Ranking the 10 best Timberwolves players of all time

We try to rank the best players in Minnesota's most-cursed franchise.
Publish date:

It's been two months since we've seen a live NBA game and two months into a nationwide quarantine, we're starting to go a little crazy. Then again, for fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, it's possible they're not missing much.

The Wolves have been Minnesota's most cursed franchise since arriving for the 1989-90 season. With just two playoff series wins (both coming in 2003-04), the discussion to list the ten best players in franchise history is an extremely difficult one.

There's a good chance you can guess who is at the top of this list, but we dove into the franchise's checkered past to see who makes the cut. This list is extremely debatable, but that's the point. Who's in your top 10?

10. Sam Mitchell

Was Mitchell an influential part of the franchise? Not really. But did he stick around long enough to rise up the record books? You bet.

Mitchell's name is all over the Timberwolves franchise despite averaging just 9.5 points per game. As an original Timberwolf that came back after a stint in Indiana, Mitchell spent 10 years in Minnesota which is enough to throw him on this list, not to mention his days coaching the club. 

9. Tom Gugliotta

Almost at the same time when Kevin Garnett came to Minnesota, the Timberwolves had landed Gugliotta as part of a 1994-95 season where he had been traded three times.

The result was a solid player for the Wolves, who wound up making the All-Star team in the 1996-97 season where Minnesota went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

While his tenure in Minnesota was only four seasons, he was a solid running mate that Garnett probably would have liked to have seen stay for a little longer.

8. Wally Szczerbiak

The Wolves haven't had many superstar players during their existence, and Szczerbiak never reached that level. But as a contributor to many playoff teams, he's better than most to have put on a Wolves uniform.

As the 6th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Szczerbiak was a solid player and fan favorite for the Wolves, making the All-Star team in the 2001-02 season.

However, injuries kept Szcerbiak from reaching his ceiling and he became known for introducing Minnesotans to the term plantar fascitis. 

7. Sam Cassell

For many years during Kevin Garnett's tenure with the Wolves, they couldn't find an adequate running mate to push the team past the first round. In the summer of 2003, Kevin McHale got aggressive landing Latrell Sprewell and Cassell to spark the best season in franchise history.

As a veteran ringer, Cassell held down the point guard spot and made the All-Star team at 34 years old. With a career-high 19.8 points and 7.3 assists per game, Cassell was more than a distributor for Flip Saunders' offense as it rolled all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

Unfortunately, Cassell's Pedro Serrano tribute after a big shot in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals played a huge role in derailing that season, but Cassell put together one of the greatest seasons in Wolves history.

6. Ricky Rubio

If you're wishing that Rubio was Steph Curry, you have a very solid argument. But for a team that has struggled to find an adequate point guard since its existence, Rubio was a solid player for the Wolves.

While Rubio never developed into much of a scorer, he made up for it thanks to his passing and defense. During his six seasons with the Wolves, Rubio averaged 8.5 assists per game and was leading Minnesota to a potential playoff berth before tearing his ACL during the 2011-12 season.

Fans wanted more after the hype that followed him over from Spain. As a great passer and defender, however, he deserves to be on the list.

5. Andrew Wiggins

Wiggins could also rank high on the biggest busts in franchise history, but like many players on this list, he has more stats than actual on-court success.

Wiggins is first in franchise history in three-pointers and second all-time in points, but fans will remember Wiggins for a whiff by the front office signing him to a max contract prior to the 2017-18 season.

4. Kevin Love

When the Timberwolves traded O.J. Mayo for Love after the 2008 NBA Draft, the general reaction was negative. However, once hitting the court, it was a rare trade that the Timberwolves had actually come out on top.

Love was a monster on the stat sheet for the Wolves, averaging 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds during his six seasons in Minnesota. Known for his knack for collecting double-doubles, Love put together an NBA-record streak of 53 straight during the 2010-11 season.

