Stephen Curry is not for us and it's OK

Hold the Curry

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.

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24 thoughts on “Stephen Curry is not for us and it's OK

  1. I think the Curry thing is especially painful given that he is exactly what the Wolves have seemed to be missing in recent years – a knock-down 3-pt. shooter to complement Love and Pek, and to open things up for Rubio. And for me, looking back, the Flynn thing just didn’t seem to make much sense at all, and was one of the worst possible outcomes. The wing players that went with the later picks (DeRozan, Henderson) all have some issues, but they are all NBA level players, and can contribute or would have some possible value. Add the Ty Lawson miss into the mix, who was available to them and could’ve been what they wanted from Flynn, if they truly though that was necessary, and it becomes even more painful. But ultimately, with all the questionable decisions in the past, from Joe Smith to Ndudi Ebi, it’s par for the course as a Wolves fan.

  2. …Hard to be a twolves fan… REAL REAL HARD…. Curry… Ty.. Wes… Johnny… even our best player is problem….

  3. I’m sorry, but basically you are saying that it is OK that the front office was dumb enough to pass on Curry because even if they hadn’t, their stupidity would have expressed itself in other ways. That does not make the situation any better. I don’t feel glad knowing that, even if 2009 hadn’t been the most embarrassing draft any team has had in the last 15 years, this organization would have found a way to blow it.

  4. Dave, what I’m saying is people need to get over it because you don’t know that the situation would be better or worse. It’s an unhealthy mindset to keep going “OH MY GOD WHAT IF WE HAD HIM?!”

    The Wolves have a good team now (when healthy) and a good coach (who hopefully stays). The Wolves aren’t a lottery team because they don’t have Curry. They’re a lottery team because they don’t have health. I’m just trying to offer up some non-paranoid, self-defeating perspective here.

  5. Absurd.. Because yes it is absurd for T-wolves fans for the Timberwolves to not make the playoffs for 9+ years when half the league’s teams make the playoffs. The superiority of the NFL when compared to the NBA is on full display. The NBA does not have enough parity is definitely a true statement.

    I was on the fence regarding the owner’s decision on whether to keep David Kahn or not until recently. Not drafting curry was a bad decision and some of the other options available made more sense than a second point guard so that was a bad draft by David Kahn. If it were just one bad draft that would be one thing, but drafting Wesley Johnson over Demarcus Cousins was a second bad draft in a row. Derrick Williams was a mediocre choice which for the most part David Kahn cannot be faulted for, but giving David Kahn one more chance to mess things up again is inexcusable. Building through the draft is the only chance the T-wolves have as a franchise to be competitive and viable not just today, but in the future. David Kahn has demonstrated that he cannot adequately perform the drafting duties; hence, he needs to go. It really is that simple.

  6. Zach, I tend to agree with you in that it does seem like a waste to continually dwell on what could have been – because there are plenty of what if games you could play with the Wolves over the last 20 years, but I think Wolves fans will continue to be sensitive to it as long as the current regime stays in place. So perhaps this post would make more sense to them in the context of saying goodbye once and for all to David Kahn. There are 2 different Matts posting here – this is from the first one.

  7. Zach, I agree with you. Though the “what if” scenario seems justified with hindsight, there really is no telling what would had happened. What if we kept Ray Allen instead? What if we got away with Joe Smith? What if we held onto Brandon Roy? There are too many variables to determine that the current product would had been the product we received initially.

    Maybe Curry is so great now is because he is over compensating for his injury the past years. Maybe if we had held onto Brandon Roy, he wouldn’t got injured. Maybe if we held onto Ray Allen, we never would had been in the position to draft Brandon Roy. Maybe if we had Brandon Roy, KG would never had left. Maybe if we had KG and Roy, we never would had been in the position to draft Curry.

    It would be great to have Curry now. But maybe we’ll get lucky in this draft as “Flip” will draft Ben McLemore and we’ll forget this whole mess.

  8. I agree. Living in “what-if” land is unproductive and mostly misrepresentative of how things would’ve actually unfolded. There’s a domino theory with most NBA stuff that means most hypotheticals that fans obsess over are null and void. I used to get angry about them passing over guys who could’ve prolonged the team’s competitiveness with KG, but that ultimately takes away from why I enjoy watching basketball.

