30 Years of Timberwolves Basketball: Top 30 Players

We pick the best players to play for the Timberwolves to celebrate their 3 decades

Lindsey Peterson
October 24, 2019 - 4:04 pm

(Getty Images / Stephen Dunn / Staff)

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The Timberwolves franchise came into existence 30 years ago, 1989.  Over those three decades, a few great NBA players have played for the team.  And there were a lot of very good players who had short stints with the team.  Those 'cups of coffee' make it tough to select their top all-time players, but we'll do our best. 

RELATED: 5 things to watch as Timberwolves start the season.

To celebrate their 30th year, we pick our top 30 players!  And we'll start and #30 and work our way up.  

#30- Andrew Wiggins, 2014-current
The ultimate in frustration for fans, Andrew Wiggins is currently the 2nd leading scorer in Timberwolves history (he's 24 years old).  Originally drafted by Cleveland 1st overall, he was part of a post-draft trade that sent him to Minnesota in the Kevin Love deal.  Wiggins has never scored less than 16.9 per game in his NBA career, he has been extremely durable, and is still young.

He is also one of the most inefficient players ever - not just in the league now, but EVER - according to current NBA analytics.  (Note: to see a better breakdown that we can't really get into here, see this by Deadspin towards the end of last season)

Since he is still young and has room to improve, he makes our list.  But barely.  The new regime of Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders could make Wiggins a better player and he can climb quickly if that does happen.

#29- Chuck Person, 1992-94
It was a short run with the Wolves for "The Rifleman", who came over from Indiana where he was a star.  These were not good teams (that will be a recurring theme), but Person gave the young Timberwolves a jolt with his long-distance shooting.

Averaged 17 points a game in his first season, before dropping off and ending up in San Antonio in 1995.  

#28- Corey Brewer, 2007-10, 20011
Brewer was drafted out of Florida and the skinny, defensive-minded forward tore an ACL in his second season, but still had some big moments for the Wolves over two stints on the team.

The biggest, of course, was April 11th, 2014 when he dropped 51 points on Houston in a 112-110 win, tying a franchise record for points.  It has to be one of the most unexpected 50 point games in NBA history.  Brewer over his career only scores 8.7 points per game.

#-27- Derrick Rose, 2017-18
Like Chuck Person, Rose came to the Wolves after having star years with another team (Chicago).  The former MVP battled multiple injuries between 2011 and 2018.  Playing only two years in Minnesota, Rose still became a team leader. 

He averaged 18 points a game this past season including a 50 point game of his own.  He scored 50 against Utah last October at Target Center.  It had been 7 years and 227 days since his last 40 point game, the longest gap between those in NBA history

#26- Malik Sealy. 1998-2000
Certainly the most tragic player to ever wear a Wolves jersey, Malik Sealy was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 30 by a drunk driver.  He spent two years with the Wolves over his 8-year career, and was a key part of the first Timberwolves team to win 50 games in '99-00. 

Sealy was a terrific defensive player and also averaged 11 points a game.  That was a team that was on the rise when Sealy was killed, and he figured to be a core player.  

#25- Ricky Davis, 2005-07
There have been a lot of, what we'll call "rent-a-players" so far, who spent just a couple of seasons with the team.  Ricky Davis is the same.  

Davis spent years bouncing around the league (Charlotte, Miami, Cleveland, Boston) before spending two years in Minny.  The talented guard/forward could put the ball in the hoop.  With the Wolves, he averaged 19.1 and 17 points during his two seasons.  Unfortunately, these were the last two years of the Kevin Garnett era, when the team struggled post-Flip Saunders.  

#24- Trenton Hassell, 2003-2007
If you're asking "who?", you probably aren't alone.  But this overlooked player was a key piece of  the best Timberwolves team (03-04) and a solid contributer for four seasons.  

Never a great scorer, he could hit the open shot, was very solid defensively, and a complete team player on a team blessed with several scoring options.  

#23- Troy Hudson, 2002-07
Over his five seasons with the Wolves, Troy Hudson was indicitive of the team's success.  When he was good, the team was good.  When he wasn't?  The team fell off.  

