On draft night in 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the fifth and sixth picks in the draft. They watched Blake Griffin expectedly get drafted with the first pick to the Clippers. They watched the Memphis Grizzlies hilariously draft Hasheem Thabeet with the second pick. Then James Harden and his unaffordable beard were selected to the Oklahoma City Thunder with the third pick. That’s when this story takes a turn.
The Sacramento Kings were in need of a new brand of basketball. They had Kevin Martin as their best player, which is not ideal for any team. The Maloof family was hemorrhaging money, as they are wont to do in any business venture. The Kings needed a homerun with the fourth pick in the draft. All signs pointed to the international phenom who was marketing gold. Sacramento hosted Rubio. They had a one man workout with him and left it completely underwhelmed. Rubio was asked to showcase his skills on a basketball court without anybody there to play with him.
That’s not how you show the world what Ricky Rubio can do. Rubio even admitted afterward that his workout was less than stellar because he wasn’t playing with a team. There was allegedly supposed to be a second workout during the visit that never happened because Rubio backed out. Between those two items of note and a story that Rubio’s mother cut his steak for him when they were out to dinner with the team, the Kings had lost any interest in drafting Rubio. The thing is though; you don’t really let that be known until your pick comes up.
Many people thought the Grizzlies were going to draft Tyreke Evans to continue his basketball education in Memphis, which would have lead to Thabeet or Harden going third to the Thunder. And nobody really thought Ricky Rubio was going to drop past the Kings at four. When the Kings passed on Rubio publicly for Evans, all of a sudden someone was available to the Wolves that they weren’t expecting. It was a no-brainer pick too. You draft Ricky Rubio to be the point guard of the future and begin filling out the roster with someone else.
That’s where fans get pissed off. The sixth pick, as we all know and have been reminded weekly since it happened, was Jonny Flynn. Personally, I believe this was a moment of panic. An unexpected gift knocked everybody down a peg on the draft board for the Wolves and instead of improvising on the spot to reflect complementing the gift of Rubio, David Kahn decided to just go with the script as is. People now think it was such a massive mistake to not draft Stephen Curry with the sixth spot. In hindsight that’s as clear as day.
At the time, I’m not sure this was the steadfast “THEY HAVE TO DRAFT CURRY SIXTH NOW!” sentiment. The sentiment definitely wasn’t to draft Flynn with the sixth pick; that was just plain stupid. And to pretend they could play together was just insulting to everybody’s intelligence. But Flynn was high on numerous draft boards because of his college career (as overrated as it may have been, they loved it) and his workouts. There was a very real discussion for the Kings to draft Flynn at number four. They loved him because he had great workouts and great interviews. There were talks that the Knicks were dying for Flynn to fall to the eighth pick. The Warriors were also heavily considering him.
The Wolves were probably hoping to add Flynn at five and then grab DeMar DeRozan at six. Looking back, that would have been disastrous for this organization. Neither player ended up having much dimension and depth to their respective games. Rubio fell into their laps though and the organization royally screwed up the next pick. At the time, there were a lot of questions about Curry’s ability and position in the NBA. Sure, he was a good shooter but could he get his shot off? Was he quick and strong enough to play with the men in the NBA? Could he run the point position or was he going to be an undersized 2-guard his entire career? The questions seem stupid now, but at the time of the draft they were peppering the draft discussion.
Since then, we’ve seen this team struggle mightily while watching Curry impress people who were still worried about his frail ankles. And finally, the organization put a good team around Curry this season and he managed to stay healthy, playing in 78 games. The Warriors made the playoffs as the sixth seed and have lit up the Denver Nuggets in the first round. This makes Wolves fans furious. He should have been ours!
But what if the Wolves had selected Curry with the sixth pick in the draft? What would have happened?
