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Waiting For The Other Shoe

There has to be something else.  The Minnesota Timberwolves started the night with 5 picks and they ended up taking on additional salary while grabbing Wes Johnson, Martel Webster, Lazar Haward, and a few Euro players that will go over really well in a season ticket pitch.  

Martel Webster is due roughly $14.3 mil over the next 3 years of guaranteed money before he enters his first option year.  Luke Babbitt will get roughly $4.2 mil over the same period while Ryan Gomes can almost completely be wiped off the books before free agency.  Not only did the Portland Trail Blazers add a dangerous three point shooter to an offense that values long distance shooting, but they did so with massive value, getting both the likely BPA at 16 and slashing money from the books.  Even if they keep Gomes around, they still have a partial guarantee next year and his deal is always less than Webster's.  

The kicker in the Webster deal is the Ryan Gomes contract.  Gomes' deal is not guaranteed.  It is a tremendously valuable asset in the run up for free agency.  Teams like New Orleans, New York, Chicago, and Miami can trade a player for Gomes and then cut him to save money under the cap.  In order for the Wolves to make the deal with Portland, they needed to send back roughly $4 mil in salary + the 16th pick.  

Think about this deal from the Portland perspective.  They were willing to give up a single forward for two forwards who cost less and perform a very similar function, one of whom has an awesome and valuable contract in the current free agency climate.  All of this was done by a guy who was fired an hour before the draft.  Did Kevin Pritchard correctly gauge David Kahn as an easy mark?  We'll leave that for you to decide.  

Here's the kicker about the draft: As much as I think it is one of the worst selection performances I have ever seen, it still has to be viewed in the context of the off-season as a whole.  Hell, they have until the trade deadline to move Al Jefferson for a decent wing.  That being said, on its own, it is a basketball atrocity.  Even if you like guys like Wes Johnson and Martel Webster (and I do), they were acquired in what can roughly be described as Reverse Presti Fashion: a modest return on a large pile of resources.  Whereas OKC managed to take the 32nd pick (from David Kahn via the Damien Wilkins trade) and work it into a bucket full of magic, David Kahn passed on or traded away the BPA at every step of the way for athletic wingmen and European players.  The Wolves could have stood pat with their picks and walked away with DeMarcus Cousins, Luke Babbitt and Lazar Haywood while still having enough left over for stashed Euros while keeping Gomes' contract on the books for the upcoming free agent frenzy. 

Viewed by itself, this draft is an insane mess.  Wes Johnson will be a very nice pro.  A very nice pro.  He would have been a magnificient pick at #7 or 8.  At 4, he's a reach.  Martel Webster is a nice young player who may have been held back by the slow-paced Blazers and Nate McMillan's desire to have athletic swingmen stand in the corner shooting threes, but he's a stretch for the 16th pick + Ryan Gomes' awesome contract. Lazar Hayward had a wonderful workout and should be a decent role player, but is he worth a guaranteed contract at the end of the 1st?  Who else was going to nab him?  

Another problem for the Wolves was that by passing on DMC, they handed the Sacramento Kings a duo from hell: Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.  Say what you want about Kahn's desire for long and athletic players who get up and down the court, the Kings have found themselves a pair of gigantic bruisers who will stop those lean athletes dead in their tracks.  

In terms of DMC, David Kahn spent the past day or so telling everyone in sight that the reason why the Wolves weren't high on the guy was not because of any attitude issues; rather, that Kahn didn't think he had that big of an upside.  (UPDATE: Now his story is that Cousins wasn't long and athletic enough. I'm sure this will be akin to how he told the cameras that Jonny Flynn was the team's guy on draft night before morphing into a "Reke was our guy all along" take somewhere around 7 wins in January.) There are a number of ways you can go with this take.  I believe Kahn when he says this.  I'm more worried with his inability to correctly rank a teenage monster of a center with historic numbers over a 23 year old small forward with more nondescript college minutes than notable ones.  Kahn ranked Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.  He now has Johnson over DMC.  He missed on several players at 16 (including Luke Babbitt and James Anderson, both of whom were drafted by 2 of the best drafting teams in the league). Granted, we don't know how this will play out in the long run but if it goes the way I suspect, it's the beginning of a very disturbing trend.  

