It has recently been suggested that Kahn Haters shouldn't be claiming how horrible he's been as a GM without providing concrete examples of things he could have done that would result in the Wolves being a "better basketball team." For the purposes of this post I would suggest that a "better basketball team" could be any of three things: 1) a team that wins more games (we can call this being more productive); 2) a team that is likely to win a championship sooner (we can call this having more potential); or 3) a team that is more fun to watch (we can call this being more entertaining). For the record, I am not a Kahn Hater, but a frequent Kahn Apologist that is more in line with the Kahn Maybe crowd.
This post will focus on the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft and what could have been if Kahn had made different moves. As you will see if you continue reading, this will effectively be an attempt to use the benefit of hindsight to make a 2009 NBA Mock Draft as if I were unencumbered by the benefit of hindsight, but with accompanying analysis containing some of the small amount of hindsight available up to this point.
(note - I'm particularly amused by the description of the concept of this post and that may in fact prove to be the highlight of the entire post for me)With the First Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma. Analysis: Even though he's going to shatter his kneecap before the regular season, the Clippers feel the "one-sure-thing" to come out of the 2009 NBA Draft is still a sure thing and will look good in Red and Blue for the next 5 seasons. I can't say I blame them.
With the Second Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select: Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain. Analysis: Kahn fell in love with the Spanish phenom after watching his play in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Fearing Rubio's buy-out from DKV Joventut may be too expensive for the teenager to afford if he fell to the #5 pick in the draft, Kahn traded up to #2 to ensure that Rubio would indeed wear a Timberwolves uniform during the 2009-10 NBA Season. This was a wise move by Kahn considering that he probably would have wasted the #6 pick anyways.
With the Third Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut. Analysis: With the Timberwolves moving up to select Ricky Rubio, the Thunder are able to get the athletic, defensive-minded shot-blocker at Center that fits their team perfectly. With Durant, Westbrook, and Green to shoulder the lion's share of the scoring load, this team doesn't need much help on the offensive end. However, adding a rim deterrent to what is already a scary-good defense seems to make almost too much sense.
With the Fourth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select: Tyreke Evans, PG (sort of), Memphis. Analysis: The Kings were in need of a dominant on-the-ball scorer, and Evans fit the bill. The fact that he was going to win the Rookie of the Year award was just icing on the proverbial cake.
With the Fifth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson. Analysis: Curry was going to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting and be a cornerstone for their franchise for many years to come. He was a player too good for them to pass up at this point. In fact, he's almost everything they thought they were going to get when they traded for O.J. Mayo the previous year, or when they drafted Mike Conley the year before that, or when they draft Greivis Vasquez next year.
With the Sixth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona. Analysis: By moving down in the draft the Grizzlies were able to pick up a sweet shooting perimeter player in addition to the shot-blocking and rebounding inside presence they wanted all along. This could be the first good move Chris Wallace has made as GM of the Grizzlies.
With the Seventh Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy. Analysis: The player they truly coveted, Stephen Curry, was no longer on the board so they decided to save themselves the embarrassment of having a rookie score 55 points against them in a single game by drafting that rookie for themselves. Jennings was tailor made to play Nellie Ball, so it's only fitting that he winds up with the Warriors.
With the Eighth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select: Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse. Analysis: Jonny (and everyone can call him that) has a winning smile that will light up the crowd at Madison Square Garden and the crowd on Madison Avenue. He's a pick-and-roll point guard that will fit incredibly well in Mike D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense. After his first season works out about as well as you would expect for a team relying on a 5'10" point guard to run the pick-and-roll with David Lee, brighter days are ahead for him and Amare Stoudemire.
With the Ninth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select: James Harden, SG, Arizona State. Analysis: Desperately in need of a seasoned rookie to help convince Chris Bosh to remain in Raptors' Purple, Toronto takes the most polished scorer available. With nobody ahead of him on the depth chart, Harden proves to be a decent defender and savvy second/third option on offense for this team. Harden's beard also proves handy during the cold winter months in Toronto. With Harden, the Raptors edge out the Bulls for the final playoff spot, but LeBron James and the Cavaliers still trounce them in what comes to be known as the backstabbers bowl. Needless to say, Bosh and James still take their talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010.
