Much has been made about the man, the myth, the Kahn. People have talked about his crazy drafts: how he always seems to draft players at the same position. People have talked about his alleged bad trade record: how he got nothing for Al Jefferson. People have talked about Rubio: how he will never come over. Then there was C-Webb, Beasley, and last, and certainly least, Simmons. But what people haven’t talked enough about is this: What if David Kahn actually knows what he is doing?
Think about it for a second. Could he? NO…but really, could he?
Saying that David Kahn inherited a bleak situation when he took over for Kevin McHale as VP of Basketball Operations for the Wolves is drastically understated, kind of like saying Rick Grimes inherited a bleak situation when he woke from a coma and found the world infested with zombies in The Walking Dead. So what did Kahn do? He turned zombies into assets.
Let’s start with the 09’ draft: Kahn’s first significant roster duty. With the 5th pick, Kahn selects Spanish wunderkid Ricky Rubio. Kahn views Rubio as a generational-type player: a point guard with good size, great vision, excellent handle, and a pinpoint basketball IQ. Players like this are hard to come by, especially at age 20. If Rubio comes over - a sizable if, admittedly - Kahn will have his Magic; his Cousy; his Nash. Not to mention this pick was originally Washington’s, but Kahn traded Randy Foye and Mike Miller to acquire it. Rubio in exchange for Randy Foye, a decent player in his own right, and a non-shooting overpaid Mike Miller: I’ll take it.
Then Kahn took Jonny Flynn. I was in favor of Steph Curry, Demar Derozan or even Earl Clark (oops) at the time, but Flynn may not be the mistake everyone thinks he is. He was second-team all-rookie last year without anyone playing beside him, and from the outside seems like a gregarious, well-natured, hard-working point guard with surprising foresight. Maybe Kahn knew Rubio would stay in Spain for a couple years and wanted a point guard to start immediately; or maybe he thought Flynn was the BPA; or maybe he knew Curry would never come to Minnesota. In any case, the more I look at this draft, the more I don’t hate it. Let’s also remember Kahn traded Ty Lawson for a future first-round pick, drafted Wayne Ellington (a serviceable player who can play both guard spots) and traded Nick Calathes for a future second-round pick. And who knows, maybe Henk Norel will be good someday (sarcasm somewhat imposed).
Since were on the subject of Drafts, let’s take a look at the 10’ draft: With the 4th pick, the Timberwolves select Wesley Johnson. Around Canis Hoopus, the overwhelming choice was Demarcus Cousins. He was big, skilled, and played for John Calipari: normally a recipe for success. But he was also a head case, known for arguing with coaches on the bench and in practice, and scrutinized for his immaturity. He also did not come to Minnesota to work
out. Why would Kahn want someone who didn’t even want to come work out for the team with the 4th pick? So what did Kahn do? He passed on him, instead opting to go with a mature, NBA-ready wing player. He knew Johnson would be comfortable in Minny with Jonny Flynn already here, and the Wolves were in desperate need of competency on the wing. So far, Wes Johnson has not disappointed -- except, of course, at giving handshakes. Kahn also selected, by way of trade, Lazar Hayward -- a hard-working, mature, competition-tested player familiar with the Midwest after playing at Marquette for 4 years. He also fits the description of a David Kahn-type player: a well-rounded and mature individual, on and off the court. Trading Ryan Gomes, although a fine and decent human being, and Luke Babbit (supposed BPA) for Martell Webster also seems like a good move: Webster was thriving in preseason until his back sent him to the injured list, but I think it is reasonable to assume Webster will contribute to the Wolves in a meaningful way.
Now on to Darko: Famously deemed the Manna from Heaven, Darko Milicic really struggled beginning the 2010/2011-year. His shooting percentage was stuff for records books -- in a negative way -- but after a game against the Lakers, he actually seems to be realizing his potential. Granted, it hasn’t actually been realized yet, but he is beginning to realize just how effective he can be when he plays hard and intelligent basketball: blocking shots, rebounding, hitting lefty hooks, and finding open cutters for easy baskets in the hole -- the post position in Kart Rambis’ offense. And for only 4 years and 20 mil, with the fourth year not guaranteed, he is actually affordable -- I mean Brian Colangelo gave Amir Johnson 5 years and 34 mil for God’s sake and Drew Gooden got somewhat the same. Darko has his critics but Kurt Rambis and David Kahn are not amongst them. Neither am I.
We move forward to the Al Jefferson trade: At 13 million per, a contract signed under McHale’s regime, Al Jefferson was overpriced and ill fitting. He could not pass, play defense, and allegedly, could not work while playing with Kevin Love in the Wolves frontcourt. It can be argued that Kahn did not sell as high as he could; and a case can also be made that Kahn should not have traded Big Al to a team in the Wolves division. But Al had to go. He had no place on a Wolves team that was trying to rebuild and cut payroll. Rambis, Ronzone and Kahn are looking for certain types of players – well rounded both on the court and off – and Big Al did not fit that description. I will be the first to admit that Al, when placed on the left block and given numerous touches, can score on anyone. But he cannot operate in Rambis’ offense, where the player in the hole must be able to see the floor and make decisions. Getting two first round picks, Koufos (boo), and a TPE (?) still seems a bit light but who knows what other offers were out there. Jefferson was a zombie and Kahn turned him into assets.
And lastly, the steal of the century that is Michael Beasley: Surprisingly, Kahn is actually getting credit for acquiring Michael Beasley, deservedly so. Many had Beasley ahead of Derrick Rose in the 08’ draft but -- like Oceanary of Canis Hoopus so accurately points out -- Beasley was never given a chance to develop. He was shunned and ridiculed, eventually being stripped of his confidence both as a person and player. But then David Kahn intervened and swooped up Super-Cool for a measly two second round picks: steal of the century, maybe sans Pau. As of now, as Biggity2bit of Canis Hoopus points out, Beasley ranks fifth in the NBA in points per 48 minutes. Who to thank? Pat Riley I guess, but more so, David Kahn.
The Wolves have the second lowest payroll in the NBA, with basically all of their players on rookie contracts. They have talent, a championship-tested and developmental coach, and a Front Office with, yes, a plan.
The time to be excited about the Timberwolves is now, so either get with it or join the herd the zombies.