His first season after joining the Timberwolves from Orlando, Hudson was a 14 point per game scorer and a leader on the floor.  He was Sam Cassell's backup in '03-04 when the Wolves made it to the Western Conference Finals.  Then the bottom fell out for Hudson and the team.  But those were a couple of really good years. 

#22- Nikola Pekovic. 2010-2016
We're always going to remember Pek as the guy the team gave millions of dollars to, only to see him never play again (the team had to pay him over $23 million in dead money). But, when he did play?  He was one of the strongest, most difficult big men in the NBA to stop.  

In his second year in the league, he averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds.  Those numbers jumped up in years three and four to 17 points and almost 9 rebounds.  Then, injuries took over.  He played only 43 games over the next two seasons, retiring with what "could have been".  

#21- Latrell Sprewell, 2003-05
Speaking of how we'll always remember guys, there's Latrell "I have a family to feed" Sprewell.  In 2004, the Wolves offered Sprewell a $21 million extension, which he was insulted by and uttered the now-famous phrase about his family.  That led to Sprewell spending 2004-05 having the worst season of his career in the final year of his contract.  

But, let's talk about prior to October, 2004.  The 2003-04 Wolves won 58 games and lost to the Lakers in the Conference Finals, and Sprewell was a major part of that team.  He scored 17 points a game, and was a team leader with Garnett and Cassell.  It looked like the perfect trio to continue the run.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Hopefully Sprewell found a way to put food on the table, as 2004-05 was the end of his career.  

#20- Joe Smith, 1998-2000, 2002-03
Then there is Joe Smith.  The under-the-table deal the team and Smith had in place so they could retain his rights for less money ended up costing the team in law suits, fines and draft picks.  Owner Glen Taylor was suspended by the league while VP of Basketball Op's Kevin McHale took a "leave of absence".  

But Smith's first run with the team (he came back briefly in 2002), and his combination with Kevin Garnett, helped put Minny in the playoffs each year he spent with the team.  A consistent scorer and shooter, and a solid rebounder and defender, Smith ended up playing 16 years in the league despite the illegal, behind the scenes contract issues.  

#19- Ty Corbin
He was one of the original Timberwolves.  Tyrone Corbin was already an NBA vet (4 years) when he became a starter for the Wolves in 1989-90.  Over those first two years of the Wolves, Corbin averaged 14.7 and 18 points a game.  

Corbin was strong and durable, playing all 82 games each season.  He left 11 games into the 1991-92 season when he was traded to Utah for Thurl Bailey and a draft pick.  

#18- Stephon Marbury, 1996-98
Another "what could have been" player.  It was Garnett and Marbury in those years that finally gave Timberwolves fans hope.  Only one of those players would turn out to be worthy of that hope.  

In his rookie year of 1996-97, Marbury was a stud.  Scoring 16 points a game and handing out almost 8 assists, Marbury was quickly one of the top young point guards in the game.  His sophomore year was stronger, with 17.7 points and 8.6 assists.  

Then came the demands.  Marbury's agent said he wanted to be closer to home (New York).  Other reports said he wanted to be in a market with more endorsement opportunities.  Others said he was jealous of Garnett's new contract.  Whatever the reason, Marbury was gone, traded to New Jersey.  The young duo broken up.  

Marbury bounced around the NBA for a few years before finding success in (you guessed it) China.  

#17- Pooh Richardson, 1989-92
The original first draft pick by the Timberwolves in 1989 out of UCLA, Pooh Richardson never quite set the league on fire, but was really a solid NBA point guard for those early Wolves teams.  

Always consistent, Richardson averaged 17 points by his second year to go with 9 assists a game.  He played in every single game during his three seasons with the Wolves before a trade sent him to Indiana (along with Sam Mitchell), then on to the L.A. Clippers for the last few years of his career.  

