Tuesday May 19th, 2015

The Washington Bullets, who picked fourth in the 1995 draft, one spot ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves, passed on Kevin Garnett because owner Abe Pollin didn't want to draft a high schooler.

According to a new oral history on Garnett's career from Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, then-Bullets GM John Nash was impressed with the young power forward's skills and physical gifts, but was explicitly told not to draft him by ownership. Garnett was drafted at No. 5 by the Wolves, and the rest was history.

Garnett, then a 19-year-old entering the draft straight out of Chicago's Farragut Academy (where he was Illinois' Mr. Basketball), had been a hot topic of conversation in the lead-up to the draft. He held immense promise, but no player had been drafted directly out of high school since 1975. Reports had indicated Washington was heavily considering Garnett.

“I came away from the workout going, ‘Wow, this guy’s going to be a great player,’ and came back to Washington and huddled with our owner (Abe Pollin)," Nash told Bleacher Report. "I explained to him that we liked a lot of players at the top of that draft — Joe Smith and McDyess, and Stackhouse and Rasheed. I said, ‘You know, Mr. Pollin, there’s this high school kid. I want to tell you, he might be special.’ He said, ‘John, that’s OK, I would prefer it if we didn’t draft somebody right out of high school.’ I said, ‘Mr. Pollin, you’re making my job easier, because I would have wrestled with the decision.’"

The Bullets drafted North Carolina power forward Rasheed Wallace instead, who went on to a decorated career of his own but was traded to Portland after his rookie season.

Twenty years later, Garnett, now 39, a 15-time All-Star and the 2004 MVP, is back with the Timberwolves after a long run in Boston (including the 2008 title) and year-and-a-half stint in Brooklyn. His career totals include 25,949 points, 14,512 rebounds and 2027 blocked shots. He is the Timberwolves' all-time leading scorer.

Jeremy Woo

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