    Curry rose significantly in that draft compared to where he started; it wasn’t as rapid a rise as Flynn, but it was enough to question the guy’s potential and viability as an NBA starter. To be fair, few took into consideration the drought of talent in SGs that’s led many teams to turn to small backcourts and made Curry fit much better than he would’ve trying to guard the guys out there 10-15 years ago.

    I’m always fascinated by behind-the-scenes stuff, Zach, and appreciate any info like the Kahn/Love stuff when it’s possible to pass along. Jack McCallum or John Feinstein is never writing a book about the Wolves, so historical info rarely gets discussed because the journalists are focused on the present and future. There are enough conspiracy theorists and pessimists when it comes to this stuff that it’s much better to hear the real info and judge that than speculate on what might’ve happened.

  9. I do not know about dwelling on the past (this is the second Matt again), but you can project how a gm will fair in the future based on their past performance. Now I actually think David Kahn has done a decent job in free agency. He got AK47 and Dante Cunningham to name a few decent players, but I think drafting is far more of an important trait for a T-wolves GM then some of the other franchises where teams can be built in free agency. Since only Ricky Rubio appears to be a solid David Kahn pick after 4 drafts then you know what should happen..

    As far as not knowing that Curry would benefit from the lack of quality 2s in the NBA is not a gm supposed to predict based on high school/AAU/college and the pros what type of players are in vogue or will be in vogue in the NBA in the future? People that know the AAU circuit have got a good idea of where pro basketball could be ending up 3-4 years from now.

    By the way what happened to the T-wolves 2014 pick if the timberwolves actually make the playoffs next year. Next years draft could be incredible even into the mid teens and 20s and yet the T-wolves have no pick if we make the playoffs. I was trying to understand the transactions and why this is the case? Could someone explain this to me and is this another great move by Kahn?

  10. Well, I’m not arguing that he shouldn’t have been taken, but it’s different saying that “short/small 2-guards can work in the NBA” than it is saying “Curry can work in the NBA.” The two big questions with any small 2 guard are, “Does he have a quickness advantage against taller/stronger players?” and “Will he be more of a liability on defense than he is an asset on offense?” Those were both questions about Curry that weren’t for someone like Allen Iverson. In ’09, JJ Redick, a taller player who was considered an elite college shooter, played against much stronger college competition, and is about 2 inches taller than Curry, had come off a season where he averaged 6 ppg in 17 mpg. That’s not even mentioning Adam Morrison, who had similar small-school credentials as Curry.

    If we’re really doing these hypotheticals, do just the Wolves get the second chance, or does everyone else, too? I’m guessing if the Grizz and Kings could redo things, neither Curry nor Rubio would be in this team’s uniform. For that matter, neither would Love from ’08.

    This sounds too much like a defense of Kahn; it’s not. He should be out. I just don’t dream about hypothetical teams as a fan because the guys who matter are the ones currently on the Wolves roster and whether they should stay or go.

  11. It’s understandable that you favor Love over Curry, because of the productivity he gives the team on the glass. However, it is widely speculated that Love will be exercising his right to opt out of his contract next year, leaving the Wolves with nothing but memories and more what if scenarios. Perhaps if Curry was on the team, he would not be butting heads with the team’s GM or putting his foot in his mouth with the media and would choose to remain in Minnesota. It is also worth mentioning that if you factor out Love’s rookie season to match his time in the league with Curry’s and factor in the injuries from both players, Curry has played in more games than Love…I still don’t believe the knuckle push ups excuse…

  12. Seems like the point of this article was to make the reader feel a little bit better. And ya know what, Zach? I feel a little bit better. Thanks.

    All of these Matts are confusing me. I agree with pagingstanley- every lottery team has some combination of “what ifs” that makes them a contender. Not to say the Wolves’ story isn’t the most current and interesting…

    There is a lot to be excited about for next season, particularly if Adelman stays and Kahn goes. That being said, I feel like I’m excited about the same things as I was coming into this season…only this time our key veterans are one year older and we’ll probably be paying a few guys more money.

