for Randy Foye in 2006, drafting Corey Brewer in 2007, and taking O.J. Mayo, but flipping him for Kevin Love in 2008. Put those guys together with young star Al Jefferson, and you would have thought the Wolves were on a decent track. Both Foye and Brewer had a few mediocre years before departing, but Kevin Love turned into a star and future building block. Then the most infamous draft in recent history happened. Minnesota had three first round picks in the 2009 draft. Seemingly ready to add some major talent to its team, David Kahn made what will go down as one of the biggest draft day blunders of all time. He chose Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick, then turned around and took another point guard, Jonny Flynn with the 6th pick (and a third point guard, Ty Lawson with the 18th pick). It seemed like a huge draft at the time. Rubio and Kevin love could be the dynamic duo that the Wolves needed to get back to prominence, while Flynn and others could form a solid supporting cast. But there was one name in the draft that will forever be linked to the Wolves futility in the 2000s, that being Steph Curry. The NCAA tournament darling out of Davidson wasn’t supposed to be a great all around player. He might provide some shooting help, but couldn’t be a point guard and run a team is what scouts said before the draft. As we all know Curry went on to win two straight MVP awards and lead the Golden State Warriors to two NBA Championships in the past three years, while becoming one of the biggest superstars of this generation. The Wolves had two chances to nab the five time all-star, but instead got a huge bust in Flynn, and had to wait two years for Rubio to come from Spain and become a slightly above average NBA player. That draft alone set the franchise back several years. Minnesota had a string of first round busts in the years afterwards. They picked Wes Johnson fourth overall in 2010, Derrick Williams second in 2011, and traded Trey Burke for Shabazz Muhammad in 2013. Minnesota struck out in the draft more times than any other franchise, and I began to think we would never had another superstar again. Finally some hope emerged when The Wolves traded disgruntled star Kevin love to Cleveland for their two straight number one overall picks (Anthony Bennett from the 2013 draft, and Andrew Wiggins from the 2014 draft). This excited me as Wiggins was dubbed Maple Jordan and was one of the most highly anticipated phenoms in recent years (we all knew Bennett was terrible already).

Another major reason for the decade and a half long struggle was the absolute inability to find a decent coach. After the conference finals run in 2004, Flip Saunders returned with largely the same team. After  going just 25-26 through the first 51 games, he was fired and replaced by executive turned coach Kevin McHale, who for his efforts went 19-12 down the stretch, albeit failing to make the playoffs. Dwane Casey stepped in the next season going 33-49. The Current Toronto Raptors head coach actually had the Wolves off to a decent start in the 2006-07 season, but was fired to give Randy Whittman a crack at the position. The Wolves finished an abysmal 12-30 under Whittman to close out the season 32-50. He was back again next year and somehow got worse as the Wolves went 22-60 in his only full season. He only got 19 games of the 2008-09 season before enough was enough. He went 4-15 and was replaced by McHale again, who guided the team to another terrible 24-58 record. Then there was hope for the 2009-10 season, and hopes name was Kurt Rambis. Rambis was a hot commodity in the coaching world having been an assistant for the Lakers for four championships, including the previous season. That hope fizzled quickly as he amassed an amazingly bad 32-132 record over two season and was fired. After that even more hope for the franchise came in it’s next coach, Rick Adelman. Adelman was one of the greatest coaches in NBA history when he took over the struggling Timberwolves. He made his name guiding the early 90’s Trail Blazer squads to perennial playoff appearances, and did the same with the Chris Webber led Sacramento Kings teams of the early 2000’s. Most Timberwolves fans, including myself figured he would be the one to get us back to the playoffs. While he may have had the best run for a Timberwolves coach since Flip Saunders, it wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. Minnesota won 26, 31, and 40 games in Adelman’s tenure thanks to the rise of Kevin love, and he was fired after three seasons. The white night of the franchise, Flip Saunders returned for another go with the Wolves, taking up a position as head coach after already becoming the President of Basketball Operations the previous year. Minnesota bottomed out at 16-66 that year but thankfully got the first overall pick.

For the first time in franchise history the Timberwolves were awarded the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft. After some debate over who to pick it became obvious that Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns was the selection. They took Towns and planned to start him slow, but after putting up rookie numbers not seen since Tim Duncan, Wolves fans finally had some hope for the future. Tragically Flip Saunders passed away in October 2015, just before the season began. Sam Mitchell took over, guiding the young Wolves through some growing pains to a 29-53 record. Another turning point came that offseason when former Chicago Bulls head man Tom Thibodeau was hired as the head coach. Thibs led the Bulls to the playoffs in all five years he was there. Finally the Wolves had a blueprint for success. After they only managed 31 wins in the 2016-17 season though, enough was enough and it was time for the Timberwolves to make their biggest splash since trading away Kevin Garnett ten years prior.