#16- Isaiah "J.R." Rider, 1993-96
When J.R. Rider was drafted by the Wolves, fans thought the next Michael Jordan might be coming to town.  Not quite.  But he wasn't bad.  He was also a bit of a wild card.  We'll just leave it to what happened on the court for now.  

Rider stormed off the the Slam Dunk Championship his rookie year.  He also scored 16.6 a game.  In years two and three with the Wolves, he scored at a 20-points-per-game clip.  Rider was a very good offensive player.  

But the off-court issues caught up with him and the Wolves decided to ship him off to Portland for a couple of bench guys and a 1st round draft pick that turned into Paul Grant.  We could do an entirely different column on bad draft choices (coming soon).  

#15- Doug West, 1989-98
The longest tenured of the early Wolves, Doug West was a terrific NBA guard.  By his fourth NBA season, he averaged 19 points a game.  Early Wolves fans will always see West come off baseline picks, curl up to the corner of the free-throw line to bury a 16 foot jumper.  Over, and over again.  

West was traded after the 1997-98 season to Vancouver for Anthony Peeler. After so many down seasons with the struggling team, West was gone just as Garnett and the Wolves were starting to make the playoffs each year.  

#14- Micheal Williams, 1992-1998
Williams came to Minnesota in the same trade that brought Chuck Person to the team (for Pooh Richardson and Sam Mitchell).  A lot of Timberwolves fans have probably forgotten how good Williams was in his first two seasons with the team, remembering instead the injuries that derailed his career.  Between 1994-1999 (his last year was in Toronto), Williams played 37 games.  Total.  5 full seasons, 37 games.  Horrible way for a really good player to end a career. 

In 1992-93, Williams scored 15 a game, dished out 8.7 assists.  At one point, Williams made 84 straight free throws to break the NBA record.  At the start of the '93-94 season, he made his first 13 to extend his streak to a still NBA record of 97 straight.  Unfortunately, it would be injuries that defined his career.

#13- Christian Laettner, 1992-96
Wolves fans never liked Christian Laettner.  He was the first round pick out of Duke (where nobody liked him either).  He played only 3 1/2 seasons for the Wolves before a trade sent him to Atlanta.  The truth is, Laettner was a pretty darn good NBA player in those years.

As a rookie, he averaged 18 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3 assists a game. You'd take that in a heartbeat from a rookie in the NBA!  He continued to be solid in his second and third seasons, but the team just wasn't good or going anywhere.  They needed something new.  That something showed up the next year as Kevin Garnett.  

#12- Ricky Rubio, 2011-2017
Drafted with the 5th overall pick in 2009, Ricky Rubio was a teenage Spanish sensation.  But he was locked into his European contract so despite the pick, it took a few years to get him to Minnesota.  When he did in 2011, he was instantly beloved by the fans for his flashy play and incredible passing.  

He led the Wolves, along with Kevin Love, to the edge of the Playoffs in 2013-14 when he went down with a torn ACL midway through the season.  The team missed the playoffs with Rubio out.  He came back but Love was traded, and it was another rebuild.  Eventually, Rubio was shipped out by Tom Thibodeau to Utah.  But his years with the Wolves are still highlight-reel worthy.  

#11- Terrell Brandon, 1999-2002
After several years in Cleveland, then just over a year in Milwaukee, Terrell Brandon came to Minnesota in the Stephon Marbury deal.  Brandon was a solid NBA point guard.  His combination with Kevin Garnett made them a lethal pick-and-roll combo.  He was also a lethal passer and very good defender.  He averaged 15 points a game in his four years in Minny.  

Eventually, injuries got the best of him which seems to be a recurring theme for this team's point guards (like Williams and Rubio).  

Before we move to our Top 10....

Enjoy this look back to the Timberwolves against Magic Johnson and the Lakers from a packed Metrodome in 1989!  

#10- Sam Mitchell, 1989-92, 1995-2002
Another original Timberwolves player, this fan favorite ended up playing 10 years with the team over two separate stints, plus spent a couple of years as an Assistant Coach.  