Like most players on the list, a dispute with the front office led to his departure and it's fair to wonder how Love would have fared in the playoffs had Rubio not torn his ACL during the 2011-12 season.

3. Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns has put up gigantic stats since coming to Minnesota. After being the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Towns has demonstrated the offensive ability of a 10-year veteran, posting 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

As a two-time All-Star, Towns deserves to be high on this list despite being just 24 years old. Despite a pair of injuries that set him back last season, the Wolves haven't been successful when Towns is on the court. 

In fact, Minnesota has lost 18 of the last 19 games when Towns has suited up. Maybe the addition of D'Angelo Russell will help, but for now his lack of success knocks prevents him from rising into the controversial No. 2 spot. 

2. Jimmy Butler

Wolves fans aren't going to like Butler this high on the list, but he holds a key distinction over his modern-day counterparts: Winning.

Butler only lasted just over a season in Minnesota and his stats (22 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.8 assists) were modest, but his impact on the franchise was noticeable as the key player in the only season in franchise history to reach the playoffs without Garnett.

Yes, Wolves fans should be upset with how Butler forced his way out, but Butler is one of the few players to come to Minnesota and win.

1. Kevin Garnett

This one is obvious. Garnett leads the Timberwolves in just about every category imaginable and his 139.8 win shares is nearly three times Love's total of 50.4

The key difference with Garnett compared to just about everyone on this list was his success on the court as opposed to just stats. 

The Timberwolves went to the playoffs eight straight seasons from 1997 to 2004 and they might have gotten out of the first round more often if they weren't docked four years of first-round draft picks in the Joe Smith debacle.

There is no one in Timberwolves history that has had the impact that Garnett, who also won the 2003-04 NBA Most Valuable Player award. While his number should be hanging in the Target Center rafters, a whiff by the front office is a big reason why the franchise has been one of the most dysfunctional since birth.

Next Up

Andrelton Simmons / Minnesota Twins

Twins sign Andrelton Simmons to one-year deal

The former Angels shortstop is a four-time Gold Glove winner.

covid, vaccine

Minnesotans eligible for COVID shots only need to pre-register once for vaccine lottery

This is good news for people worried that they'd need to sign up every week.

police lights

2 people charged in separate Minneapolis homicides that happened hours apart

A woman is accused of stabbing a man in the chest over $60, while a man is accused of accidentally shooting a victim on the man's birthday.

House for sale

Despite pandemic, Twin Cities housing market set records in 2020

Sales were up 7.7% in 2020 compared to the year before.

Target store inside

Target unveils 'limited-edition' home, lifestyle collection with Levi Strauss

The new collection will be available in some stores and everyone online Feb. 28.

Tim Walz

Walz's $52.4 billion budget increases school spending, raises taxes on wealthy

He says the budget will help level the playing field and ensure all Minnesotans have a fair shot at economic recovery,

Screen Shot 2021-01-26 at 12.55.00 PM

Pictures from Minnesota GOP's Deadwood retreat show no masks, no distancing

The pictures were shared in Chair Jennifer Carnahan's latest email newsletter.

Alexus Norberg

Search for girl, 14, missing from St. Cloud

The teen left her home without her parents' permission.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, January 26

The health departments provided new data daily at 11 a.m.


Jimmy Butler

Are the Timberwolves still missing Jimmy Butler?

Things are happier at Target Center, but the results haven't appeared on the court.

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler says he only scored once in infamous Wolves practice

Butler confirmed Derek Rose's account, but it's a good bet he shut down Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins and Towns show potential as Timberwolves stomp Spurs

The Timberwolves duo combined for 58 points in another victory.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins shines again Timberwolves beat Pistons

The Timberwolves beat the Pistons for the first time since 2014.

Andrew Wiggins

Nuggets smother Timberwolves in overtime loss.

The Timberwolves shot just 6-for-44 from three-point range.

Metrodome collapse

Ranking the most 'Minnesota Sports' seasons of all-time.

Expectations. Heartbreak. Disappointment. Repeat.