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How did the Timberwolves botch the Andrew Wiggins era?

David Richard / USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a great deal of ink spilled these last few days over the blockbuster trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers. Rather than analyze the situations surrounding Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Love in the present, Hardwood Paroxysm’s Evans Clinchy stepped into his time machine and analyzed Wiggins from an entirely new angle. The setting: August 2020 in Minnesota, where Wiggins is the centerpiece of another earth-shattering NBA trade.

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It seems like just yesterday that Andrew Wiggins was first arriving in Minnesota, a wide-eyed, idealistic 19-year-old kid with dreams of turning the Timberwolves into a true contender. The 2014 NBA draft was a mere six years ago, but so much has changed since. What happened? How did Wiggins evolve from promising 19-year-old rookie to beleaguered 25-year-old malcontent? How much of that transformation is real, and how much is manufactured narrative spin?

Oh, man. So many questions. Where to begin?

Way back on Aug. 23, 2014, when the Wolves first traded for Wiggins in a megadeal involving Kevin Love and fellow No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett (hey, anyone remember THAT guy?), Flip Saunders had high aspirations of turning a lottery team into a winner and Wiggins into the game’s next great superstar. Wiggins is a top-10 player in today’s NBA according to any advanced metric or enlightened basketball pundit, so it’s hard to say Flip failed. But the team’s maddening failure to reach the postseason during these six Wiggins years has brought a thunderstorm of scrutiny to Wiggins and the franchise alike, effectively necessitating a move.

Now Wiggins is gone, headed to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he’ll join forces with Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric to make the two-time defending champions even stronger. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie will give back 17 second-round draft picks in return, planting the seeds for yet another long-term rebuild in Minnesota. The cycle begins anew.

It hasn’t been a good century to be a Minnesota fan. The Wolves still haven’t reached the Western Conference playoffs since 2004. Their best players then were Kevin Garnett (now a notoriously reclusive hermit who was last spotted in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the winter of 2018), Sam Cassell (now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks after last month’s shocking ouster of Jason Kidd) and Latrell Sprewell (who’s made headlines as an intriguing third-party candidate for president of the United States this November). That era of Minnesota basketball is long over, needless to say.

The present-day Wolves are as depressing as they are hopeless. How is this team supposed to rebuild when its core players are an oft-injured Ricky Rubio, the 37-year-old Mo Williams, Nate Robinson playing for his 24th NBA team and a man known only as “the expiring contract of Gorgui Dieng?”

It didn’t have to be this way. Those 2014 Wolves were brimming with potential. The team had so many opportunities to make this work. They had a young Wiggins. They had Rubio in his prime. They had solid vets in Nikola Pekovic and Thaddeus Young. But in true Minnesota fashion, they found every possible opportunity to mess this up.

There was the season where Saunders, cripplingly overreliant on veterans, refused to play a young Wiggins for more than 12 minutes a night, even when he was the team’s clear best player. There was the year that went in the tank as soon as a bitter dispute over Glenn Robinson III’s contract extension derailed the team’s chemistry and sent them back to the lottery. And then last season, things looked good until Rubio suffered an injury to a body part mankind never even knew existed, becoming the first human being ever to break his left arterioverticlavicular bone.

Even one such season is disappointing; six in a row is catastrophic. But for the Timberwolves? It’s been 16 and counting, and it’s just kinda come to be expected. This is Minnesota, and These Things Happen.

Those of us who are old enough remember seeing Garnett 13 years ago, playing out the final moments of his miserable stint in Minnesota, losing and downtrodden and desperately looking for a way out. He eventually landed in Boston, where he immediately won a title.

Then in 2014 came the Wiggins/Love trade – the second once-great Timberwolves star, Love also found instant success when he won the 2015 and ’16 NBA Finals alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Will the same happen for Wiggins? One can only assume so. Wiggins is still only 25 and he’s heading to one of the best franchises in the NBA. He’s escaping the raging tire fire of Minnesota just in time.

There’s still hope for the Wolves yet. With the bevy of draft picks it’s receiving in the Sixers trade, the team can retool through the 2021 draft, loading up for yet another attempt at becoming relevant again.

That effort might pay off. Or, more likely, we’ll find ourselves right back here again in 2027 or so, looking back on yet another failed iteration of the NBA’s most comically inept franchise. In the Twin Cities, this story has become rather predictable.

Evans Clinchy

  • girinofly

    wow, you know nothing about basketball…..

  • Tay Brownn

    Is this a legit prediction or we just throwing stuff out there?

  • Frank North

    Your choices were sports writer or science fiction writer, you chose to combine them both and failed. Get back in your time machine and refund your parents the college tuition they wasted on you.

  • Andrew Hoerner Hagberg

    It’s not hard to tell that this is pure satire and not to be taken seriously. everyone needs to take a chill pill.

  • Pingback: A human thinks the Sixers will win two titles, land Andrew Wiggins prior to 2020 - Section 215 - A Philadelphia City Sports blog()

  • mike

    The reason the Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs the last 6 years is mostly Kevin Love. Getting 12 rebounds in the first quarter and then 8 more in garbage time gives you a hell of a stat line but every time Love filled the stat sheet the team suffered. Love will have a tough time failing in Cleveland but if anyone can help LeBron miss the playoffs it’s Kevin Love.

    • Dre Williams

      Lol comment of the year

  • Tom Roller

    This is the worst attempt at satire that I’ve ever seen.