    Zach- surprised you haven’t found a way to work Ricky’s instagram photo of he, Amundson, Steamer, Cunningham and JJ paddleboarding in Puerto Rico into an article yet.

  13. Karl, ask and you shall receive.

    As for the rest of the comments, I think we’re all pretty much in agreement here. David Kahn need to go; there’s no arguing that. He’s been responsible for drafting Rubio, signing Barea, signing Roy, signing Shved, and that’s it (I don’t think I’m leaving anybody out).

    The rest of the moves have been Rick. I don’t know if Flip Saunders would/could be better than Kahn, but I know Flip and Love don’t hate each other. I just think being upset about a misfired draft pick needs to go for everybody’s sanity. Yes, the Wolves didn’t draft Curry. No, it doesn’t need to define THIS roster. THIS roster looks really good (if healthy). I’m good with that and I hope you are too.

  14. I think, Curry aside, what people are MOST upset about is that Johnny Flynn was the WORST draft pick in franchise history – maybe even in Minnesota sports history. However, the thing that adds to it and puts Wolves fans (like me) in the red about that pick is that Curry was the OBVIOUS choice and would fit so perfectly next to Rubio. To downplay the absurdity of the Flynn pick and its repercussions, like you have, is almost equally as absurd.

  15. Zach –
    Nice insight per usual. Certainly makes you consider the “alternate universe” progression of events. Speaking of which, check out the show Fringe. I recommend.

    I’m not sure when you moved to Minnesota and started covering the Wolves in detail, but if I recall it was after the events of the 2009 NBA draft. A few thoughts:

    1. Every move that any team makes has a butterfly effect on future moves. Fire Rambis after 1 year vs. 2 like many wanted? Adelman isn’t the coach today, and maybe it is Sam Mitchell instead. Don’t sign Roy? Shved never gets the opportunity due to injuries to show he possibly can play at the NBA level (rotten final 1/4 of the season aside). Trade KG 1 year earlier to the Bulls instead of Boston in ’07? Maybe the Wolves still have a core of Deng and Tyson Chandler and a top draft pick from one of the previous few seasons instead of only Chase Budinger to show from trading KG.


    These things are a given. Whether it is signing Chris Johnson to a 10-day or drafting a future star. Every move has an alternate reality.

    2. I think adding the “what if” factor over complicates matters and is a bit of a strawman attempt to rationalize (despite a copious amount of disclaimers in your post, so I get where you’re at here) a simple matter: passing on Curry was a horrendous decision AT THE TIME. This is why I asked how long you have been covering the team in detail (if you were at this time, my apologies). Being at the Target Center Draft party in 2009 was a very interesting case study in highs and lows. The place was relatively packed for an event of this nature. At least a few thousand people were there, and when Sacramento took ‘Reke at 4, the place erupted. Despite a fraction of the attendance of a normal game, the place was LOUD when Rubio fell….

    ….And then Kahn took Flynn and the place was practically dead silent. Confusion. “Wait, who are we trading the pick to?” The air was sucked out of the room. People KNEW. And not just the die-hards. It was a horrendous pick at the time that made zero sense and, in my opinion, despite potential “what-if” outcomes, sealed Kahn’s fate as a total buffoon. There is no defending the Flynn pick because hindsight wasn’t involved (unlike Wes to some degree). This was really the move that turned Kahn into a joke among media and colleagues that would forever stink up his tenure with the Wolves. There was no turning back.

    As soon as the pick was made/not-made I would argue it started a chain reaction in the opposite, bad direction: a 15 win season, getting stuck at 4 and picking Wes as a result of poor standings, getting little in return for Flynn, and then having to give up even more assets just to get rid of Wes 2 seasons later. Among other smaller things that impacted who Kahn signed, and so on. Curry could have just as easily gotten us to the #7-9 range in 2010, leading the Wolves to draft Paul George instead of Wes, so there is that. And would I rather have a core of Love/George/Pek/Curry than Rubio/Love/Pek? I think I might. As much as we love Ricky….let’s be honest with ourselves, here.

    Plain and simple, it was the right pick at the time by a landslide, and with Curry now being in the discussion as “best shooter in league history,” it hurts all the more. Unforgivable.


