Last Two 1st Overall Picks Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins Making Minnesota Timberwolves Relevant in Record Time
The year was 2004. The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals. Kevin Garnett, the 2003-2004 NBA MVP, was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career.
That’s the last time the Timberwolves qualified for the postseason. They finished with a winning record the next season, but have not won more than 40 games in a season since.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio brought some attention back to Minnesota, but even they couldn’t make the T’Wolves relevant.
Before last season, the Timberwolves traded Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the last two first overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Bennett is now with the Toronto Raptors and basically an irrelevant bust, but Wiggins is a well-known baller fresh off his Rookie of the Year season.
However, Wiggins couldn’t stop the ship from sinking without Love, and the Wolves lost 24 more games in 2014-2015, finishing with only 16 wins and earning the first overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Enter Kentucky superstar Karl-Anthony Towns. A great addition. One that is only made better through the connection with Kevin Garnett, a superstar back where he belongs.
“KG gives me so much knowledge that you can’t never garner without playing years and years in this league,” said Towns on his mentor. “Me and KG have a special connection just because of the positions.”
Years and years may be a bit of an understatement for the sure-fire Hall of Famer playing in his 20th professional season. Despite signing a two-year contract extension this summer, Garnett seems to be treating this season as somewhat of a fair-well tour, maybe—hopefully—leading directly into a coaching career with the T’Wolves.
“He tells them every day, at this point in his career, it’s about them, not him,” said head coach Sam Mitchell. “I wouldn’t trade him off this team for nothing in the world.”
The Timberwolves may not be the most grammatical correct team in the league, but thanks to the young core of Wiggins and Towns along with the veteran guidance of Garnett and Tayshaun Prince, the T’Wolves actually look like a team this year, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.
The Wolves are sitting at 4-5 right now. They may not have the league’s best record, but don’t forget that this is a team that won 16 out of 82 games last season. Two of those wins, in particular, were extremely impressive—back-to-back victories over the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks in which Towns, 34 points, and 25 boards in those matchups, and Wiggins, 64 points over those two games, gave us a glimpse of what the future may hold for this young team.
Maybe it’s too early to speculate, but this team has the makings of a great one. Towns’ start to the season is already drawing comparisons to legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and…well, Kevin Garnett.
Wiggins similarly plays like a vet at only 20, leaning heavily on Garnett’s advice in every aspect of the game. With nearly 20 points per game to match 16 points and 10.5 rebounds from Towns, it’s won’t be long before the duo draws Kobe-Shaq comparisons.
Of course, the toughest part for Towns and Wiggins will be gaining some national recognition for the Timberwolves, an oft forgotten franchise. Love had a hard time making the team relevant, but this super-pair has managed to do so (to a point) within nine games.
“It’s almost like putting a bunch of puppies in a box and shaking it up and watching the puppies go at it a little bit,” said Garnett of playing with such a young, passionate team.
Watch the Timberwolves, but please don’t give Garnett your puppies.