Minnesota Timberwolves: Key Players and Team History in the NBA
The Minnesota Timberwolves History and Highlights.
Founding and Early Years
The team joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1989. That was the first time professional basketball returned to Minnesota after the Lakers left for Los Angeles in 1960.
The Timberwolves, just like any expansion team, struggled in the first years since joining the league. Christian Laettner, a member of the original Dream Team in 1992, and Isiah Rider were the first notable players in the Timberwolves, but the team didn’t make any significant results.
Kevin Garnet and Stephon Marbury become best young duo in NBA
Things started to look promising in 1995 when the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick. Garnett was the first player that came into the NBA straight from high school in more than 20 years.
Garnett was 19 years old at the time, but quickly developed and made his first All-Star selection in his sophomore year in 1997, just as his teammate Tom Gugliotta. The Timberwolves looked really good as they acquired point guard Stephon Marbury one year after Garnett came into the league. Those two became the best young duo in the league and made the Playoffs in 1997. Minnesota played really well against the Seattle Supersonics but lost in five games. That was the beginning of an eight-year run of first-round eliminations for the Timberwolves.
Marbury soon decided to leave because he didn’t want to be the no. 2 player on a team. The Timberwolves made a huge mistake in their negotiations with Joe Smith and were later punished by forfeiting their draft picks in the next five years. Malik Sealy’s death in 2000 was also a massive blow for the Timberwolves, who couldn’t find a way to improve.
2004 Western Conference Finals
Garnett became a regular All-Star and won the MVP award in 2004. That season, KG had veterans Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell on the team, and the Timberwolves finished the regular season as the top seed in the Western Conference.
Minnesota defeated the Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings, finding their way to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, Sam Cassell and his backup Troy Hudson got injured during the series, and the Timberwolves were hurt in the point guard position costing them elimination in six games from their only conference finals appearance.
Breakdown of the Timberwolves
After the 2004 season, coach Flip Saunders left the team, which was the start of the breakdown of the Timberwolves.
In 2007, after 12 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and only taking the team further than the opening Playoff round once, Kevin Garnett demanded a trade. The team traded him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for seven players, the most players a team has ever given up to acquire just one in return.
After Garnett’s departure, the Timberwolves struggled to find their identity. Al Jefferson, one of the players who arrived from Boston, took the leading role.
In 2008, the Minnesota Timberwolves made another massive trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, acquiring the fifth pick of that year’s draft Kevin Love. The power forward became the franchise’s cornerstone, but he was far from the level needed to lift the team. Often accused by the teammates of carrying for only his stat sheet, the Timberwolves didn’t find the chemistry to progress.
Better days came in 2014 when the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the first overall pick Andrew Wiggins. The following year, the Wolves had their own first overall choice and used it to select Karl-Anthony Towns. The center became the team’s new star, signing a max deal that saw Wiggins out.
In 2018, the Timberwolves made their first playoff appearance in 14 years but lost in the opening round to the Houston Rockets. They repeated the same result in 2022, this time losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.