Instead, this one is about the 2011 draft, when the Wolves traded for the No. 57 pick in the second round but didn’t use it on sneaky prospect Isaiah Thomas, who went three picks later to Sacramento with the final pick in the draft.
OK, so that doesn’t really qualify as a draft miss since nobody knew at the time what a star Thomas would become. But it did provide an interesting entry point for Vice to write, in great detail, about the mystery man the Wolves took instead: Tanguy Ngombo of Qatar.
The short version of the story is that the Wolves scouted Ngombo, an athletic 6-6 wing, and thought he might be a good project player. The problem, they would soon discover, was a discrepancy in his age: was he 21 or was he 27? Vice talked to Pete Philo, the Wolves director of scouting at the time.
“Every single time I was around anything in terms of documentation — brochures, flyers, stat sheets, everything his name was on — said 1989,” Philo says. “So to me, he’s eligible. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve scouted internationally, but it’s been a lot. I can’t remember the last time I said, ‘there’s something fishy, let me figure out if he’s the real age or not.’ It says 1989, you see it on multiple documents, away you go. He’s draft-eligible.”
After a lot of back-and-forth and no real conclusions, the NBA decided to let the pick stand — with the caveat that it would investigate further if the Wolves ever tried to sign him. That never happened, as they renounced his rights two years later when Flip Saunders took over for Kahn.
Ngombo has gone on to have great success in Qatar. Thomas has gone on to have great success in the NBA.