David Kahn has done a considerably better job as the Timberwolves' GM than many major media outlets are giving him credit for.
Kahn’s first draft, the “year of the point guard” was given fairly low grades by the likes of ESPN and other major sports outlets.
I respectfully disagree here. The Wolves picked up a passer who, if reports are to be believed, rivals Steve Nash at the art of the assist, as well as Johnny Flynn, who will likely have a fairly solid career as a backup in the NBA—this is assuming that he doesn’t make any significant strides forward in his passing ability.
If Flynn does make improvements, and there’s really no reason to assume that he won’t, since the maturation of a point guard in the NBA is by no means a single-season process, then he certainly has the potential to be a starting point guard in the league for years to come.
Kahn identified a need on the team in the summer of 2009 for true point guards (Randy Foye had difficulties with the position as somewhat of a tweener guard) and drafted accordingly.
Now, let’s look at Kahn’s moves after the 2009 Draft, leading up to the 2010 installment. He picked up a bunch of large contracts that were due to expire in the efforts to have some money to throw around in the easily-foreseeable turbulent Free Agency 2010.
The signing of Ramon Sessions as a backup point was a good move, providing stability behind Flynn. More importantly, though, Kahn made it clear to the Minnesotan sporting community that the 2009-10 season would be one of both teaching and evaluation.
He made it clear that he wasn’t going to make hair-trigger decisions during the season, and would instead evaluate players on the season as a whole.
Fair enough. Evaluation in this manner allows for a better picture of a player in the efforts of building a stable base for the future.
Moving along, Kahn took a flyer on a big center who had faced adversity in the NBA, having spent the majority of his 2009-10 season on the bench in New York, Darko Milicic.
It took some cajoling from Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis to get Darko Milicic to come to Minnesota instead of going back to the Euro leagues, something he’d desired from the moment it became clear that he was not to be a large part of New York’s future plans.
Then Milicic came to town and made the center spot his own, playing solid, defensive basketball. In fact, he made such a good impression that most of the Wolves faithful thought, “Hey, we should get this guy back for next season.”
Then came the 2010 Draft. Those little ping pong balls once again were unkind to Minnesota, moving them from a rightful second pick to the fourth pick in the draft. Certainly the Wolves tried to work some trades to move up in the draft and be able to select Evan Turner, but to do so would have meant taking on Elton Brand’s enormous contract, a proposition that wasn’t particularly appealing to many Wolves fans.
The Wolves said all throughout the process that, whatever happened, they felt that the fourth spot would be just fine.
Obviously enough, the Wolves were unable to make a move upward in the draft, so the appropriate choice was obvious: take Wesley Johnson, an athletic wing with a great shot who is also pretty good on the defensive end and fill a need, rather than drafting DaMarcus Cousins.
Cousins certainly has a high ceiling, but wouldn’t have really filled a need on the Timberwolves roster.
Coming into the draft, I was expecting Kahn to have made moves to help improve the Timberwolves roster, and at the end of the night, Kahn did just that. He stocked the team with athletic shooting guards and small forwards who can all run and will get their shots in Rambis’ triangle offense.
Again, Kahn saw a need and made sure that it was filled.
This is a textbook example of how to build a sustainable squad.
He then re-signed Milicic and brought in Nikola Pekovic, a player reported to be the best big in Europe, possessing the potential to have an immediate impact in the NBA. Of course, there is always a difficult learning curve between the Euro leagues and the NBA, which Pekovic will have to deal with, but he’s not a bad piece to be able to add to a team looking for talent.
Then Kahn worked a little more magic and managed to make Michael Beasley appear out of nowhere, and more importantly, for little more than a song.
Beasley has a ton of potential, evidenced by his selection as the second overall pick in 2008, and will look to have a much less stressful environment to hone his skills in Minnesota.
He adds even more depth to the small forward power forward slots. Having averaged just about 15 points per game in the NBA in his first two seasons, Beasley is a scoring threat that can stretch the court out.
So, where do things sit since Kahn took over little more than a year ago?
Gone is just about every vestige of the Kevin McHale era, and in is a roster stuffed with fast, athletic shooters. Two former second overall draft picks, plus a quality point guard in Flynn and a potential superstar in Rubio.
He picked up a defensive center in Milicic, brought Pekovic over as a backup who has the potential to blossom further, and then added Michael Beasley, who becomes the second second overall pick on this roster.
Of course, Kahn hasn’t finished playing his hand, either. He still has Al Jefferson to trade, which should bring in a considerable piece of the puzzle—or if rumors are to be believed, a pretty big waive-able contract.
Kahn has assembled a team that, in two years, will likely look as follows:
Ricky Rubio, Johnny Flynn (Ramon Sessions?)
Corey Brewer, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington
Wesley Johnson, Lazar Hayward
Kevin Love, Michael Beasley
Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, (Ryan Hollins?)
That’s a considerable upgrade in sheer athleticism alone from last year’s roster and will likely form the base for a very entertaining team in the future.