BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER (1998)
Will Garnett be worth $126 million over the next seven years? We'd guess that in 2005 the answer will still be yes. In the hyperathletic National Basketball Association, KG stands out as a singular talent: a 7-foot-tall player who's as quick as a mongoose, who has what coach Flip Saunders refers to as "Inspector Gadget arms" that seem to extend for miles to block shots and garner rebounds, and who executes the fundamentals of the game with a hustle and maturity far beyond his 22 years. Although he averaged nearly 19 points and 10 boards per game this year, mere statistics don't do him justice. He is a player teammates love to be around both on the court and in the locker room. If he isn't one of the top five defensive players in the league (and we think he is), he's certainly the most versatile defender: Against Houston this year, and at different points in the same game, he effectively guarded both 7-foot center Hakeem Olajuwon and silky shooting guard Clyde Drexler (both ranked among the NBA's all-time top 50 players). When the Wolves' other star forward, Tom Gugliotta, went down with an injury in midseason, KG became more aggressive on offense and led his team to the playoffs. Even if Minnesota can't sign either of its two high-priced free agents, Gugliotta and Stephon Marbury, over the next two years, this franchise will always be respectable so long as KG is around.