If the matter with DMC was his attitude, the Wolves just watched Sacramento walk away with two hugely talented players because they believe in their organization's ability to work with challenging personalities.  That is just as troubling vis-a-vis the Wolves as an inability to pick the BPA.  Either way you slice it, it's not good. The Wolves acquired a few nice players tonight but they did so at their own expense by letting their direct competition gain access to assets with far greater value.  That's not good GMing no matter how you look at it.  What will be even more frustrating is if Kahn explains away the DMC non-pick as him not adding length and athleticism to the team. (UPDATE: Kahn has done the expected by beginning to take this stance towards the guy with a 9'5" standing reach and a 7'6" wingspan and who ran up and down with ease at Kentucky.) That's insane and it will be yet another evolving explanation from the POBO.  15 win teams don't get to complain about fit.  You draft the best guy and adjust accordingly.  Also, who is Kahn keeping around on the front line?  Aren't they trying to move Jefferson?  They don't have anyone else signed.  Love + Cousins is better than anything they currently have on the team and he's worried about what exactly?  

Getting back to the Webster/Gomes thing, can anyone out there really say that Webster is better than Gomes?  If there are any fuzzy thoughts about this question, why on earth was the 16th pick included in the deal?  Again: this is an issue about value and poor GMing, not whether or not Webster (or Wes Johnson) is a nice player.  It boggles the mind to think what Sam Presti could have done with the Wolves' cache of assets.  What on earth could the Wolves have done to move around in the teens to get someone like Paul George or Xavier Henry?  What about James Anderson?  A ton of value was left on the table in this draft and it's really quite embarrassing. 

All of this being said, I would be lying to you if I said that the Wolves were not done wheeling and dealing this off-season.  They still have a large number of assets that can be moved around and they still can be players in free agency (via being a 3rd party).  Maybe they can eventually make the deal with New Jersey for Derrick Favors.  If that's the case, they're suddenly looking at something like this:

  1. Ramon Sessions/Jonny Flynn
  2. Wes Johnson/Corey Brewer/Wayne Ellington
  3. Martel Webster/Lazar Hayward/Corey Brewer
  4. Kevin Love/Nikola Pekovic/Derrick Favors
  5. Darko Milicic/Derrick Favors
That's a solid off-season.  That's a haul in the draft.  That's something to write home about.  Right now, they're in the basketball wilderness.  Right now, they've made some reaches and they failed to pick up the BPA at the 4th, 16th, and 23rd picks.  That's a huge problem without another shoe dropping into play. That's a problem/failure of both professional judgment and pragmatic action.  If David Kahn is unable to make use of Al Jefferson, and if he is unable to further balance this roster in light of the 2010 draft, I think we just witnessed one of the worst drafts of all time.  

We're going to have to wait to see how this one plays out.  Early returns are horrifying but the amazing thing about the Wolves is that they have so many assets that it could still be made right.  If it is not made right, Kahn deserves to be fired this season at the trading deadline.  Seriously.  If you walk into an off-season with the number of assets this team had and you walk out of it with the status quo + Wes Johnson and Martel Webster, you're done.  Absolutely done.  

I'm dead serious about jumping ship with this team if they don't turn it around by the trade deadline.  I've had too many footballs pulled away during the kick.  I'm tired of watching the team pass over the BPA.  I'm tired of hearing how other teams think the Wolves are an easy mark and a dysfunctional franchise only to have Minny's actions justify these statements.  Most of all, I have a strong feeling that David Kahn is in way over his head and that he doesn't have a clear understanding of what his players and assets are actually worth.  As I'm writing this, Kahn is talking about how Ryan Gomes' contract will save the team...well, I have no idea what he's talking about.  Where have all the Al Jefferson offers gone?  I have a bad, bad feeling that Kahn doesn't know what his guys are really worth in the eyes of the rest of the NBA.  I have a bad, bad feeling that each and every other team in the NBA knows that Kahn doesn't know what his guys are really worth in the eyes of the rest of the NBA.  Forget Johnson and Webster for a moment.  Do you really believe that Kahn is even in the same ballpark of what Sam Presti could have gotten with the same assets?  What about Kevin Pritchard?  RC Buford?  Geoff Petrie? 

Kahn and the Wolves left a lot on the table today.  They still have enough assets to make some of those losses up.  Can they do it?  We'll have more draft coverage throughout the weekend.  

Until later.