Once again the NBA's draft lottery unsurprisingly did the Minnesota Timberwolves no favors last night. For the 7th time in the team's 13 years in the lottery they fell lower than the projected spot they earned by having such a dubious record.
Initially I laughed because it wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so sad. The NBA doesn't give a damn about Minnesota and clearly never wants them to win.
By continuing the stupid lottery process, Minnesota joins a handful of teams like the Golden State Warriors, L.A. Clippers, Indiana Pacers, and Memphis Grizzlies, among others, that are never allowed to get better because they never get the luck they need to quit having to do this.
The NBA is worse than any of the four major sports—save for the NFL to which this isn't appicable—but with no real, structured minor league system, front office personnel are smaller, drafts are shorter, prospects are fewer, and thus, the need to hit it big each year in the draft is all the more important.
Those six cities have 29 of the last 31 NBA championships divided among them. If you don't play there, you don't play anywhere.
Another problem is the fact these spoiled athletes, more-so than in any other league, simply refuse to play in over a third of the markets meaning that percentage or more instantly becomes irrelevant perpetuating the same dynasties to continue each year.
Look at this year's NBA Final Four: Boring Boston, snobbish L.A., Orlando, and Phoenix. Going in to the series, did anyone really think the Suns had a chance? I didn't. The NBA doesn't want it that way.
These three things I told you about:
Still, some interesting scenario's came about last night's draft lottery. Remember when I said we could be guaranteed of three things :
1. Someone would jump into the top 3 that didn't deserve it (based on record). I predicted the 40 win Toronto Raptors but actually under-estimated when both the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards jumped up from 6 and 4 respectively to 2 and 1 in the end.
2. The Nets, having the best chance to draft No. 1 would fall. Again, I guessed they'd fall to No. 3 and was exactly right. We all know the worst team doesn't get the first pick.
It's only happened I believe four times since the lottery started 25 years ago. One of those years was 2003 with LeBron James and another was 1997 with Tim Duncan and San Antionio, again if I remember correctly.
3. The Minnesota Timberwolves would get screwed and screwed they did falling from the No. 2 slot and a chance to get game-changer and franchise-turner bearing that same name, Evan Turner.
Instead they will likely have to settle for scraps of some combination of Wesley Johnson, who ESPN's Chad Ford has us taking in his first post-lottery mock, Derrick Favors, or headcase DeMarcus Cousins—who should ask Boston Forward Glen Davis if he's already trademarked the "Big Baby" nickname since that is what he'll likely be once he joins the league. Today I read one fan's comparison of him to Derrick Coleman. Not good.
Three other observations I made :
1. The NBA can be none to happy that LeBron's homeboy John Wall will likely be playing in irrelevant Washington D.C. now that the Wizards stole the top pick (notice I didn't say "earn").
At the very least, this gives me some faith, albeit small, that the lottery is indeed not rigged. I am sure they'd much rather have him play in New Jersey who is moving to Brooklyn, and will basically become New York City's 2nd team and in doing so, might have been able to woo James into playing there. They still could, with new owner Mikail Prokhorov's millions, only it now just became much harder.
That team is a disaster with no talent beyond Andray Blatche and Gilbert Arenas and who knows if the latter will even be back given his suspension and rumors of him and his bloated contract being traded.
I think Wall's idea of the NBA and all the fun he would have just got more abysmal and his lack of help might impede on his ability to win Rookie of the Year, even though whoever gets Turner would have been my pick all along for this achievement. Its not a good match and I don't need Colin Cowherd to tell me as much even though I agree with is assessment.
2. When the Wolves fell to fourth, I quickly noted that each of the three teams picking in front of them were in the Eastern Conference . Why is this important? If Turner and Wall turn out to be the real deal, at least the Wolves only have to play them twice a year and should the Wolves ever get on the cusp of the playoffs, we won't have to battle their teams for seeding. As far as I'm concerned, now, each can tear it up, especially Wall, because it won't matter in D.C. They still suck.
I'm also intrigued by what a "big 3" of Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Turner could do in Philadelphia as far as making the playoffs and if so, making a real impact.
3. Finally, yes the Wolves got hosed but at least we took two other teams down with us—the Nets and Kings . Sure, we technically didn't do anything per se, but at least we aren't the only fan base suffering today in the after math. Think about it, like point No. 1 said, the NBA would no doubt have liked a possible Wall-James combo to market to Brookyln in two years and beyond. Now they get none of that.
