Is Keeping Kahn a Good Idea for the Timberwolves?
The Minnesota Timberwolves just completed their most successful season in years. They finally were able to get the much-hyped rookie Ricky Rubio into uniform and his transition to the NBA game went very well, up until his unfortunate knee injury. Kevin Love worked himself into great shape for the season and took himself as a player many questioned as an All-Star last season to a legitimate candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Nikola Pekovic surprised many, becoming a great compliment to Love in the post and, of course, the team won at a much higher clip than they have in recent years, sparking a higher interest in the team from the media and fans.
Despite losing Rubio to injury, Love to a concussion and a large losing streak creating an unfortunate end to the season, there is hope for the future of the franchise. They finally have a core to build around and this offseason will be crucial to bring in the players who can properly compliment that core. Recently, team owner Glen Taylor announced Minnesota would pick up the option on President of Basketball Operations David Kahn’s contract for next year, keeping him as the man calling the shots during this ever-important time.
Which begs the question: Is keeping David Kahn in his role with the Timberwolves a wise choice?
There is little debate the Timberwolves are better off today than the day Kahn took the job. The question becomes how much further along could the team be if Kahn was capable of doing his job better than he has to this point?
Let’s start off by giving Kahn credit for his good moves during his tenure in Minnesota. He did make the trade of Randy Foye and Mike Miller for the first round draft choice that ultimately became Ricky Rubio. While Rubio wasn’t a lock to succeed in the NBA, there was a feeling from the fans on draft night once Minnesota’s pick came up that they would be ready to give up on the franchise for good if Rubio wasn’t the choice. It was a bold move to take Rubio and, essentially, stake his own claim to a player who wouldn’t even be on the roster for two years, but Kahn did so and Rubio’s success is a big factor in Kahn still holding his position within the franchise.
Kahn is the one who hired Rick Adelman before the 2011-12 NBA season and Adelman’s coaching immediately brought respectability to Minnesota. Adelman is, quite simply, a perfect coach for Minnesota’s roster, bringing a system to the Timberwolves he is able to mold using the player’s strengths, rather than holding on to a strict system and trying to make square plugs fit into round holes. Adelman’s insights throughout the season and, even more importantly, now after a full season of assessment will be a great help to David Kahn going forward.
The drafting of Derrick Williams this past summer should be considered a success, despite the average to below average rookie season from the number two pick in the draft. This was a success not because of Williams’ season or the potential he may have for the future, but rather because Kahn didn’t out-think himself and made the selection considered to be a no-brainer from nearly everyone in NBA circles.
As of now, those three moves are it. Those are the positive moves Kahn has made during his three years in Minnesota. Look at some of the other names that “highlight” Kahn’s selections on draft nights: Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and Ty Lawson. These are the “named” players who are known by most fans, but for mostly negative reasons. Flynn was selected by Minnesota immediately after they selected Rubio, passing on the opportunity for Steph Curry. Wes Johnson has been a huge disappointment by nearly all accounts in his two-year career and Minnesota passed on DeMarcus Cousins. Lawson was a solid pick, but was a selection made to immediately trade as a deal was already in place.
As successful as the 2011-12 NBA season was as a whole for the Timberwolves, they very easily could have sent a starting lineup on the court of Rubio, Curry, Beasley, Love and Cousins. More than likely, that is a playoff team with a much better core to build around, many steps ahead of where the team stands now.
Yes, there is optimism in Minnesota, but the summer of 2012 is crucial for the Timberwolves. By already announcing Kahn will return for next season, the pressure is on the President of Basketball Operations to add more key players to the team’s attack. Assuming good health—which is, obviously, something impossible to guarantee—the Timberwolves will expect to make a strong push toward acquiring a playoff berth next season. That can only be done by ridding some of the dead weight on the current roster and adding more talent and depth to next year’s squad.
Kahn continuing to run the show in Minnesota may have the stomachs of Timberwolves fans in knots, but Taylor has to see the same things fans and media see. Without question, there is progress during Kahn’s tenure and little of it has to do with Kahn’s own decisions. This summer may be his final chance to keep his job after next season.
After all, the clock is officially ticking for the Timberwolves to create a winner in Minnesota. That clock began the countdown immediately after Love signed his contract extension, which was not for the maximum number of years possible. If the Timberwolves don’t show significant improvement in that time frame, Love will walk away to a contender, leaving the Timberwolves having to scrap their plans and start over yet again. Of course, the decision not to lock Love up for the maximum number of years was another decision made by Kahn.
It is not the best move to keep Kahn around, but if he continues on the same path, he will only be around for one more season.