The 2017 NBA draft was huge for the franchise not because of who they picked, but a blockbuster trade that changed the entire landscape of the league. The Wolves traded Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and the 7th overall pick (that would become Lauri Markkanen) for Butler, and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton). Butler was a three time all-star, and one of the league’s top two way players. The excitement around the team was the highest since playing the Lakers in the 2004 Wester Conference Finals. With Butler, Wiggins, Towns and later additions of Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford, the playoffs were finally in sight.

Many thought the Wolves could compete in the West right away. They were chosen to be the fourth or fifth best team in the conference by many experts. They started to look the part right away, reaching as high as the three seed in the West. But Butler injured his knee, and the Wolves sputtered without him going 8-9 in his absence. Luckily he came back just in time to lead Minnesota into the playoffs with an overtime win against Denver in the regular season finale, in which Butler scored 30 points with five assists and five rebounds. The 8th seed isn’t glamorous, and isn’t quite where hopeful Wolves fans saw this team ending the regular season, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth in the eyes of fans waiting a generation for their team to get back in the postseason.

Now hopefully they don’t get embarrassed by the Rockets in round one. My prediction: Wolves steal a home game, but the Rockets blow them out for three of their four wins and take the series in five games.

Andrew Wiggins is forming a troubling pattern in his performance

The Minnesota Timberwolves are enjoying their best season in a generation. The turnaround from dismal franchise in constant rebuild to top four seed in the West has been led by their two All-Stars, franchise golden boy Karl-Anthony Towns, and the first year wolf and MVP candidate Jimmy Butler. The two-headed monster have the Wolves in prime position to make their first playoff appearance since 2004. But it seems like someone is missing from that equation. Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in the 2014 draft (drafted by Cleveland) should be part of a “Big Three” with Towns and Butler, but that hasn’t been the case this season. The fourth year small forward out of Kansas is having his worst season as a pro, marred by inefficiency, poor shot selection, and failure to get to the free throw line.

Wiggins is scoring six points fewer per game than last year (23.6 last season to 17.7 this year), and his Player Efficiency Rating is a career worst 13.1 according to ESPN. Some of that can be attributed to inserting Jimmy Butler and his 22.4 points per game. But most of it has been caused by his lack of interest in meshing with new alpha dog teammates in Tom Thibodeau’s offense, and his willingness to take a backseat at times to even less accomplished scorers like Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford.

On Tuesday, Wiggins may have bottomed out against the Rockets, missing his first 12 shots before salvaging a 2-14 shooting line that included him going 0-5 from beyond the arc. This is becoming Wiggins’ most troubling pattern, hitting rock bottom just about every five games. Look through his game-by-game stats. You’ll find plenty of games where he goes 8-17 with 18 points, 4 rebounds, a few assists, maybe a steal or two. Those are his averages so that’s the bulk of stat lines you’re going to find. But every week or two there’s at least one game, sometimes two or three in a row, where it seems everything went off the rails for Wiggins and he wasn’t part of the offense at all. Wiggins was off to a hot start this season, averaging 24.7 points through his first three games. In the fourth game though: 3-9 shooting, 0-3 from three, 1-6 from the free throw line for a total of seven points. November was full of plenty of off games, 4-10 for 11 points, 5-14 for 11 points, 5-15 for 13 points. Nothing so bad, but inconsistent with what should be his norm. December was his worst month of the season so far. Wiggins shot just 39% from the field for 15.5 points per game. He had 4 games in December where he shot below 30% from the field, and five games where he failed to score more than 12 points. He rebounded nicely in January, excluding his 4-18, 10 point performance in a loss to Golden State. February has brought back his inconsistency. He’s scored seven points twice in six games, and has failed to eclipse 20 points in a game this month.

Everybody has bad games, but Wiggins’ poor performances are sometimes so bad they are derailing his season, and detrimental to Minnesota’s cause. In 60 games this season Wiggins has failed to reach double digits in six games, something he did just three times all of last season. He found consistency last year, but has reverted back to his rookie ways of shooting too many long jumpers instead of getting to the rim.

If history has shown us anything about Andrew Wiggins in the NBA, it’s that he gets better as the season goes on. We have to see some improvement in the remaining 22 games to believe he can actually help this team once the playoffs arrive, otherwise, he could see his minutes diminish drastically when games begin to really matter.