What's worse, for the actual team they earned that #1 record based on only a dozen wins. Are they really a 12 win team? No, I have no doubt there was some tanking as I've said they have a handful of players I'd want on my favorite team, but they probably are only a 25 win team, max as well. Instead of having a choice between Wall or Turner who many say you can't lose on, they likely get neither, in case something happens beyond our inital projections.
As for the Kings, unless Wolves boss David Kahn is dumber than many in his team's fan base think (this means many of you here at Bleacher Report based on his handling of the 2009 draft, but more-so, on the Wolves ESPN board) the Wolves secured no worse than whatever is left between Favors and Cousins. Early talk is it would be Cousins as the fan's pick but as addressed above, Chad Ford has us taking slacker, Wesley Johnson who does nothing to excite the fan base.
Should the Wolves actually hold to form, it means that the Kings, who once had the 3rd projected spot, would get none of Wall, Turner, Favors, or Cousins and instead have to settle for Johnson and hope he proves all of us wrong.
If it is the Wolves that do take him, once I get done being angry and disappointed, I hope he proves me and many of us wrong with a flurry of 20 and 30 point games that we haven't seen since Stephon Marbury went all the way to legit Rookie of the Year consideration, but I feel pretty confident I won't have to worry about that.
Addressing Kahn skepticism
Its easy for all of us to make observations and considerations when its not our job on the line. What would you do if tomorrow Kahn resigned and Glen Taylor called you and said you were in charge of the team and whatever you wanted to do, save for firing the coaching staff, because they are only getting started and deserve a chance (not to mention under contract.)
Its easy for many of you to criticize my articles when you yourselves don't write any and leave your work up to critique. The same can be said for you judging David Kahn's performance when he's only been on the job for a year.
Many of you would say "Damn, I'd love it. I've got a few ideas and man, would I love the perks and the money !"
In reality, you've just been made the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation which is what an NBA team is. I don't know about you, but I am not sure if I could handle the pressure, at least not without a few years to see what I've got and to assemble my team.
That is why Kahn made it very publicly known this year was basically a season-long tryout to see what he had, who and what worked and who has to go. Now that he has a better idea, that's why you are hearing the "we wil be active" talk.
Give the man a chance. If he screws up three first round picks, and the cap space then we can do a re-assessment, until then, he's only the 2nd boss besides Kevin McHale that the team has had in 16 years.
Watching Kahn at the NBA studio in Sacaucus, N.J. as the Timberwolves representative, its clear that he is the face of the franchise. This is Kahn's team.
After studying his moves in his first year, reading numerous articles written by both fans and paid analysts, and messageboards alike, I've come to the conclusion that the reason many fans don't like Kahn is because they fear he is one of them, a fan, in every sense of the word, and what they are hoping for is an actual executive who 'knows what he's doing'.
When Kahn speaks, his calm and soothing voice and demeanor is perfect for a frantic fan base as he starts out slow, almost as if he's collecting his thoughts before turning them into words and soundbites. Almost screams: "Read me a story, Mr. Kahn!" or at least, be a narrator if this NBA thing god-forbid doesn't work out.
He speaks so off the cuff, so much off the top of his head, in such a passive way, its like many of us would talk to our friends in passing about the team of our choice. We don't do it with notes and neither does he. Unfortunately for him, because he comes off as so unpolished, so unorthodox and average-Joe-ish, critics get the feeling he's over matched and doesn't know what he's doing.
To better understand what I am saying, watch his press conference prior to the lottery yesterday. It will make more sense then.
As for me, that's precisely why I like him. He could be me or any one of us. He's not some elitist talking suit. He's down to earth and does appear almost overwhelmed at times which I think many fans fear.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, at least its not Kevin McHale. At least its someone new and I'm willing to give him the three years his contract calls for, at the very minimum to see what he can do. No he didn't pay me to say any of this, and no I've never met the man, I'm just tired of the criticism and wanted to go on record.
The man studied under former Indiana GM Donnie Walsh, one of the most respected men in the business for four years (1998-2002). If memory serves me correctly that's about the last time they too were relevant.
