I've sat around for the last year plus hearing about David Kahn being the single WORST executive in basketball. I keep hearing that he is the single most embarrassing and moronic mind in sports. It has even been said that the Wolves would be in better shape had the team been run by an avocado. “The Timberwolves would still have Al Jefferson,” “They wouldn't be going through the Ricky Rubio mess,” “He has drafted multiple point guards in his two drafts,” “We'd could have had Ty Lawson!” Amazing that the anti-Kahn folks will make that complaint a couple sentences after complaining he has too many point guards. Now they think he should have another on top of it all? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. So I sat down, thought about it, and decided to take a closer look at what Kahn has done, and NOT just this season.
Let us start by comparing the 2008-2009 roster vs. the roster and assets the Timberwolves have now.
Center: Al Jefferson and Jason Collins vs Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic. People give Kahn a hard time for bringing in Dave Hollins and Darko Milicic to play center. But we all know Al Jefferson isn't a real center; he doesn't have the defensive presence or quickness and lacks ideal size. Yes, Jefferson was a better scorer, but Darko has the advantage of being an actual, factual, natural, center, is quicker, plus a greater defensive presence in the middle. And of course Pekovic isn't going to have to do much if he wants to surpass what Collins did for the Wolves, and since he's supposed to be the best big guy in Europe, he'll probably do more than score 57 points in 31 games. Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves
Power Forward: Ryan Gomes and Kevin Love vs Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. I don't think anybody is going to argue that the Wolves were better off two years ago, so I don't want to belabor the point. Kevin Love today is better, and Micheal Beasley has a rather large edge on Gomes in terms of ability and potential. Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves by a large margin.
Small Forward: Mike Miller and Craig Smith vs Wesley Johnson and Lazar Hayward. If Johnson gets to start and regular playing time, nobody can doubt that he'll probably garner at least 10 points per game, which is what Miller got with the Wolves. Biggest difference between the two is is Miller being a pure shooter, Johnson has more to offer in terms of defense, but Miller's assist ability was a bit better than I expect from Johnson for a while. Craig Smith at least made himself look like a decent backup, which is what I anticipate Hayward will be doing this season. So in short, at least as much production but with significantly more upside. Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves.
Shooting Guard: Randy Foye and Rashad McCants vs Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington. Foye and McCants did alright with the Wolves in the 08-09 season, but neither really were starters. This might even be the fist spot where the Wolves aren't a clear upgrade form the 2008 squad, Foye scored 16 a game in 2008, with McCants getting about 9. Sounds pretty good for Foye, until you realize that's in 35 minutes a game. It isn't hard to imagine Webster and Ellington, backups for most of their careers, getting pretty close to that if given adequate playing time. However, Webster has a better mind for the game than either of the other two. Foye never seemed to know what to do when he didn't have the ball in his hands; Webster does. Webster's more of a leader and could make the rest of his teammates better. Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves
Point Guard: Sebastian Telfair and Kevin Ollie vs Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions/Luke Ridnour. Now we get to where the press and sports media really lay in to Mr. Kahn, the poing guard position. Look at what the Wolves top to #1s averaged in the '08-'09 season. 13.8 point/game, 7.7 assists/game, 3.2 rebounds/game, 1.4 steals/game in around 40 minutes/game (give or take). Is it any surprise that Kahn wanted a point guard? Is it any surprise that he wanted more than one when that's the COMBINED production we were getting from that position? “But he drafted four point guards during that draft!” Yeah, one we knew was a few years from joining and the second pair were just freaking trade bait for Dallas and Denver. Let us now look at rookie Jonny Flynn's numbers; 13.5 points/game, 4.4 assists/game, 2.4 rebounds/game, and 1 steal/game in 29 minutes/game. Flynn by himself nearly outdid the 08-09 Wolves. Again, the new Wolves are SUBSTANTIAL improvements over their 2 year old counterparts. Telfair and Ollie combined to average under 14 points a game. Jonny Flynn in his rookie season managed 13.5 points per game all by himself. Neither Telfair or Ollie were the scorers that Flynn is. Heck, neither Telfair or Ollie were the scorer Ridnour is. Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves in a landslide.