With the Tenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select: DeMar DeRozan, SG, Southern California. Analysis: The Bucks are set at the point guard position with Luke Ridnour under contract for one more year and the rights to restricted free agent Ramon Sessions, so they are free to select the player with the most upside left in the draft. Even if he is a shooting guard that doesn't yet know how to shoot, DeRozan is long and athletic. If he ever learns how to play basketball, then the Bucks would have a hell of a core with him, Andrew Bogut, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
With the Eleventh Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select: Terrence Williams, SG, Lousiville. Analysis: They made this pick the first time around, so why not make it again. So what if he recently did a stint in the D-League, he's still got loads of potential.
With the Twelfth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke. Analysis: With a history of drafting players that played their college ball in the area in the hopes of drawing some of the college basketball fan base, the Bobcats take Henderson even though they are going to make a trade for Stephen Jackson in a few months. After all, why settle for trying to draw fans by putting a winning team on the court or putting fan favorites in your uniforms, when you can do both? It only comes at the cost of any realistic chance you have at competing for a championship over the next decade.
With the Thirteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina. Analysis: Championship pedigree meets Mid-Western whiteness. He's a hustle guy in many of the same ways that team president Larry Bird was a hustle guy. His ceiling might be a little low at the NBA level. But one thing's for sure, even though his bulging eyes make him look crazy sometimes, he's not going to single-handedly murder a Pacers championship season by declaring war against another team's fans and charging into the stands to do hand-to-hand combat.
With the Fourteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select: Earl Clark, SF, Lousville. Analysis: The Suns have never replaced the production they received from Shawn Marion, but over the long haul Clark looks like he might be able to do just that. Unfortunately, it may be well after Steve Nash has retired that Clark starts to fill the void left by Marion.
With the Fifteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select: Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga. Analysis: Tayshaun Prince, quietly the linchpin of the 2004 championship, is growing old and will be on his way out of town soon, so why not draft a player that reminds everyone of Prince? Never mind the fact that Rodney Stuckey is not a point guard and this is likely to be the deepest point guard draft ever, Joe Dumars is a genius GM who won't be confined by conventional wisdom because he built an unconventional champion.
With the Sixteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select: James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest. Analysis: Johnson has lots of upside at a position of weakness for the Bulls, he is a perfect fit for them. Following their surprise playoff run in Derrick Rose's rookie campaign, the Bulls don't need to be all that good during the 2009-10 NBA Season because they're just biding their time until the summer of 2010 when they can make a pitch for a superstar. In my opinion Carlos Boozer signed a contract that will prove to be two years too long for the Bulls liking, but fortunately for them James Johnson will be ready to step up around the time that Boozer loses his effectiveness just like Paul Millsap was able to with the Jazz.
With the Seventeenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select: Jrue Holiday, PG, California-Los Angeles. Analysis: They need a young point guard that can defend and run with their young horses for years to come, Holiday fits the bill. So what if he didn't play point guard at UCLA because Darren Collison was firmly entrenched in that position? The last team to select a point guard out of UCLA that didn't play point guard for the Bruins only wound up with one of the top-5 point guards in the league.
With the Eighteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State. Analysis: With the glaring hole at point guard filled by Ricky Rubio for the foreseeable future, the Wolves are free to address the hole in the middle with Mullens. Even though he's about as likely to become a dominant post presence in the NBA as the man he replaced in the Buckeyes' starting rotation, Kosta Koufos, I can't see another player on the board that fills a need for Minnesota better than Mullens. The good news is that he definitely wouldn't be an impediment to making the trade for Darko Milicic, and with some work he could provide some serviceable minutes at center.
With the Nineteenth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina. Analysis: Lawson fills a need for the Hawks. He's the best point guard still on the board. And after a solid showing in his rookie season, the Hawks don't feel inclined to bring back Mike Bibby - everybody's a winner.