  • Brandon

    Dumb. Ass. 2020? This kid hasn’t even played a single season in the NBA. Even if this is a “satire”, you have missed the mark. Big time. It is both not funny, and idiotic. You wasted everyone’s time, including your own. I thought the title warranted some half decent sports writer’s take on these trades, instead, I got some prepubescent jack offs bong water writing experiment. Frank Hebert called, he wants you to quit writing. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

    • elcocotero

      LOL. When and IF I want to see a “half decent sports writer’s take on these trades” I’ll go to f****** nba.com and read a f****** Fran Aschburner article!!! Or f****** Chris Sheridan!!!

      If you’re looking to find that you’re on the wrong place buddy.

      • Brandon

        Hmm. Would be a good point if I had searched for this article directly. It was recommended to me and the title has nothing to do with the material. It’s basically a bait and switch approach. Something has gotta get people to at least read the first paragraph I suppose. From there 90% of people just want to see wtf he’s trying to say.

        • elcocotero

          Well, obviously you’re new here. This is not a blog that, like, recaps the days news, the latest trade, or counts the top 5 destinations for the latest disgruntled star.
          Yes, there’s basketball analysis, but there’s also humour, and some creative, out of the box writing. A lot of the times these three aspects are mixed in the same article and if you are not accustomed to it, you may get confused and not know if something is a joke, a fictional story or a basketball opinion.

          This article right here, is not Evans Clinchy saying “HEY GUYS!!! THE TIMBERWOLVES SUCK!!! WIGGINS IS GONNA BE A BUST!!! “. It’s a short story, somewhat making fun of the fact that the Timberwolves have been run pretty badly the last decade or so, that tells us about a hypothetical situation in which this continues to be the case.

          Now you can find this not funny, or think that you wasted your time and got nothing out of this. But for some of us, this is what we want to see from our basketball writers. I mean, really, if you thought this was a half-decent analysis of the Love trade, and you still got interested and clicked on it, i’d think this blog is not for you. Writers are writers. If they knew how to manage a team they would probably be doing it. We don’t want to hear to some talking head blabbing about who won the trade, who lost, what could’ve been done better. We’ve already know all that.
          Yes, Kevin Love has not led his team to the postseason.
          Yes, his GM wasn’t able to surround him with the right players.
          Yes, he is probably a top 10 player in this league.
          Yes, there’s a chance that Wiggins could potentially become a better player than Love. And also not.
          Etc…

          These stupid articles telling us what we already know are all over the web if you want to feast yourself in them. I believe Bleacher Report has like 50 articles telling you who “won” the trade, and why Cleveland will never win a championship with a “loser” like Love. Go ahead, do it, I won’t judge you (maybe I will). But this is one of the few places where you can look at original, thought provoking, independent material. Don’t bash it if it’s not for you.

          • Frank North

            holy fucking wall of text Batman…..

            Shot for those who find it tl;dr

            Don’t come here and criticize the content of bad writing when you could go elsewhere and read other things…

          • Brandon

            I’m free to criticize the content in any way I please. If you don’t like it, ignore it. Was your original comment so different?

          • Frank North

            /sigh… Brandon do you see the little arrow thingy next to my name? KInd of like the one next to yours when you replied to me.

            Do you understand why it’s there?

          • Brandon

            Yes, frank. I understand. Nevertheless, it seemed to me you were agreeing with Mr electro-cunt; also saying his comment was too lengthy.

          • Brandon

            He framed it like “news”. Had it of said, “where might Wiggins be if was on the lost flight with the cast of Lost?” I probably would have skipped it. I respect your, like, opinion.

  • http://www.88millions.com/ Jay Badman

    Lol dude you have too much time on your hands watch out for Anthony Bennett too. You will be on his Johnson after this season I bet

    • Brandon

      Anthony Bennett lol. Didn’t quite pan out. Hopefully they can turn him around.

      • http://www.88millions.com/ Jay Badman

        He didn’t play well due to numerous injuries but when he was healthy which he is now watch out the timber wolves had a good come up with this trade. I see Kevin loves numbers way down playing in Cleveland. But hey this is where it begins

  • Christian Givot

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article; people who responded apprehensively seemed to have misinterpreted it. This article captures my (our) pain as timberwolves fans throughout the past decade, and it does so in a brilliantly humorous way. After wilting away the likes of Garnett and Love, how could we possibly get our hopes up for another young talent? As despondent as your article appears on the surface, it only provided optimism by the end of the read. Well done, Clinchy.

    • Frank North

      You can get your hopes up by paying attention. How was the Love trade handled? How would those past failed administrations handled it?

      If you are in fact a Wolves fan you can answer this question.

      McHae would have thrown his hands up at the first sign of resistance “well what are you going to do? This was the best offer” and we would have ended up with David Lee and Harrison Barnes + some future 2016 20+ first round pick.

      Kahn would have just gone straight up sign and trade for Eric Bledsoe to add to his dream of creating the first all PG team.

      Flip used patience and savvy to create a bidding war, passed on several inferior offers and bluffed every other team into believing he would rather watch Love walk then take an offer that did not get him what he wanted.

      If you were paying attention at all you would not need to ask the question. The answer is obvious

      • Christian Givot

        I appreciate the insight, Frank, and I very much agree that Flip brings promise to the Wolves organization from the managerial end of things. However, my question was purely rhetorical–if you were paying attention.