You think you could do better? Especially in such short of time? What are you supposed to do when the top prospects-Jared Bayless, DeMar "the bust" DeRozen, and Stephen Curry all refuse to work out for you? Would you draft them knowing A) they clearly don't want to be there so, thus, if drafting them they'd likely be a problem and B) how can I possibly draft someone I haven't scouted or at least seen recently in a one-on-one endeavor and risk my team and my employer's future?
This is why Kahn took the ever-smiling (perhaps too happy) Jonny Flynn. He wants players who want to be there. What a novel concept.
Also, reportedly both No. 1 center prospect in Europe Nikola Pekovic and Darko Milicic actually want to be Timberwolves next season. (yes, you read that correctly). Two players actually want to play in a cold market on a 15 win team .
That has to be encouraging especially when we know Darko can play in the triangle having done very well in his 24 games with the team to end the season and Pekovic signing would be A) a foreign player the team drafts that actually signs (the first one since Nesterovic) and B) it forces a trade of likely Ryan Hollins in a package deal.
So what could/should Kahn do?
Considering in the 2006 NBA draft, the Bulls who had the No. 2 pick, drafted LaMarcus Aldridge and traded it to the Portland Trailblazers for Tyrus Thomas who was drafted at No. 4, the Wolves have a blueprint for what they could do and what it might take to still get Evan Turner, a fan favorite, in a Wolves uniform.
Since adding a Johnson, Favors, or Cousins doesn't address the Wolves biggest needs or Kahn's aspirations of an "Alpha Wolf" AKA 'Our Brandon Roy' as he put it, one would have to think he'll do everything he can to make a trade and move up. My fear is however, he could actually move down as we all know how much he likes assets.
Adding an asset such as a 2011 1st round pick might not be a bad thing if, considering we may have to give up our own to the woeful Clippers, as part of the Marko Jaric trade in 2007 under then-GM McHale as one of his final boneheaded moves. However, this should be done at No. 23 not with your top pick.
Now I'm not suggesting a "Hershel Walker" type trade which all Minnesota sports fans are sadly all too familar with but Kahn could probably do it tomorrow if he simply offered his entire (first round) draft: No. 4, No. 16, and No. 23 for the No. 2 (and thus, likely, Turner if the Wiz don't shock the world and take him over Wall) but I don't want him to have to do it just to satisfy us or sell some tickets nor would I want him to do it.
Having Turner would be nice but he alone cannot save a franchise that keeps falling further and further into city, state, and league irrelevance.
But one would think that a combination of No. 4, No. 16, No. 23, two second-rounders, Love, Jefferson, Gomes, Pekovic and as a last resort Rubio's rights should be able to do it. Let's just hope Kahn can find a way to make it happen.
But I personally, and I'm probably alone in this, refuse to close the book on Turner not being in a Wolves uniform.
Kahn knows its much too important for his own job and more importantly, he has more than enough assets to make it happen. That may be our one saving grace. Still, its likely Philadelphia knows this and the Wolves desperation so they'd try and milk them for all they are worth, and why shouldn't they?
Is he a good fit there? No. They already have Iguodala who does all the same things. I know, I know, "He (Iggy) would just move to the 3 which he can play". Wolves fans are already speculating. But that doesn't solve the problem or the fact that they do the same thing (i.e they are versitile).
I know, "then, that means a trade of Iguodala would happen."
Sounds easy, if you can find a taker, and a taker of that contract. Good luck, especially when this is the summer where its chic to get under the cap , not take more money on.
Would No. 4, No. 23 and a future or current 2nd round pick be enough to get it done?
What about No. 4, No. 23 and Gomes or No. 4, No. 16 and Love? No. 4, No. 16 and Jefferson?
Would you do it if you were Philly? I think I would if only to avoid the ensuing logjam since Johnson/Favors/Cousins only add to the forward mess and we already know Love and Jefferson can't play together and that's without the addition of another young player to take minutes away from the existing core.
Either way, if I'm Kahn I get on the phone and short of a Walker trade, don't get off until we have a deal.
Kahn warned fans in the pre-lottery press conference, linked above, to 'prepare for the worst but hope for the best'. I did, knowing I'd have no choice. See my pre-lottery plan here . Kahn noted its not the end of the world, and it isn't, it just would have been nice to have some luck on our side when the franchise really needs it the most.
But its not over, not even if Turner isn't wearing our colors come June 24th.
Information and statistics from ESPN.com, Timberwolves.com, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune and specifically, Jerry Zgoda directly contributed to this article.