Late last week, Steve Weinman at the CelticsBlog ran his Timberwolves edition of Runnin’ Fives, in which he solicited opinions from various Minnesota Timberwolves writers and bloggers regarding the best players at each given position under a certain parameter of rules, including judging a player soley on his performance while in a given team’s uniform.
Along with comments from the other contributors on this site, I sent the following lineup to Steve, keeping in mind that my intent was to create a starting five, and not necessarily confine anyone to a set position (seeing that KG is easily the best 3 and 4 in Wolves history).
Please click "Read More" for the submission.
TwolvesBlog.com RE: Runnin’ Fives with the Timberwolves
I know KG just helped your squad win a championship as a power forward, but to trot out the best Wolves team of all time, we have to stick KG at small forward. Granted, I think KG is more of a Power Forward, but he spent many years at small forward and, during those years, the Wolves had a power forward make the all-star game. When you only have four all-stars in team history, you have to make due with what you’ve got. That being said, within the parameters of the rules you set, here they are:
Point Guard – Sam Cassell
The Wolves don’t exactly have a rich history of exceptional point guards. The honor is going to Sam because (a) he’s the only PG to make an all-star game while playing for the Timberwolves, (b) he ran the offense of the single best season in Wolves history, and (c) when he was playing PG, it’s the only time the Wolves made it past the first round. ***In a non-numerical sense, Cassell was easily the most clutch player in Wolves history***. Along with many other Wolves fans, I’m convinced we could have had the chance to beat the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals had Cassell been healthy. There’s two ways to look at "best while in a Wolves uniform" at this position: performance over a small span of time, or our limited "long term" point guards. Prior to drafting Marbury, the Wolves pretty much started with Pooh Richardson, then went into the KG era with Michael Williams(who had one of the most severe bouts of planter fasciitis in history). Both were serviceable, but neither could be considered all star calibur. This was followed by Marbury, Terrell Brandon (a couple years of fillers during Brandon’s injury), then Sam Cassell. Marbury and Brandon both made all-star games, but not in Wolves uniforms. Marbury’s best years came after the Wolves, and Brandon’s best years were before the Wolves.
*** I left this observation out, although I completely agree with it. CW sent me this point, and I was credited with it in Steve’s article.
Shooting Guard – Wally Szczerbiak
Memories of Wally in Minnesota, unless you’re a casual female fan, aren’t fond ones. I remember a good shooter who dribbled off his foot and, when he appeared to be "fired up" looked more like he was trying to overcome constipation. I imagine memories in Boston can’t be much better. However, Wally is one of the four Wolves to ever make the all-star game. Even though he did so as a small forward, I’m still giving him this spot, as he played SG occasionally with the Wolves. Other than Wally, the shooting guard position is another in many mediocre, "who’s the best in Wolves history" battles. Our first "shooting guard" is listed as a "Forward-Guard", the second a "Guard-Forward", respectively Tony Campbell and Doug West. TC was our "star" in the beginning after being selected in the expansion draft. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Like the others, he only played three seasons with the Wolves. His all-time Wolves scoring crown was usurped by Doug West, who bounced between shooting guard and small forward. West was an all-around solid player, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him when the Wolves traded him to the Grizzlies for Anthony Peeler just as the Wolves had started to turn things around. During the Doug West era, we drafted Isaiah "JR" Rider. Rider is probably one of the best offensive players in team history, and one of the biggest wastes of talent in the 1990s***. He went on to play an important role on those strong Portland teams, but I will remember Rider as the first Timberwolf to infuse some excitement into the game with earth-shattering dunks and some much needed swagger. Anthony Peeler had the longest tenure at shooting guard, but was lackluster, at best. Spreewell had a good season on a good team, but nowhere near the statistical level of Tony Campbell’s or Isaiah Rider’s best Wolves seasons. One determining factor between Rider and Campbell is promises to fans kept. Rider was drafted and, in one of his first press conferences, he made a promise to the fans that he would win the slam dunk competition. One east bay funk later, he was the slam dunk champ.
*** In a subsequent email conversation with Steve, I went into great detail about how I truly believe that JR Rider might be the biggest waste of talent in the 1990s. I feel so strongly about it, that a seperate post on it is coming.
Small Forward – Kevin Garnett
KG made the all-star game as a SF in several seasons while playing with Tom Gugliotta and Joe Smith, so he can fit in this spot. Although I think history will remember him as a power forward, no explanation is needed for giving him any all-time accolades in the Wolves franchise, regardless of position.
Power Forward – Tom Gugliotta
Again, when you make an all-star game as a Timberwolf, you’re in rare company. Googs came in after the mess-that-was-Laettner exited and, along with KG and Marbury, the future for the Wolves looked bright in the mid-90s. One fallout with Marbury later, and the Wolves casts of characters switched so often that it wasn’t hard to feel bad for KG over the years.
Center – Al Jefferson
I still consider Al more of a power forward, but the fact is that Ratliff got injured after 7 games and, aside from starting Madsen or Doleac in a few games, Jefferson played center last season. While playing center, Jefferson put together one of the more impressive statistical seasons in Wolves history, KG performances being the only superior to. Prior to Jefferson, if you gave me a sheet of loose leaf paper and asked me to fill out all of the great Wolves centers over the seasons, it would remain blank, all due respect to Randy Breuer, Felton Spencer, Luc Longley, Paul Grant, Stanley Roberts, Mike "Big Brown Bear" Brown, Andrew Lang, Reggie Slater, Rosho Nesterovic, Michael Olowakandi, Oliver Miller, Mark Blount and Theo Ratliff. Now with the arrival of Love, who I’m assuming will guard the other team’s power forwards, I think Jefferson is still going to be considered the Center going forward.
For those of you (none) who just read that, I have some other observations that never made this email to Steve. One of the only reasons Wally made SG on my team is because of all the options KG would have for passing. Any double team on KG would leave Googs (a highly underrated inside-out player) on the weak side, either high or low, Big Al down low, and Wally and Sammy C as deep threats. Rider had a decent 3-point shot, but my main conflict in picking Wally was Rider’s ability to get into the lane. His hop-hop-jump move (see: Traveling), almost always got him in prime position for a Kevin Harlan "Buckle Up" style jam, or else created a short jumper. However, Wally really was lights-out with his shooting, and that stretches the floor.