In 1989, the NBA returned to Minneapolis with the formation of a new expansion team named the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was a long time coming for the Twin City since the Lakers left for Los Angeles in 1960. The Timberwolves had a rough start to their history, missing the playoffs in their first seven seasons.
The arrival of Kevin Garnett changed the team’s fortunes as they made it to the postseason eight straight times from 1997 to 2004. The Timberwolves had their best run in 2004 when they reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. However, they would lose to the Lakers in six games.
Minnesota then endured a 13-year postseason drought when they had players like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The team was dysfunctional and a mess during those times until they made it back to the playoffs in 2018 with Karl-Anthony Towns at the helm.
In their 30-year existence, the Timberwolves have produced a few great players and some really good ones. Here are the team’s all-time starting five.
Guard – Ricky Rubio
There was a lot of hype surrounding Ricky Rubio in 2009 as he was fresh off a masterful performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At just 17 years old, Rubio was playing against the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, helping Spain win the Silver Medal.
With the Timberwolves, Rubio never realized his potential but he became the best point guard the franchise has ever seen. He ranks second in the team’s all-time assists leaderboard, as well as in steals. He never led the team to the playoffs but he was a consistent playmaker for the team. He spent six seasons in Minnesota before getting traded to the Utah Jazz in 2017.
Honorable Mention: Guard – Sam Cassell
Sam Cassell played only two seasons in Minnesota, having his best season in his first year with the team averaging 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. Cassell was also an All-Star during that year and he was named to the All-NBA Second Team. He helped the Timberwolves make their first ever Western Conference Finals appearance.
Guard – Wally Szczerbiak
In seven seasons with the Timberwolves, Wally Szczerbiak became a household and a difficult name to spell in the NBA. He was an All-Star in 2002 and the team made the playoffs five times during his tenure there. Szczerbiak also established himself as one of the best shooters in the NBA at that time.
“Wally World” ranks fourth in the franchise’s all-time scoring list, ninth in rebounds, eighth in assists, and third in three-points made. The Timberwolves have only retired one jersey but fans should not be surprised if Szczerbiak’s No. 10 will hang from the rafters of the Target Center in the near future.
Honorable Mention: Guard – Sam Mitchell
Sam Mitchell played for the Timberwolves for ten seasons in two different stints. He ranks second in total points for the franchise, third in rebounds, fourth in steals, and tenth in blocks. Mitchell also coached the Timberwolves on an interim basis in the 2015-16 NBA season.
Center – Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns has only been in the NBA since 2015 but he is already one of the best players in Timberwolves history. Towns already ranks as seventh in scoring, fourth in rebounds and blocks, and ninth in three-points made in the franchise leaderboards. If he stays and accomplishes more in Timberwolves uniform, he could be even greater than Kevin Garnett.
Towns has led the Timberwolves to the playoffs once in 2018, helping end a 13-year drought. He also made his first All-Star game that season, as well as the All-NBA Third Team, adding it to his 2016 Rookie of the Year Award. Towns has a long way to go and he has not hit his prime but if continues to improve, he will end not only the best player in franchise history but also of his generation.
Honorable Mention: Center – Al Jefferson
When Kevin Garnett was dealt to the Boston Celtics in 2008, Al Jefferson was part of that trade. He carried the Timberwolves for three seasons, posting career-best numbers in 2009. During that season, Jefferson averaged 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game.
Forward – Kevin Love
Probably the second greatest Timberwolves player in history, Kevin Love had a lot of individual success during his time in Minnesota. He was a three-time All-Star and established himself as one of the best rebounders in the league, winning the rebounding title in 2011.
However, Love was not able to lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs in his seven seasons with the team. It was the front office’s fault as they were not able to build around Love. Nevertheless, Love’s No. 42 jersey will surely get retired as he currently ranks third in points, second in rebounds, and second in three-points made.
Honorable Mention: Forward – Andrew Wiggins
Another young player who just needs to fulfill his potential, Andrew Wiggins already ranks fifth in the franchise’s all-time scoring list. He also ranks fourth in three-points made but he has to use his God-given ability to play defense more. He cannot be considered an All-Time great Timberwolf if he does not develop into the player he was once touted to be.
Forward – Kevin Garnett
The greatest player in franchise history, Kevin Garnett was the first true superstar for the Timberwolves. He was the NBA MVP in 2004, and he was an All-Star ten-time while in Minnesota. Garnett was also a constant member of All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams during his tenure with the Timberwolves.
Garnett was a born leader and motivator, helping the Timberwolves make the playoffs eight times. He led the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 but came up short against the Lakers. Garnett retired as a member of the team in 2016. It is only a matter of time when his iconic No. 21 jersey hangs from the rafters and a bronze statue of him is built outside the Target Center.
Honorable Mention: Forward – Tom Gugliotta
While Kevin Garnett was still developing into a superstar, Tom Gugliotta carried the Timberwolves from 1995 to 1998. He was an All-Star in 1997 and he helped the team make the playoffs that same year but they were swept in the first round by the Houston Rockets.