Mitchell was a solid but less than spectacular forward.  He had some game, could hit some shots, and was a gritty defender.  More than anything, it's his longevity with the team and leadership that pushes Mitchell towards the top of our list.  

#9- Sam Cassell, 2003-05
This is a tough one.  Cassell was a key backup on the back-to-back NBA Champion Houston Rockets in the mid 90's.  The then bounced all over the league (Phoenix, Dallas, New Jersey, Milwaukee) with varying degrees of success.  He could always score.  You'd have a hard time finding a better midrange shooter anywhere in the NBA then Cassell was.  

He came to Minnesota in a trade with the Bucks.  Cassell and Ervin Johnson for Anthony Peeler and Joe Smith.  And in one nearly miraculous season in 2003-04, Cassell, Garnett and Latrell Sprewell had the Wolves on the brink of the NBA Finals.  Cassell averaged 19.8 points with 7 assists, and hit a seemingly endless string of big shots.  

Then, a back injury in the playoffs limited Cassell in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, which the Wolves lost in six games.  Had he stayed healthy, who knows what could have been?  

It all fell apart the following year, with injuries and frustration leading to a 44-38 record and the team missing the playoffs by one game.  He wasn't offered a contract extension and ended up in L.A. with the Clippers.  But that one year..... 

#8- Tony Campbell, 1989-92
Another original member of the Wolves, Tony Campbell was the team's first go-to scoring option.  

A 5-year NBA vet when the expansion Wolves signed the free-agent guard, he was immediately the team's best player.  He averaged 23, 22, and 17 points per-game in his three seasons in Minnesota.  

Eventually, that first team was broken up with trades, and Campbell was sent to New York for a 2nd round pick.  He's still 8th in team history in scoring despite playing just those three early years for the team.  

#7- Wally Szczerbiak, 1999-2006
Wally World!  A fan favorite, Szczerbiak was drafted by the Wolves as the 6th overall pick out of Miami (Oh) where he was a scoring machine.  Szczerbiak was a solid NBA shooter fitting in perfectly with the Garnett/Smith frontline, and Terrell Brandon at the point when he came into the league.

Wally's best year was 2001-02 when he averaged 18.7 points.  He was a key member of the '03-04 team that went to the Western Conference Finals and shot almost 44% from the three-point line (over 40% for his career). 

After the team fell on hard times in 2006, he was shipped off to Boston in a large package deal between those teams.  

#6- Al Jefferson, 2007-10
Jefferson will always be known as the main player the Timberwolves got from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade.  There was no way anyone they got for KG was going to fill his shoes.  But, Big Al certainly was the team's best player for the 3 years he spent here. 

20 points and 11 rebounds every night.  That was Al Jefferson.  A bevy of low-post moves, a good shot blocker, a big body that was hard to deal with and consistent.  He was also on teams that had almost no outside shooting.  He faced constant double teams.  Yet he still produced.  

After the team drafted Kevin Love, Big Al was shipped off to Utah ("they weren't compatible") for Kosta Koufos (who?) and a couple of draft picks that turned out to be Donatas Motiejunas and Terrance Jones (who?).  Not great value for someone as skilled as Al Jefferson.  

#5- Tom Gugliotta, 1994-1998
Googs was another fan favorite.  The power forward came out of NC State and started his career in Washington, went to Golden State then came to Minnesota in a trade for Donyell Marshall.  

Gugliotta was a skilled big man and Minny got his best years as a pro.  He was the third wheel during the Garnett/Marbury years and was an All-Star in 1996-97 when he averaged 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.  A true stat stuffer for that team, Gugliotta and Garnett got the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in team history.  

Like so many Wolves players, when the end came, it wasn't pretty.  Garnett signed his massive $126 million deal and there wasn't enough leftover for Gugliotta who signed as a free agent in Phoenix.  Injuries derailed his career, but those were some fun years in Minnesota. 

#4- Jimmy Butler, 2017-19
Perhaps this is too high.  Jimmy "Buckets" only played 69 games in a Timberwolves uniform.  But we're awarding extra credit to the players who won games.  And when Jimmy came to Minnesota, the Timberwolves won enough to get back in the playoffs after 13 years on the outside.  