  16. My recollection of the draft is very different than Zach’s.

    I remember that after the 4th pick, I was 100% confident that the Wolves would take Rubio and Curry. That is the truth.

    The question is whether my recollection jives with the facts at the time. My impression at the time was that it was the obvious pick, that 99 out of 100 teams would have taken Curry at 6. The wolves of course were the 1 out of 100 that would take Flynn. But I could be wrong here.

    The next question, is why does it matter. Touche, Mr. Harper.

  17. There’s something to be said of Flynn’s up-and-down, but still decent rookie season. He wasn’t instantly a flop. Does anyone remember him scoring in double figures in his first 11 NBA games?Of course not (though they might remember a 15 game losing streak happening simultaneously). How about his All-Rookie 2nd team selection? Didn’t think so. Nothing to write home about, but definitely not “bust” numbers his first season.

  18. Zach Harper,
    Stop writing articles, Stephen Curry is definitely for us, are you mad? While he doesn’t provide the prototypical size of an off guard, neither does Luke Ridnour, whom we paired our beloved Ricky Rubio with all season. And I just read your article about Rubio and company attempting to lure Lou Amundson back? Please.

  19. Alex, I’m sorry you didn’t understand the sarcasm meter because I thought that made everything really obvious.

    As for the Ridnour comment, they didn’t do this by design. I’m not sure if you know but the team had a bunch of injuries that forced them to play Luke out of position. I appreciate your suggestion to stop writing articles, but I’m to keep writing them. At least for now.

  20. Hard to respond to all of the comments but I will say the following:

    1) Anybody who thinks this post was a justification of the Flynn pick is insane. I’ve pretty solidly on record on this site and everywhere else saying Kahn is incompetent and that pick was disastrous. I thought that was clear in this post when I said, “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.” If that wasn’t clear and the rest of my writing on this site, TrueHoop, and CBS aren’t clear enough, the Flynn pick was one of the worst draft selections in NBA history when you factor in that they had just selected Rubio. Also, Flynn wasn’t very good (despite making All Rookie 2nd Team which usually means you didn’t piss yourself on the court that season).

    2) I’ve been writing about the NBA since 2006 and I’ve been a fan of this team their entire organizational life. I’m pretty tuned into what this team is and what it was, especially at the time of the draft. I’ve done my research and talked to as many people as I can about this organization and its process over the years. I’ve also done my best each season to research the draft and talk to the few contacts I have to know what the teams were thinking at the time. I can assure you Curry was never thought of as a sure thing and he wasn’t really on their board here because they liked Flynn so much. Curry was thought to be a tweener at the guard positions and too small/slow to make a big impact. That clearly ended up being wrong, but he had less appeal to the top teams than Flynn did. Curry had very so-so workouts and Flynn had really great workouts.

    Maybe if the NBA was a 3-on-3 league with just point guards, he would have been a Hall of Famer.

    3) Now that Kahn is gone, I really do think it’s time to find a new way of looking at this team. Is it going to be fixed? I have no idea. But with a new regime in place (and hopefully Rick coming back), I think things could be headed in our favor. That was mainly the point of this post. Dwelling on the past is kind of crazy because you can’t do anything about it and you don’t know how it would have turned out. I tried to provide perspective of what the lay of the land was at the time because it can get murky as we see the post-draft results. It colors how we think things were at the time. It happens to everybody and it’s hard to break out of that.

    But the man that screwed up that draft is now out of the organization. Let’s see if this new era of Wolves basketball will be fun. Change your face, be happy, enjoy it.

  21. Saying Kahn would have screwed it up anyway is not much of a rationale (thougth probably true).

    If we had only just went with the best player available our team would be loaded at this point. Imagine if we had selected Curry and Cousins over the two wasted draft picks. BTW these were fairly easy decisions to make based on talent (even with Cousins issues).

  22. I know this was written a year ago, but this isn’t forgotten by any semi-conscious Wolves fan. Until Curry’s retired, (Paul George too) we’re always going to wonder what could have been. I should just quit watching the Wolves, but it’s too late. Optimal Wolves lineup going into 2014-15 season (minus Love’s drama): PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Steph Curry, SF- Paul George, PF- Kevin Love, C- Nikola Pekovic. This could have happened.

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