Every Wednesday and Friday between now and the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, FOXSportsNorth.com’s Phil Ervin will take a look back upon the past half-decade of Timberwolves’ selections and grade the front office’s work based on how each draft class has panned out. This is the fifth in a five-part series.
In the volatile world of NBA personnel decisions, the league’s annual player selection process is so much more than one night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ haul two years ago offers ample evidence. Only one player had his name called, due to a ladder of trades dating back seven years.
And more night-of dealing from David Kahn in his final draft as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations ensured 2012 wouldn’t do much to benefit the franchise’s future.
It’s happened more often than one might think. In the organization’s 25-year history, Minnesota has gone without a first-round draft pick five times (2012, 2004, 2002, 2001 and 2000).
The Wolves might have liked having one in 2012.
Present-day contributors Jared Sullinger, Evan Fournier and Miles Plumlee went off the board after Minnesota would’ve picked 10th overall. But on Aug. 12, 2005, former Wolves personnel chief Kevin McHale had dealt Sam Cassell and a top-10 protected pick through 2011 to the Clippers in exchange for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chambers.
The pick became unprotected in 2012, and because the Wolves drafted 10th or higher every year prior following the trade, the Clippers weren’t able to exercise it till two summers ago.
Los Angeles eventually traded the pick to the New Orleans Hornets in the deal that made Chris Paul a Clipper. Jaric spent three years coming off the bench in Minnesota before being sent to Memphis in the 2008 Kevin Love draft-day trade.
Minnesota also owned the Jazz’s 18th overall pick by virtue of the Al Jefferson trade in 2010. But they opted to trade it away on draft night in 2012 in exchange for Chase Budinger and the rights to Israeli player Lior Eliyahu.
That allowed the Rockets to pick up power forward Terrence Jones, who started 71 games for them last season, and forced Minnesota to wait until the 58th overall pick to draft a player.
Second round: Robbie Hummel, 58th overall
Another trade made the previous summer kept the Wolves from picking earlier in the second round June 28, 2012. The deal that sent Jonny Flynn to Houston in exchange for Brad Miller and a 2013 first-round pick, among other assets, included Minnesota’s second-round pick if it was between 31 and 55.
The Rockets traded the pick to Portland, which drafted Will Barton 40th overall in 2012.
The Wolves wouldn’t have had a 2012 draft selection at all if Kahn hadn’t traded Lazar Hayward to the Thunder in July 2011 for their 2012-second round pick. That ended up being the 58th selection, with which Minnesota took fundamentally sound but injury-saddled Robbie Hummel out of Purdue.
It’s hard to evaluate the overall scope of a draft that turned up one pick near the bottom of the draft. Really, Kahn did the best he could with what he had in landing a small forward who impressed at times during his rookie debut and even started five games in 2013-14.
Unlike past years — see the rest of this series — Kahn didn’t have a marquee first-round selection to blunder.
But even Hummel is unlikely to produce long-term gains for Minnesota. After bouncing back from two college ACL tears and meniscus surgery that hampered his first pro campaign, spent overseas in Spain, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound wing’s contract is up this summer.
He rebounded the ball well (9.7 boards per 48 minutes), hustled his tail off and fit well into Rick Adelman’s system last year. But with his shooting suffering (37.9 percent from the floor, 36 percent from 3) and Minnesota’s need for an upgrade on the wing this offseason, Hummel’s roster spot is likely the one Flip Saunders will choose to fill.