To watch David Kahn, general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, run an NBA Draft is to watch a master at his easel. We have had two years of Kahn, two glorious drafts filled with intrigue, shock and, of course, the LULZ.
A recap for the uninitiated:
The Wolves have the No. 6 pick, and have traded for the No. 5 pick. Back-to-back picks in a draft some have called weak but which will turn out producing the next two Rookies of the Year, including a rare rookie All-Star. Minnesota is desperate for guards; the Wolves' 2008-09 guard play was atrocious, and the time sent its top two perimeter players in Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for No. 5. It's like adding e. coli to Brussels sprouts: the worst gets worse.
So, with the those two picks, the Wolves restock their guard cupboards, taking two point guards: 18-year-old Spaniard Ricky Rubio, who had refused to work out for or visit Minnesota and who had a sticky buy-out that made every team above the Wolves skeptical he'd enter the NBA any sooner than 2011, and Syracuse product Jonny Flynn. Neither can shoot very well. Neither is considered a strong defensive prospect. There is virtually no hope of playing them together.
Kahn immediately states that he plans to play them together.
Later, Kahn takes point guard Ty Lawson, but flips him to the Nuggets for a 2010 pick. (He has more point guards than he can ever use, sheesh!) In the second round, he smartly picks up Nick Calathes, another point guard. But he flips this one to the Mavericks.
To this point, Lawson has vastly outperformed Flynn and Calathes has been much better in Europe than Rubio. This is to say nothing of the other 37 point guards in the 2009 draft that could have helped the Wolves over the past two years.
The Year of the Small Forward.
The Wolves make a (no joke) great trade for recent No. 2 pick Michael Beasley, giving up just a couple second-round picks. Given that Kevin Love is Minnesota's power forward of the future, Beasley will slot in at small forward. The Wolves proceed to pick up another 20 small forwards on draft day.
First up is Wesley Johnson, another Syracuse product, at No. 4, over DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe, two legit centers who'd fill a gaping hole to eventually be manned by Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic and Kosta Koufos. Next, the Wolves trade that pick they got from Denver in the Lawson trade plus the unguaranteed contract of Ryan Gomes to Portland for small forward Martell Webster.
Corey Brewer, the team's incumbent small forward, suddenly feels inadequate.
WHAT MASTERY WILL 2011 HOLD?
That remains to be seen. Kahn seems wedded to trading the pick; the Wizards, who have eyes for Derrick Williams, are a sensible partner. (That Kahn and Ernie Grunfeld have collaborated in the past two drafts is not lost on anyone.) Positional doctrine is passé; don't expect a run on centers or two-guards. Maybe the draft pick itself is the new target. Can Kahn acquire all 60 picks? What would it take? What about five of the top 10? (Pack your bags, Kevin Love.)
He's been said to want some veteran help; how many veterans can he pick up this month? Can he increase the average age of his roster three years? Five years? Can he bring Anthony Peeler and Sam Mitchell out of retirement? Can he hire John McCain as head coach? Let your imagination run wild! It's Kahn time!