Would we see the same team we have before us with the same coach, just inserting Curry into the shooting guard spot in the lineup instead of Luke Ridnour/Chase Budinger? There are a few things we need to factor in here, bullet form style:
- David Kahn has tried to trade Kevin Love multiple times since Kahn took over. Even after the breakout season of 20 and 15 from Love, there have been rumors and hush hush conversations about the Wolves trying to move Kevin. If the Wolves draft Curry and have a successful young guard with plenty of firepower right away (like he showed when he nearly won the 2010 Rookie of the Year), would that have been enough to get rid of Love without receiving too much blowback from the fans? Especially when Kahn seemed intent on getting rid of all players brought in by Kevin McHale?
- With the rumors and reports about Rubio’s hesitancy to come play in Minnesota because of the weather and other things, would the Wolves have stuck with the plan to keep him in their future if Curry was good right away? Or would Rubio’s agent have been able to play hardball with the organization and gotten them to be happy they had one great guard already?
- About the Kevin Love thing, the Wolves basically decided they couldn’t have him and Al Jefferson on the team, which I pretty much agree with. It was kind of an awkward pairing and not ideal for long-term. It’s very possible that the Wolves would have kept Al and let Kevin be traded if Curry was on the roster because they would have had their young star in Curry.
- With Curry instead of Flynn, the Wolves would have been more successful right away and not the steaming pile of jokes the basketball world viewed them as. This probably means Kurt Rambis keeps his job far longer than Rick Adelman was available. Rick may have gone on and taken the Lakers job or a job somewhere else.
- With a little more success and Rambis still coaching, there’s no way in Cleveland the Wolves have the roster they possess today and they probably still draft Wes Johnson in the 2010 draft (assuming they pick in pretty much the same area of the draft — 4, 5, 6). They also would have still kept Wes Johnson to pair with Michael Beasley, who Kahn would have jumped at trying to grab no matter what the roster situation would have ended up being.
So we have a couple of possible scenarios here for how the Wolves would have looked right now:
Best-case scenario: Rubio, Curry, Love, Pekovic, and Rick Adelman leading us to playoff heaven.
Not so great: Rubio, Curry, Al Jefferson, and Rick Adelman leading us to a possible eighth seed.
Starting to not feel well: Rubio, Curry, Wes, Jefferson, and Kurt Rambis leading us to a few nightcaps to sleep easier.
I think I’m going to be sick: Curry, Wes, Jefferson, and Rambis leading us to drink heavily every night.
Well now there’s just vomit everywhere: Curry, Wes, Beasley, Darko and Rambis leading us to vomit everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to justify the Wolves not picking Stephen Curry. I would take him on this team in a heartbeat. Hell, I just wrote for CBSSports that he’s the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history. I’m going to have another post on CBSSports today about his shooting. I can’t stop writing about his shooting and the idea of Ricky Rubio setting Stephen Curry up off of screens makes all the blood rush away from my brain. I would be thrilled if the Wolves were able to form their own Big Three with Rubio, Curry and Love. That’s not only a playoff team; that’s a team a couple of role players away from challenging in the West.
Just look at him!
His shooting is sexual and violent.
But honestly, I’m OK with Curry not being the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. I’m really fine with it and got over it years ago. In an ideal world, you’d be able to throw Curry onto this roster in a vacuum and everything would be incredible. But I’m not sure this front office has earned the trust of assuming everything following a Sliding Doors version of “What if the Wolves had selected Curry?” would have been gold. We saw way too many questionable moves before Rick Adelman got here to believe otherwise.
Would it be awesome to have Stephen Curry on the Wolves right now? Oh my god, yes. Would we have a team that makes us feel better about rooting for the Minnesota Timberwolves than we do right now? I have no way of being confident that answer is yes. If I had to choose between the two, would I rather have Kevin Love on the roster or Stephen Curry? Give me Love.
I understand why people would feel differently and don’t blame them. But I’m at peace with Curry dropping down to the seventh pick and being the franchise guy for the Golden State Warriors. Curry is all the rage now and might be for quite some time. But just wait until Rubio and Love are in the playoffs next season. People will think these guys are pretty fun too.