1995-96: Teen Phenom Gives Wolves Hope
By NBA standards, the 1995-96 season was another struggle for the Timberwolves. However, after four straight seasons of 60 or more losses, the Wolves came to the finish line in 1995-96 with an emerging superstar and a record of 26-56, then the second-best season in their seven-year history.
Progress came in bunches, thanks in large part to some wholesale changes that provided the Wolves with an injection of new life. In December, Bill Blair was replaced at the coaching helm by Phil "Flip" Saunders. Saunders, a college teammate of Kevin McHale at the University of Minnesota and later an assistant coach with the Golden Gophers, was a two-time CBA Coach of the Year.
In February, changes continued to reshape the team. Laettner, frustrated with losing in Minnesota, was sent along with Sean Rooks to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Andrew Lang and Spud Webb. The trade paved the way for rookie Kevin Garnett to become Minnesota's go-to player inside.
Garnett, selected by Minnesota with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 Draft, began his first NBA season at age 19, foregoing college basketball. Buoyed by his emergence, the Timberwolves went 8-8 in March. It was only the second time in franchise history that the team had finished a month with a .500 or better record. Although the momentum didn't carry into April, the Wolves found a new foundation in Garnett, who averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds and was named to the 1995-96 All-Rookie Second Team.