Cousins vs. Johnson

This is all speculation at this point, but until the regular season starts it's all we've got.  Pre-season basketball is pretty fun to watch, but the games don't mean anything and all the wolves-haters out there will cling to that fact.  They'll keep talking about how bad the Wolves will be up until the Wolves start winning games that count.

So I feel like speculating as to why the Timberwolves passed on a player of Cousins tremendous upside potential because that seems to be a hot-button topic on this site.

DeMarcus Cousins was without a doubt one of the 4 most talented players in the draft.  The Timberwolves held the #4 pick in the draft, and the other 3 most talented players in the draft had already been selected by the time our pick rolled around.  It seems like a no-brainer, right?  Yet David KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN!!!!!!! (I'm guessing that's the correct spelling because I haven't seen his name printed any other way) instead chose Wesley Johnson.  The question is "why?"

Part of the justification for making this selection is that the Wolves were incredibly thin at SF and SG last season.  However, we did have two more picks in the draft and it's much easier to find guys to play SF and SG than it is to find Centers.  So drafting for need isn't a good excuse.

Another part of the justification for making this selection is that the Wolves already had two PF's that proved they couldn't co-exist on the same roster and Cousins would add a third PF to contend for minutes.  But Cousins projects to be an NBA Center as much as he projects to be a PF so having two high end PF's isn't a good excuse either.

We've been told that Darko Milicic is manna from heaven, and Pekovic was the consensus best professional Center not already in the NBA.  Does anybody think the ability to field a run-of-the-mill-until-he-proves-otherwise draft "bust" and a rookie Euro-prospect is a good reason for passing on a once-every-five-years Center?  I didn't think so.  Cousins would be an instant upgrade on both ends of the floor.

Then we come to the supposed red-flags.  What are they exactly?  Every coach he's had tells one story about this kid: he loves to play basketball, he's eager to be coached, but he's probably too competitive for his own good and that sometimes manifests itself as him yelling at his coaches and losing his temper during games.  Have I mentioned that he's 19-years old?  Doesn't that seem like something he'll grow out of as he matures?  Is it a reason to pass on him?  Considering that one of the consensus reasons why the last guy with this much talent - a guy I just labeled a 'run-of-the-mill-until-he-proves-otherwise draft "bust"' - didn't pan out in the NBA is because he doesn't have the competitive fire necessary to dominate, I'd say no.

So why isn't he wearing a Timberwolves uniform?  Here's a theory that I've been developing.  I've had 4 months to work with in order to figure out why they drafted Wesley Johnson instead of DeMarcus Cousins.  Hear me out:

1. Kahn and company probably viewed Cousins as an Al Jefferson-type player.  If Jefferson didn't fit into the Showtime Trike, then Cousins probably won't either. 

So why not take Cousins and play a style that is conducive to his immense talents?

2. Kevin McHale.  Glen Taylor held on to McHale as the GM of this franchise for far too long.  I believe that Taylor isn't likely to be as generous with Kahn as he was with McHale.  So Kahn is probably feeling a little fire under him after guiding the team to the worst record in franchise history.  How likely is it that Taylor would listen to Kahn if he admitted that his first rebuilding plan had failed after only one year and that he was going to start rebuilding again around Cousins?  He would fire him on the spot, wouldn't he?

3. Running the Timberwolves is Kahn's dream job, and if he fails he's never going to get another GM position.  He probably didn't deserve this job, so how can he hope to get another if he gets fired from this one?  He can't.

4. Wesley Johnson is the safe pick.  He fits what the team is trying to do.  He was a consensus top-5 pick and one of the best college players in the country last year.  So what if he's 23?  Not all men playing amongst boys average his kind of numbers.  Just look at Lazar Hayward.%

5. DeMarcus Cousins didn't work out for us before the draft.  Stay with me on this.  Cousins didn't want to play for us.  You might ask "what difference does that make?  After all, if he wants to play in the NBA he'll have to play for whichever team that drafts him, right?"  Well, yes.  For the first 4 years of his career at least.  But after that he can be free to go to whatever team he wants.  Why did the Wolves trade OJ Mayo for Kevin Love when they already had Al Jefferson?  Because the front office was afraid that Mayo would bolt at the first opportunity.  The same thing applies to Cousins.  If he didn't hold out and demand a trade like Steve Francis, we might have had the opportunity to root for him as he became a dominant force in the paint.  But only for the first 4 years - during which time we wouldn't even get a sniff at a championship (not that I'm saying we will in the next 4 years with Wes either).  When it comes time to re-sign with us, he'd tell us that he doesn't want to play for us and he would prefer it if we didn't match his offer.  When we play hard-ball and tell him we'll match any offer he gets (because we were willing to give him a max-extension), he counters by deciding to play out his qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent the next summer.  Faced with losing him in free agency for nothing, the adoring fan-base he had in Minnesota gets to watch one last half-season before he gets dealt at the deadline along with a bad contract for a mid-to-late first round pick and the expiring contract of Gerald Wallace.

So I ask, if you wanted to build a championship contender in Minnesota, would you rather have Demarcus Cousins for 4 1/2 seasons of productive-to-dominant play - only to watch him leave and raise some other team to championship contenders after that - or would you want Wesley Johnson for 8-10 productive seasons followed by 2-3 seasons of vastly overpaid decline?

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