With one year left on his contract and the busiest offseason in Timberwolves history since the KG trade, it seemed a proper time to examine how David Kahn has transformed a Timberwolves roster of mismatched young players with potential into a team with realistic playoff aspirations.
Kahn has undergone his fair share of scrutiny for quotes such as describing the currently amnestied Darko Milicic as “manna from heaven“, drafting Syracuse busts Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson over Steph Curry and DeMarcus Cousins, joking that the NBA Draft Lottery was fixed when Minnesota didn’t get the #1 pick, and even getting fined $50K by the NBA for saying that Michael Beasley “smoked too much marijuana”. Whether by by random luck or savvy decision making, Kahn has seemingly assembled a balanced roster which has depth and pre-season playoff aspirations for the first time since KG was traded. Without analyzing the seemingly never-ending and often questionable trades of both players and picks that Kahn has made, let’s see how he has been able to reshape the roster.
After letting Kevin McHale go and ending the failed Kurt Rambis experiment (32-132 record, worth every penny of the $8 million investment), Kahn was able to convince a well respected veteran coach, Rick Adelman, to come to Minnesota. Adelman’s age (66), coupled with owner Glen Taylor’s impending sale of the team, served as catalysts to shift the Timberwolves into a team with a win-now mentality, which could be seen as contradictory since it is such a young and talented team.
The result of this new mentality and Adelman having a say in player personnel, led to the trade of the 18th pick in the first round for athletic swingman Chase Budinger who played under Adelman in Houston. Last year’s underwhelming bench players Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Brad Miller, and Wayne Ellington have been let go and upgraded to the athletic Budinger, the solid backup center in Greg Steimsma, the talented Russian guard Alexey Shved, and forward Dante Cunningham. The PG duties will be split between Shved, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea until Rubio returns.
Although the hot pursuit of Nicholas Batum proved to be fruitless, instead of overpaying for the French swingman on a potentially crippling 4 year deal, the Wolves signed All-NBA defender and last years Euroleague MVP, Andrei Kirilenko, to a more reasonable 2 year/$20 million deal. Kirilenko’s signing will mean the talented Derrick Williams will need to prove his scoring abilities off the bench. It also will help the transition for the 23 year old Shved, who was teammates with Kirilenko last season in Russia.
Kahn took a big gamble on former All-Star Brandon Roy with 2 year $10 million deal, but if he can stay on the court even for 20-25 minutes a game, he will provide the scoring ability that Wes Johnson could not. With a starting lineup of Rubio, Roy, Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic, the Timberwolves have the potential to secure a playoff spot in the 6-8 range. Looking at the state of the Western Conference, the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, and Grizzlies are locks for the playoffs, with the Nuggets, Mavericks, Timberwolves, Jazz, and possibly Golden State competing for those last three playoff spots. The knees of Rubio and Roy will be very important for this team but with Love and Pekovic scoring at will, Kirlilenko and Rubio supplying playmaking and good perimeter defense, a deep bench, and a scoring punch from Roy and Williams, Kahn has assembled a legitimate playoff team.
A year ago I would have though that there was no chance that Kahn would receive a contract extension (I’m not saying he should now), but coupling the development of Rubio, Pekovic and Love with solid free agent signings, Kahn has seemingly quieted many of his critics. Now the players just need to stay healthy and perform up to their potential.
About the Author
Written by Jonathan Fawkes
I was born and raised in Brooklyn but I'm a long suffering Minnesota sports fan (Twins, T'Wolves, Vikings). Looking forward to Teddy Bridgewater, Byron Buxton and Andrew Wiggins bringing a winning culture to Minnesota. Thanks for reading!