The rest of the team's situation: The current Timberwolves roster's highest paid player is Michael Beasey, with just under 5 million. Assuming we don't keep Ridnour, Sessions, and Flynn and keep just two on the roster as expected, and from my research around on ESPN's website (with some rough estimates where information on incoming contracts wasn't there) the Wolves 2010-2011 team salaries should come in at under 42 million Bucks, including money owed to Ryan Hollins and Greg Stiemsma but not the guy we got in the Jazz trade since he probably will be traded by the beginning of the season. I don't know how much we have in other stuff the Wolves may owe (old contracts, trade addendums and what not) but that number gives the Timberwolves about 16 million in cap space, with an exemption on top of that. To put a little perspective, the team Kevin McHale created and coached in the 2008-2009 season cost about 63.5 million dollars. If that isn't enough, next year the Wolves will have 3 first round picks and a potential “Pistol” Pete Marovich coming over from Spain.
Kevin McHale created a damn fine team when he was running the Timberwolves, but unfortunately for us that damn fine team was the Boston Celtics. People like to say Kahn drafted the wrong people, “Should have taken Stephen Curry,” “Should have kept Ty Lawon instead of Flynn,” etc. Granted, Kahn has made some mistakes, drafting players while someone they passed on turns out down the road to be better. EVERY GM makes those mistakes, calling Kahn out for that is like calling out a baby for pooping it's diaper. Flynn turned out to be worth staying in the NBA and is by nobody's estimate a bust. 2 of the last 10 Rookies of the Year, were taken #1, a couple of them weren't even taken in the top five (Brandon Roy, Amer'e Stoudemire).
But as long as we're talking drafts, let us discuss Kevin McHale. ROY Brandon Roy was TRADED AWAY by McHale so he could get Randy Foye. Yeah, McHale actually drafted Roy, then traded him for the next guy picked, and as far as I can tell, he traded them straight up. If you want Foye, draft Foye! Of course it's also possible that he didn't want to come here since we had just traded KG. Since Garnett, McHales's best picks have been Rasho Nesterovic, Wally Szczerbiak, and Corey Brewer. Well, those are the best that he kept, he traded away Ray Allen, Brandon Roy, and O.J. Mayo. The runners up for picks he kept weren't actually close, anybody remember our 2003 1<sup>st</sup> round pick Ndudi Ebi? How about Paul Grant? William Avery? Add Rasho and that's four years worth of picks in a row! By that bar, if Wesley Johnson turns out to be a deccent small forward, then David Kahn has been damn-near God-like in his draft prowess.
The Timberwolves on the other hand had a few years of Kevin Garnett playoff sesasons, and a complete inability to do anything else, though if it wasn't for the Joe Smith debacle, there would have been plenty of opportunity. 2001 we probably could have gotten Gerald Williams (taken 25<sup>th</sup> overall) or Tony Parker (28) as they were both near the end of that draft. John Salmons and Tayshaun Prince were both taken near the end of the 2002 draft, 2004 we didn't lose much since the end of the draft since there wasn't much taken late that year AND it was our division championship year (meaning low pick).
Recovering from the McHale years is NOT going to be easy or simple. Last year was more about getting rid of some stuff that just NEEDED to be gotten rid of (some buildings are in such bad shape the current structure needs to be blown up before renovation can begin). We had no cap space, hell we were almost paying a luxury tax while winning 24 games with no long-term plans except for trying to build a front court around to guys with almost no chemistry (Love and Jefferson). Right now we've got respectable players with upside at every position and depth as well, three first round picks next year, a whole lot of cap space, and arguably the best passer in the world waiting for us in Europe and likely to come over next year. All that while being screwed over in the lottery both years Kahn has had picks and having EVERY move he has made questioned. Even when he's bringing in a former 2<sup>nd</sup> overall pick (a proven at least 14 & 6 guy) for almost nothing people and people still question it. Are you freaking kidding me? Edge: 2010-2011 Timberwolves.