Minnesota Timberwolves President David Kahn's Moment of Truth

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IMay 24, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 16:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves puts up a shot during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 16, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 152-114.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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We all knew when David Kahn took over as President of the Minnesota Timberwolves a little more than a year ago that the rebuilding process for the franchise would mean more losses than wins in the short term.

Kahn implicitly admitted that a ton of losses were on the horizon when he  stated that he would need at least 17 months to transform the Timberwolves[1] .   No one panicked in Wolves Nation as no one believed that a few minor changes would turn Minnesota into a title contender.

The plan from the outside appeared to be relatively simple.

First, hire a head coach and staff that would be respected by the players and who would be patient during the rebuilding process.

Mission accomplished. The resume of head coach Kurt Rambis includes NBA titles as a player and as an assistant coach studying under the tutelage of Zen master Phil Jackson.

Additional bonus, the assistant coaching staff includes two coaches who have solid coaching credentials and former NBA player resumes in Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus.

Second, trade most of the players during the 2009 offseason to create sufficient salary cap space to be in a position to land a marquee free agent or two during the 2010 offseason.

Mission accomplished.  Minnesota currently has $20 million in salary cap space and could create as much as $25 million in salary cap space if they decide to decline the option on Ryan Gomes ($4.2 million) and Nathan Jawai ($1 million)[2] . 

Some Wolves fans likely feel that the cost of accomplishing this goal was too high as Minnesota finished last year with only a 15-67 record.  If the Timberwolves had won at least 25 games, Kahn’s moves concerning the salary cap would be viewed in a more positive light.

The optimism among Wolves fans stemmed from comments made by Kahn that he believed that the team could win at least 25 games[3] .

Now comes the hard part, the really hard part.  Kahn has to begin to rebuild the Wolves through the NBA draft and free agency to put Minnesota back on track as a playoff contender. 

The most pressing need for the Wolves is to find a player that will give all the role players on the team a reason to walk with a confident swagger.   Minnesota needs a player that makes the fans of their opponent stop breathing when he gets his hands on the ball.

The Wolves need their Alpha Wolf.

The 2010 free agent market has two players in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade that clearly fit the bill.  Minnesota has no realistic chance of getting James or Wade as both players want to play for a team that is already a title contender; neither player is interested in developing a team over time.

There are several other free agents that while not quite in the same class as James and Wade could improve the Wolves until the Alpha Wolf arrives in town.  If you can’t have Batman you might as well as have Robin.

Unfortunately, Minnesota has very little chance of securing the services of Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, or Rudy Gay.  Bosh and Johnson have given no indication of being interested in playing in Minnesota while Gay appears to be likely to re-sign with Memphis.

The 2010 draft has two players in John Wall and Evan Turner that appear to have the skills and maturity to become an Alpha Wolf.

The 13th appearance in franchise history in the NBA draft lottery was unlucky as the Wolves once again by failed to secure the first or second pick in the draft.  The Wolves were awarded the fourth pick in the draft and as a result will not be in a position to draft with Wall or Turner.

Minnesota could secure the services of Wall or Turner as they have several picks in this year’s draft to use as trade bait. The Wolves, in addition to the fourth pick in the draft, also have Nos. 16, 23, 45, and 56 in the draft. 

Could the Wolves secure the second pick in the draft by agreeing to take on the salary of Elton Brand, or would they also need to ship Al Jefferson to Philadelphia?[4]  

Should the Wolves pull a “Herschel Walker” trade and ship several picks and players to Philadelphia for the second pick in the draft?[5]

The Wolves could chart a middle of the road course by using their top two picks this year and then package their remaining picks this year with Ryan Gomes or Ramon Sessions for potential first round picks in next year’s draft.

Or maybe, the Wolves use all of their first round picks to select players who can contribute right away and then use their second round picks to draft players who can experience playing overseas.

The problem for Kahn is that there is no obvious solution and his timetable for being able to demonstrate tangible progress is closing.  

Who do you keep?  Who do you trade?

The clock is ticking and Timberwolves fans need to see progress.  Kahn knows he needs to produce by September of this year.

If he makes the right moves this offseason he will be hailed as a genius, adding the wrong piece and the murmur in the Twin Cities that Kahn has no real idea of what to do will begin in earnest.

In speaking to reporters, Kahn said, “I can assure you the ballclub will be measurably different by then.  It will...What we need to do is build the ballclub...I don’t expect people to come back next year and see an incomplete or largely incomplete ballclub.  The team needs to be much more complete, and it will be.[6]

Kahn is definitely right. 

The Timberwolves need to be a more complete ballclub next year.  Kahn’s moment of truth has arrived and how he handles this offseason will determine if the Wolves are building their way back to the playoffs or are still lost in the wilderness.

[1] Wolves Season in Review: Boss Promises Big Changes,” Minnesota Star Tribune, Jerry Zgoda, April 11, 2010.

[2] Wolves Study Hand That They Are Dealt,” Minnesota Star Tribune, Phil Miller, May 20, 2010.

[3] “Can the Minnesota Timberwolves Win 25 Games in 2009-2010?” Bleacher Report, Kevin Lindsey, October 21, 2009.

[4] “Two Trades Likely Just the Beginning for the Timberwolves This Summer”    Bleacher Report, Joe Mikolai, May 22, 2010; “Minnesota T-Wolves Land No. 4 Pick: What Should They Do With It” Bleacher Report, Ethan McVansen, May 23, 2010.

[5]   “No Turner in Minnesota? Not so Fast as Wolves Have Major Trade Assets” Bleacher Report, Joe Mikolai, Bleacher Report, May   2010.

[6] Zgoda, Wolves season in review: Boss promises Big Changes.


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