David Kahn is reportedly done as the personnel boss for the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was supposed to be the season that the Wolves broke the league's longest active playoff drought; it did not happen for several reasons, the largest of which was a double-whammy of injuries to Kevin Love. Also, injuries to basically everyone else.
But that's all in the details. In the aggregate, Kahn built a team that should have been good enough to at least compete for the final playoff seed in the West and a team that also should have been way, way better than it was. And frankly, there's a lot of work to do for the next GM of the Wolves -- rumored to be Flip Saunders -- to reach the potential within the roster.
Kahn did some good things. He drafted Ricky Rubio despite the Spaniard's lack of comfort with Minneapolis, perilous buyout situation and total lack of jumper. It took a couple of years, but Ricky made it to the NBA, and he made it. He's quite exciting, and plenty of teams would like to have him. Kahn also signed a Kevin McHale draft pick -- Nikola Pekovic -- to a contract that really helped the Wolves not be the worst team in the league the last two seasons. Kahn's best move in the 2012 offseason was surely signing Andrei Kirilenko, who had been in Russia since the lockout, to a two-year, $20 million deal. Kirilenko could have been an All-Star if not for injury, and was the defender this team needed on the wing.
Kahn also somehow was possibly involved in bringing Rick Adelman aboard. Whether Kahn had anything to do with it or not, let's just say that it was the best coaching decision of Kahn's tenure.
But the list of things Kahn did wrong is significantly longer. The draft was not kind to Kahn. One pick after Rubio, the Wolves took Jonny Flynn. Who is already out of the NBA. In that draft, Stephen Curry went one pick later, Brandon Jennings went four picks later and Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague went more than a dozen picks later. Kahn actually picked Lawson on behalf of the Nuggets; in return, the Wolves -- now set at PG with Rubio and Flynn -- received the pick that became Luke Babbitt, who was traded for a Martell Webster rental. Webster was waived by Kahn after two poor seasons.
The 2010 draft was no kinder to Kahn. He took Wesley Johnson at No. 4, in front of DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Larry Sanders, Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley. How did Wes do in Minnesota? After two awful seasons, Kahn had to package him with a first-round pick to ship him out; Minnesota got a trio of future second-round picks in the deal. Well done!
The jury is still out on 2011 and beyond. Kahn took Derrick Williams, a near consensus No. 2 pick, at No. 2 in 2011 and didn't have his 2012 pick on account of an old McHale trade that's been looming for nearly a decade. (Seriously, the pick that became Austin Rivers for the Hornets last June was traded by McHale in 2005. Marko Jaric!) There was lots of other weird stuff in 2011: Kahn traded down about 2,000 times, somehow relinquishing the best international prospect available (Nikola Mirotic) in the process, and then used a late second on a 26-year-old Qatari ineligible for the draft DUE TO BEING 26 YEARS OLD.
The draft was but one of Kahn's problem, if you can believe it. He is responsible for Kurt Rambis' two-year reign of horror. The best part is how that whole experience ended: in the slowest, most public battle of wills ever. It seemed clear that Rambis would be fired after Sam Vincenting two seasons. But Kahn didn't do the job quickly to help everyone forget he paid Rambis gobs of money. He gave Rambis a take-home test with apparent essay questions about the future of the team. He let Rambis' fate hang in the balance all the way through draft prep season ... which allowed things like "Rambis and Kahn standing 10 feet apart, not speaking or acknowledging each other in front of 50 NBA scouts and GMs at a group workout" to happen. In the end, the Wolves canned Rambis, but had to sell draft picks to pay his buyout. Awesome!
The Kevin Love disaster is the single Kahntastrophe that could still screw Wolves fans into the future. In some way, Kahn lowballed Love in 2011, the offseason he was eligible for an early extension. It remains disputed exactly what happened, but essentially while Love was eligible for a five-year extension that would have kept the All-Star forward under contract through 2017, Kahn didn't offer it. Kahn wanted to maintain flexibility. Under the new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in the 2011 offseason, teams had to choose which young rookie scale star would receive a five-year early extension, because you could only have one such contract on the books at any time. Kahn apparently wanted to save this for Rubio or maybe Wesley Johnson. (Who knows?! This is Kahn.) So he didn't offer it to Love, who was a top-10 player in the NBA. The entire NBA.
Understandably, Love was miffed. He eventually agreed to a four-year early extension ... but only if Kahn included an early termination option after three years. So instead of being locked up through 2017, Love can now opt out in 2015. How's that for flexibility? Love spent the following year being quoted as frustrated with Kahn, the bad job Kahn was doing and the lack of progress the team had made since he'd been drafted by McHale in 2008. No one knows if canning Kahn will brighten Love's spirits; the damage between the power forward and the franchise may have already been done. Certainly, nerves will be racked if Minnesota has another rough season, and we may start hearing about trades by the deadline (even though Love is under contract for 2014-15 as well).
That's all bad enough, right? We're not done.
There is, of course, the Al Jefferson trade, which was really quite bad, but hey, McHale didn't leave him with many options. It's hard to explain exactly what happened with the package; one of the picks that came back was used by the Rockets to pick up Terrence Jones last June. This is a common thread with Kahn: he makes a ridiculous amount of lateral moves, all of which serve to cloud the actual assets coming in and going out. But regardless, Kahn traded Jefferson largely for cap space; at least some of that cap space was used to take a flyer on Michael Beasley, which wasn't a bad dice roll in 2010, but still turned out horribly because, well, Wolves.
Another chunk of that cap space was used on Kahn's coup de grace, his piece de resistance, his Pride and Prejudice, Sistine Chapel and Citizen Kane, all wrapped into one: Manna From Heaven Darko Milicic.
In a rather hilarious deadline deal in 2010, Kahn traded Brian Cardinal (expiring contract) to the Knicks for the ultra-disappointing Darko Milicic (expiring contract). Typically, one does not reshuffle deck chairs like this. But the deal lowered New York's tax bills, so why not? Kahn had bigger plans.
The Kahn-Rambis braintrust -- oh, what a braintrust! -- believed in Darko. He started 18 games for the Wolves as another losing season played out. The Wolves went 1-17 in these games. Darko's PER was 12.9 in Minnesota. He was barely average. No matter. Darko's soul would be unlocked by Kahn and Rambis. This would be Kahn's greatest conquest.
On the very first day of 2010 free agency, Kahn made his move. He offered Darko $20 million over four years. Darko took it. The rest, my friends, was history. The world was skeptical, however, so Kahn took to Vegas Summer League, where he tried to convince Chris Webber and That Skeptical World that Darko was the future, the Serbian gangster who would take the Wolves to the top of the NBA. (Skip to 1:45.)
But Kahn's luck would not be good, C-Webb. Darko would stunningly struggle (as he had his entire career to that point) and Kahn would be forced to admit bitter defeat and use the amnesty clause on him in 2012. That didn't spell the end for Kahn -- he survived another year -- but the Darko escapade was certainly enough to make an already skeptical world completely bemused by the NBA's most hapless GM. Nothing Kahn could do in 2013 could have changed that.
So long, Kahn. We'll miss you more than you'll ever know.*
* Does not apply to Timberwolves fans.