Coming to Minnesota to reunite with old coach Tom Thibodeau, the trade for Butler sent young guard Zach LaVine and rookie pick Lauri Markkanen to Chicago.  Butler was immediately the team alpha, leading young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to victories in an exciting 2017-18 season that ended in a 1st round playoff loss to Houston.

Butler averaged 21 points a game, hit a ton of late-game shots, and in the offseason, created a massive amount of drama.  He sat out training camp, wanted out of Minnesota, ultimately played 10 very unsatisfying games in 2018-19 before being sent to Philadelphia for Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington and Dario Saric.  

Another "what could have been".  

#3- Karl-Anthony Towns, 2016-current
If you think Butler is too high, Towns might be too low. And truthfully, he should move up to #2 this season.  This is merely a longevity question between Towns and the player who comes next in our list.  

We could just start with Wednesday's season-opener in Brooklyn, where Towns went off for 36 points, 14 rebounds, and hit a career high 7 three-pointers.  

The first overall pick in the 2015 draft, Towns has become one of the 2 or 3 best big men in the NBA.  He's only 23 years old, and has career averages of 22.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and shoots almost 40% from three.  And he's 7 feet tall.  

He's done things not seen since Kareem Abdul Jabbar's heyday.  He is learning now to be a better defensive player.  His ceiling is really unlimited right now.  It's just about learning to win from here, and making his teammates better.  Towns is absolutely a monster and the real deal.  

#2- Kevin Love, 2008-14
Originally drafted by Memphis, Love was part of a draft-day trade that sent him to Minnesota.  What a steal for the Wolves, as Love turned into a scoring/rebounding machine.

As a rookie, Love averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds but showed huge promise.  By his third season, he was scoring 20 a game and lead the league in rebounding at 15 a game.  

Ten games into the 2010-11 season, Love made NBA history.  Against the New York Knicks, Love had 31 points and 31 rebounds.  It was the first 30-30 game since Moses Malone in 1982 (and the ONLY one since 1982 since it hasn't happened again).  He ended that season with 13 games where he grabbed over 20 rebounds which is Wilt Chamberlain territory.  

In 2013-14, Love was scoring 26 a game and grabbing 12 rebounds, plus had formed an amazing partnership with Ricky Rubio.  The team was winning again and looked to be on the way to the playoffs, when Rubio went down with an ACL tear and it fell apart down the stretch.  

Ultimately that offseason, Timberwolves management decided to trade Love.  He was reportedly not satisfied with the direction of the team and roster turnover.  When Cleveland offered up first round pick Andrew Wiggins, Flip Saunders decided to pull the trigger.  Love ended up playing with LeBron James and the Cavs, and the Wolves were rebuilding yet again.  

#1- Kevin Garnett, 1995-2007 
This is the easiest choice on the list.  Love and Towns are phenomenal players.  But nobody comes close to the brilliance and dominance of the "Big Ticket".  

Drafted out of high school, and setting the course for young players to bypass college for many years after, Garnett was a skinny and supremely talented 19 year old when he played his first game in 1995.  He learned fast and had some "he did what?" moments throughout that first year.

In year two, he took off.  By year four, he was one of the best players in the league.  

Garnett was always a good scorer, but he did so much more.  He led the league in rebounding four times, was the league MVP in 2003-04 when he took the Wolves to the Conference Finals and much more. 

Just a few accomplishments:

  • 15 time All-Star
  • 2003 All-Star Game MVP
  • 8-time All-NBA with the Wolves
  • 8-time All-NBA Defensive Team

And someday, NBA Hall of Fame, without question. 

Sadly, after 14 years in Minnesota, Garnett wanted to move on.  He wanted a chance to win more, something that never materialized despite easily the best run of success in team history.  He was shipped off to Boston, where he ended up winning the 2007-08 NBA Championship along with stars Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.  

Still, there's no doubt KG is the best player in Wolves history, and it's not close.  

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