When David Kahn took over as president of the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was painfully clear to me he was going to do whatever it took to create as much salary cap space and flexibility as possible.
If Kahn’s cost-cutting moves resulted in the Wolves taking a step backward in the win-loss column in his first season, the new president of the Wolves would be more than willing to sacrifice the season if it positioned the team for long-term success.
I could not disagree with Kahn’s overall assessment of the team.
The Timberwolves needed a complete overhaul; tinkering at the edges with an acquisition or two was not going to turn this franchise into a playoff team.
The Wolves clearly needed to be dismantled and built again from scratch.
While I agreed with the course of action set out by Kahn, I also knew I couldn’t watch the transformation.
I told all my friends who would listen that they were better off getting a hobby during the season and avert their eyes so they would not become bitter and hardened by the actions taken by Kahn.
Kahn attempted to put up a brave front that his austere program would not make the Wolves unwatchable.
When asked if the Wolves would improve upon their 24-58 record Kahn said, “I wouldn’t put a number on it. But if we stay healthy, I would say, in all likelihood, yes.”
I wasn’t sure if Kahn truly believed what he was saying; how could anyone really believe that the additions of Nathan Jawai, Oleksiy Pecherov, Ryan Hollins, and Sasha Pavlovic were going to find a way to win 25 games.
I found several hobbies to keep myself occupied during the winter.
Some friends listened but, as is often the case with free advice, many friends decided not to follow my advice.
The season was long and arduous.
While the Timberwolves tried very hard last season, they were clearly overmatched night in and night out.
The Timberwolves flirted with the worst record in the NBA for most of the season before finishing with the worst record in franchise history at 15-67.
Many Minnesota fans hoped the rebuilding project would begin in earnest with the draft and free agency period this year.
Kahn, however, does not appear to be quite ready to open up Timberwolves’ owner Glen Taylor’s wallet.
Instead of trading up in the draft to go after Evan Turner or John Wall, Kahn held onto the fourth pick in the draft and took Wesley Johnson.
While no one knows what Johnson will ultimately do in the NBA, the conventional wisdom is he will be a solid player with a long career and not a player who will become a superstar that has the potential to transform the franchise.
Minnesota didn’t parlay its plethora of draft picks to acquire a marquee player, but instead gambled on polishing a diamond in the rough in Martell Webster and moving down in the draft to stockpile the number of European players in its “farm system.”
While the Timberwolves will likely win more than 15 games this season, it will be fair to ask if they will win more than 25 games.
But true Minnesota fans will put out that the local squad resigned Darko Milicic and that they acquired Michael Beasley for a couple of second-round draft picks as evidence that Kahn is committed to winning in the short term.
The dump of Al Jefferson’s $13 million contract, however, suggests otherwise.
How else do you explain the Wolves trading Jefferson, the only 20 points, 10 rebound performer on the Wolves roster for two future first-round picks of the Utah Jazz?
Last night, the Wolves made a trade that removed any doubt that it was all about the Benjamins for Kahn.
The Timberwolves shipped Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair.
The Wolves are expected to immediately waive West.
In waiving West, the Wolves will pay him $500,000, but the team will save approximately $4.2 million in cap space.
The length of Telfair’s second tenure in Minnesota is somewhat complicated by reports that Jonny Flynn might have to undergo surgery that will keep him out of the lineup for several months.
Sebastian should be under no illusions that he will be in Minnesota for a long time.
Do the Timberwolves have more cap space and flexibility to engineer trades in the future?
Yes, the Timberwolves are much better off financially in relation to the NBA salary cap.
Are the Timberwolves a better team than last year?
The answer is probably yes despite losing Jefferson.
Will the Timberwolves contend for a playoff spot this year?
No, the Timberwolves would have to pull off a miracle to win more than 40 games.
Are the Timberwolves headed in the right direction?
Perhaps...right now it is clear that for Kahn it is not about winning or losing games to have a shot at a first-round exit in the playoffs.
Right now, Kahn is attempting to create a financial model that will allow him to make a sustained playoff run for several years with the Wolves.
In order to accomplish his goal, Kahn must keep his eye on the salary cap.
At this moment, Kahn has a single-minded focus; Kahn is all about the Benjamins.