Four years ago, after being spurned by several respected executives around the league, Glen Taylor hired David Kahn as President of Basketball Operations. The entire process was amateurish, played out publicly with the result feeling like a panicked decision by an owner used to surrounding himself with friends and family.
Nobody liked Kahn from the very beginning. He grated. He smirked. He had the appearance of someone who always thought he was the smartest guy in the room.
And he proved terrible at his job. We don't need to go through the litany. Suffice it to say, when he was fired earlier this year, nobody lamented his departure.
A couple of months ago, Glen Taylor returned to his comfort zone by hiring Flip Saunders, his old coach, and a local member of the country club. The entire process was once again amateurish, with Taylor bragging after the hire that he had a list of several people to talk to about the job, but he was so comfortable with Flip that he never contacted anyone on his list.
Everyone likes Flip Saunders. It's clear that the media in town finds him charming. Consider these from last night:
Flip just came down and I'll say, not Kahnesque at all. No spin. Say he knows fans will be disappointed, but came away with scorer and size
Flip just came down and I'll say, not Kahnesque at all. No spin. Say he knows fans will be disappointed, but came away with scorer and size— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) June 28, 2013
But after last night's draft fiasco, it doesn't appear that he's any better at this job than Kahn was. I suspect he'll get away with a lot more with less criticism because he's a local guy everybody likes, but that was a disaster.
Don't need to spend a lot of time reviewing what happened: Wolves traded the 9th pick for the 14th and 21st picks, and used the 14 pick on a guy who should have been a second rounder at best: Shabazz Muhammad. What's almost as galling is that the 4th or 5th best guy in the whole draft was available to them at 9, but C.J. McCollum was "too small" for Saunders.
How about being not good enough? Because it looks like that's what he wound up with. Incredibly, as indicated by the tweets above, and others, even he seems to know he messed up.
I hope, somehow, that Muhammad can play. But there is no evidence to suggest he can. Literally zero wing players with his statistical profile have succeeded in the NBA. Zero, as in none. His primary red flags statistically are his lack of assists and steals, but in truth, his only reasonably good skill is catch and shoot jump shots. Other than that, it's hard to find anything he does well.
But regardless of the outcome of this draft pick, it is another example of bad process for this franchise. The process that led to Kahn was bad, the process that led to Saunders was bad, and Saunders' process leading to Shabazz Muhammad was bad.
I know this because no good process could have gotten us here. Not only is McCollum clearly a better player by any measure, but there were any number of more appealing choices. Muhammad is like a lottery ticket. The chance of a payoff is incredibly slim; you are essentially relying on high school hype from when he was a year older then everyone thought, Never mind the age thing, the bad body language, or anything else; he was not a good player at UCLA.
But even so. What was the benefit here? They moved down 5 spots to acquire the 21st pick, but they were already in possession of 26. They used 21 on Gorgui Dieng, which is fine, but they might have been able to get him at 26. If not, there were a handful of other bigs that were available at 26 that are at least as appealing: Gobert, Withey, etc. Instead, they sold off that pick (and Malcolm Lee apparently), because there was no way they were going with three rookies. But the 21 wasn't appreciably more valuable then the 26, and so they moved down 5 spots for essentially nothing (but a 2014 2nd rounder and some cash).
Outcomes are variable, they can be affected by luck. But process is something we control. Last night showed that Flip Saunders does not have a handle on good process. His thinking became confused, he made poor choices because he apparently lacks a process for coming to good ones.
New POBO, same old problems. This franchise is diseased, and the fish rots from the head. As long as Glen Taylor chooses not to take this seriously, and instead surrounds himself with his country club members, any success the team has will be by accident.
Despite our misgivings about Flip, and especially the way he was hired, we can be forgiven for engaging in some modicum of hope after the reign of Kahn. That hope, for me at least, was dashed last night in a draft where it looked like they could not mess it up, but still found a way.