With the Twentieth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select: Eric Maynor: PG, Virginia Commonwealth. Analysis: The Jazz know it's the year of the point guard and can't resist getting a player that will be good enough to allow them to save some luxury tax money by bolstering the roster of an up-and-coming division rival. He does make a real good back-up to a top-5 point guard though.
With the Twenty-first Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Hornets select: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest. Analysis: Considering the success they've had with the last point guard they drafted out of Wake Forest, the Hornets can't help but draft another one. Especially if they decide that they want to try pulling a bait-and-switch on their fans when Chris Paul threatens to leave in the summer of 2012.
With the Twenty-second Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select: Darren Collison, PG, California-Los Angeles. Analysis: This team desperately needed a true point guard to make the offense flow when Brandon Roy was not on the floor. Collison fits that description. This also has the unforeseen benefit of saving the Blazers some money when Hedo Turkoglu spurns them at the last minute in favor of Toronto, because with Collison on board they no longer feel the need to overpay Andre Miller. I'd call that a win.
With the Twenty-third Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select: Victor Claver, SF, Spain. Analysis: The Kings are in no hurry to try to start winning because they have so many holes that still need to be filled on their roster, so why not take a player that won't cost the Maloofs any money to develop while he's stashed in Spain? It will also allow them to lose more games in the interim and help secure them a better draft position for years to come.
With the Twenty-fourth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select: Rodrigue Beaubois, PG, France. Analysis: With Jason Kidd playing the role of Steve Nash, and Jason Terry stepping into a much bigger role, the Leandrinho Barbosa role on this team needed to be filled. Enter "Roddy Buckets." The Mavericks are kind of the ultimate mash unit of the NBA, taking bits and pieces of what works from several different teams, so why not copy the point guard rotation that has been so successful for the Suns for the last several years?
With the Twenty-fifth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select: Taj Gibson, PF, Southern California. Analysis: Back-up perimeter players are a dime a dozen in the NBA, so there's no need to draft one here. Instead the Thunder bolster their young front line with a hard-nosed, bruiser in Gibson.
With the Twenty-sixth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select: Omri Casspi, SF, Israel. Analysis: Casspi is a good compliment to a shoot first point guard, and is a cheap replacement for Luol Deng if they can ever find a way out of that ridiculous contract they gave him.
With the Twenty-seventh Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select: DeMarre Carroll, PF, Missouri. Analysis: You can never have too many large body, energy guys on a team. When they all have dreadlocks, it makes things that much more confusing for the opposition - "Hey! Hasn't this guy collected 8 fouls already? What is he still doing in the game?" "Actually, there are two of them. And they both only have 4 fouls."
With the Twenty-eighth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina. Analysis: This guy has a pure shooting stroke and he was just named the MVP of the NCAA Tournament. He should look real good getting kick-outs from Al Jefferson when he gets doubled in the post. ... And we're still waiting for Jefferson to make that pass to Ellington.
With the Twenty-ninth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select: Dejuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh. Analysis: The Knicks were in need of size, and an asset to trade to the Houston Rockets for Tracy McGrady's expiring contract (because they no longer picked Jordan Hill eighth). Blair is a beast down low that would fit well on that team with David Lee in the front-court and Jonny Flynn running the point. Plus because they will be sending him along with everything else of value to the Rockets for the privilege of talking to LeBron James for an hour during moratorium week, the fact he has no ACL's means much less to them.
With the Thirtieth Pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select: Christian Eyenga, SF, Congo. Analysis: This team has no time to develop young players. They have a championship to win in order to keep James a Cavalier for life. And if you're not going to be playing your rookie, then why not make him a player that you can stash overseas?
By my estimation, if the draft had gone that way, the Wolves 1) would have been about the same in terms of production; 2) would have taken a step back in terms of potential; and 3) would have been far more entertaining. All in all, I would have to say that they would have been a "better" team if the draft had gone that way. But that's just my opinion.