A Simple Look at "The Plan"

This is my first fanpost here and, despite my background in statistics, it's going to be basketball-metric-free.  The point of this post is to ascertain where we are in The Plan.  What is the most basic element of The Plan?  At its base The Plan is to have the major elements of the team in place by the 2011-12 season.  How do we know this?  We know this because the Wolves no longer have their own draft pick in 2012.

Let's see which assets Kahn was given to rebuild:

  1. Al Jefferson
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Pick #6 in the 2009 draft
  4. Presumably lottery picks in 2010 and 2011
  5. Some average talent (Brewer, Foye, Miller, Gomes)
  6. Some non-lottery 1st round picks

From those assets, Kahn's mission was to assemble a team by Fall 2011 that would eventually compete for a title.  One might pause here and ask how likely it is your average GM will accomplish this.  Certainly Portland and OKC pulled things together, and both GMs, like Kahn, we're given ample time.  Most GMs don't have this luxury, whether it be for "win now" reasons or for "Clipper" reasons.  My personal thought is that, given Kahn-time, I could it make it work, and I would expect most GMs could.  As Portland has discovered, though, bad things out of your control can always happen.

We've gone over and over again what's happened good and BAD.  Keep in mind that Kahn wasn't handed the horrible 2009-10 team, but that he helped create it.  I mention this so that we can appropriately compare the team now to the team he inherited (above).  First, lets look at how the assets have changed:

  1. Jefferson gone (rights to Ricky Rubio, Al's cap space)
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Pick #6 in 2009 gone
  4. Lottery pick in 2011 draft (2010 pick gone)
  5. Some average talent (Brewer,Johnson, Webster, Flynn)
  6. Some non-lottery 1st round picks

Here I took the assets we had and re-arranged them, given what they brought us.  The first thing that stands out to me is that the Wolves appear to have lost, and that comes down to three spots: 1. Al Jefferson was a special talent, Rubio may or may not be good. 3. You hope with the #6 pick that you get someone special.  The Wolves appear to have not gotten that, so it's flat out gone. 4. Ditto with the 2010 lottery pick.  Of the other three assets, nothing's changed (you can argue that Love has exceeded expectations, but that's not really relevant).

What we would hope is that the assets we had in 2009 would translate into the same value at this point nearly two years later.  Kahn had a chance to do this, but now it will require Rubio to become an excellent player for that to happen.  One thing Kahn did do in the midst of his wheeling and dealing is free up money and space to make further moves:

  1. Michael Beasley
  2. Darko Milicic
  3. Anthony Tolliver
  4. Luke Ridnour

The first thing a rational person might do is lump Darko, Ridnour and Tolliver with the average talent above.  Beasley has an approximate value of Jefferson, not now but looking forward.

So what has changed since Kahn took over?  The team has gotten younger.  Two lottery picks have been used and blended into average talent, but one has popped up in Rubio, who MIGHT be decent.  Someone might argue the average talent is better or has  more potential.  That's not clear, however, especially with the probability of losing Brewer.  Not judging how Rubio will do, we'll assume he has normal 5th-pick value.  In other words, we're down one lottery pick.  Gave it away...

What is the same?  I'd argue the supporting cast is the same, and that, just as Kahn inherited, there remain two secondary stars. 

The hope with a lottery pick, especially ones in the 4-6 range, is that you get at least a star if not a superstar.  Kahn instead got two average talents...with Rubio and the 2011 pick still unknown. Chances of a star between them: probably low but possible.

So here we are.  To put a lineup out there in November 2011 that will eventually compete for a championship, we now have to cross our fingers and pray absolutely everything goes right.  Rubio has to be able to make a positive impact and become a top level PG.  Darko has to become a truly good big man.  You take a look at his positives and forget his negatives, but on average, he's currently a detriment.  He has to improve immensely.  The 2011 draft choice needs to be a star in the making.  But none of these things are guaranteed, or even likely, to happen.

So where does that leave Kahn?  First, he absolutely needs to put out a product that will win 35-45 games next year.  He doesn't have a choice.  There's no way he can justify that the pick the Wolves give up should be a lottery pick.  In light of this, Kahn is likely to make moves to assure a .500 season, to at least make it a low lottery pick (yeah, they'll finally get lucky, I know).  He has cap space, currently, and he can go and get one more player some team wants to shed.  I think he'll come to the realization he needs to do that.  And why not take on a one or two year contract if it helps the team win next year?  As long as Taylor is willing.  He might even be able to fool people into thinking he had to throw Jonny Flynn in to get the deal done.

I think The Plan has gone poorly, which isn't to say good moves (Beasley) haven't been made.  The only way it goes right at this point is for all the best-case scenarios to occur.  Given that, I think Kahn knows he has to make a move that will cost money and cap space.  It will either happen now or around draft time, but it will bring a talent to the Wolves.  It's a move of desperation and likely short-term, but it's an absolute necessity for Kahn,  His ass is on the line next year.

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