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What if the Minnesota Timberwolves or Utah Jazz Selected Giannis Antetokounmpo Over Shabazz Muhammad in 2013?

In the recent NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kris Dunn, a point guard out of Providence, with the fifth pick in the first round. Over in Utah, the Jazz chose Rudy Gobert, a center out of France, with the 27th pick in the first round. How did this happen? Let’s look back at what happened in the 2013 NBA Draft…

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz were two of the most different teams in the NBA during the 2013-2014 season. The Jazz, led by the incredibly exciting rookie sensation, Shabazz Muhammad, finished the season in fifth place in the Western Conference, and would advance to the first round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. However, the team would be defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in a sweep, and would go on to the No. 4 pick in the draft. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, needed all the help that they could get. The team was terrible, and the only bright spot was rookie point guard, Ricky Rubio. The team finished the season first overall in the Western Conference, but would be eliminated

Antetokounmpo is a Greek-born, Nigerian-raised forward who has proven himself to be a favorite of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA draft. Since the San Antonio Spurs selected him with the 30th pick in the 2013 draft, there’s been a lot of debate over who should have been selected instead.

Every saga has a beginning. But on the surface, the story of how the Milwaukee Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft isn’t all that interesting.

Antetokounmpo was selected 15th in the lowest draft class, and he was by far the best player among those selected. But what if he had made a choice earlier and either team took a chance on an interesting prospect from Greece?

The Timberwolves selected Shabazz Muhammad before Antetokounmpoin 2013.

Basketball history would have been very different if Giannis Antetokounmpo had been selected 14th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft instead of Shabazz Muhammad.

Let’s go back to June 2013, when the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by picking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett first.

A few picks later, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz made a trade on draft night. The Jazz made the trade at No. 9 and selected point guard Trey Burke from Michigan, who they hoped would fill the void left by the trade of Deron Williams to the Nets two years earlier.

The Timberwolves made a downgrade trade at No. 14 and selected UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad. In high school, Muhammad was an All-American and had a reputation for being a dangerous shooter, something the Timberwolves desperately needed. After his first year of college, however, it became clear that he needed more practice, especially in defense.

The Bucks, as we now know, picked Antetokounmpo one pick later. Burke is now a reserve for the Dallas Mavericks, while Muhammad last played professional basketball in China in November 2019.

What would happen if the Jazz chose Antetokounmpo?

Another non-trade, some swear Dennis Lindsey would have taken Antetokounmpo and Gobert if the Jazz had held #14 and #21 in 2013 instead of trading for Trey Burke. But it still looked too much like 20/20 hindsight for me to believe it 100%. https://t.co/DXStLnn9tL

– Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 27, 2018

Let’s assume the Jazz didn’t trade Burke and chose Antetokounmpo over Muhammad and picked him 14th. Andy Larsen, who writes about jazz for the Salt Lake Tribune, once suggested the idea on Twitter.

Don’t forget that the Jazz also drafted Rudy Gobert in 2013. And despite his foolish behavior at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no denying that Gobert is among the greatest defenders of his generation.

The idea of Antetokounmpo and Gobert joining forces in Utah sounds like the beginning of a dynasty, doesn’t it? Don’t expect the Jazz to start blasting along with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors just yet.

After Antetokounmpo’s first season under Larry Drew, the Bucs have recruited Jason Kidd as the franchise’s next coach. According to the NBA’s official website, Antetokounmpo disclosed in 2018 how much Kidd helped him grow as a player.

Kidd trusted me. He put the ball in my hands. He pushed me to be great.

Giannis Antitokounmpo

Kidd is one of the best point guards in modern NBA history. Does Quin Snyder, who led the team after the 2013-14 season, do the same? As for Snyder, how much does his lack of NBA experience affect Antetokounmpo’s development?

This is a tricky part of a hypothetical scenario, especially with a young player. As interesting as the Antetokounmpo-Gobert duo is, Kidd’s absence – if the Jazz take on Snyder – means the talented striker will likely never become the Greek monster we know him to be.

Timberwolves fans shouldn’t be too excited about this idea

Unfortunately for Jazz fans, we don’t see Antetokounmpo grow into a star in Utah like he did in Milwaukee. But at least this way they are better off than Timberwolves fans.

The coaching staff and Kidd’s absence remain a problem in Minnesota, but so does the Timberwolves’ overall organizational structure. It’s easy to imagine the team losing patience with Antetokounmpo’s development and eventually bringing him in as a secondary part of the deal.

For example, do you remember the Timberwolves’ decision to sell point guard Mo Williams and second-year guard Troy Daniels to the Charlotte Hornets in February 2015? Maybe it will be Antetokounmpo, not Daniels, who is starting for Michael Jordan.

If the Timberwolves choose Antetokounmpo, it’s not unrealistic to think he will become a very good player, if not a star. But don’t be so sure he can accomplish that feat with an organization that constantly trades young players.

The Bucks won the NBA Draft in 2013 and are well on their way to winning the title with Antetokounmpo at the helm. After all, jazz fans have the duo of Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Timberwolves fans… Well, enjoy Alex Rodriguez, we think.

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COMPARED TO: Giannis Antitokounmpo is worth $70 million, but he refused to buy a first-class plane ticket for his fourth year in the NBA

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