Some organizations can’t get out of their own way. Example A: the Minnesota Timberwolves and the 2009 NBA Draft.
In 2009, the Wolves were coming off another disastrous season. 24 games were won and for their fifth straight year the Timberwolves were shut out of the playoffs. They had two lottery picks in 2009 that everyone expected their G.M. David Khan to screw the hell up. Of course, he did.
Players the Timberwolves didn’t choose in 2009: Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holliday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, DeMarre Carroll.
With the sixth pick the Timberwolves chose Jonny Flynn, a point guard out of Syracuse whose claim to fame was an extraordinarily entertaining Big East tournament game that went six overtimes with Flynn as the star leading them to the win. But Flynn was undersized, athletic but not skilled, an average shooter who held the ball too long and worse than all his of measurables, he had a personality that grated on coaches and teammates. He played with an arrogant and entitled chip on his shoulder which infected his psyche and game. And he just wasn’t that good.
Flynn had a decent rookie year and then sustained an injury and that was that. He would not be a viable NBA player again. He was traded twice, played in Australia and Italy. He didn’t play professionally in 2015.
With the fifth pick in 2009, the Timberwolves selected Ricky Rubio. Rubio had a lot of hype coming in as a Pete Maravich point guard wannabe that was going to set the NBA on fire. It was true Rubio had great handles, an arrogance uncommon for a European player, confidence in his ability. The Wolves kept him in Europe for two years and then in 2011 he was met at the airport by ecstatic fans who were all in on the Rubio hype.
The showman didn’t disappoint early on. He had 6 assists in his NBA debut but only 6 points which would haunt his entire career, an inability to shoot.
Rubio was Western Conference Rookie of the Month his first month. But in March, he collided with Kobe Bryant and tore his ACL and his LCL. He ended the year positivily, voted second in Rookie of the Year, trailing Kyrie Irving.
Three years later, he signed a four year $56 million dollar extension, a head scratcher. Yes, Rubio hovered around the 8 assist per game mark but his inability to put the ball in the hole was a black mark against his game and put the Wolves at a distinct disadvantage in close games. Defenses didn’t guard him, didn’t have to. His 38% two-point shooting, 46% at the rim, 28% from mid-range, 31% on threes was grotesque anyway you sliced it. Rubio is a crowd magnet, selling out arenas, but his offensive sickness- no meat, just fatty food- cost the Wolves possessions and games. Worse, he’s not getting any better. He is what he is, a specialist at the point, a highly paid one.
In 2009, the Timberwolves could have drafted Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan. It would have been a backcourt wreaking havoc on defenses for a decade. Or they could have drafted Jeff Teague and DeRozan. There were so many can’t lose propositions that the Timberwolves gagged on and instead they took the one player who was a NBA bust and another NBA player who can’t put the ball in the hole.
Now they are tired of Rubio and frankly they don’t need him anymore. Or, perhaps they are looking at that contract and figuring out Rubio will never live up to it, not with his offensive and defensive woes.
This year the Wolves drafted Tyus Jones at the point. They added veteran Andre Miller as a backup and as a mentor. It makes Rubio expendable. The Wolves finally have a team of creators and athletes. They don’t need a Chris Paul hybrid to get the ball to teammates. The Wolves have multiple shot creators now. Tyus Jones, though undersized, is good enough and he proved in the national championship game he can make perimeter shots.
So it’s Rubio for sale. His deficiencies and his contract make him prime territory for a big market club that can absorb the cost of a one-dimensional player. Think New York Knicks.
Regardless if he stays in Minnesota of if he moves on, the fact that he is available at all is an indictment on the Minnesota Timberwolves front office. They were miserably incompetent in 2009, laughably so. Steph Curry should be their point guard: case closed.
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