Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Man with a Plan

Maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe years of watching The Ostrich have diluted my senses. Maybe I just like seeing the Timberwolves in the news all the time. Whatever the reason might be, I like the way David Kahn has taken control of this franchise and is beginning to mold it into his vision. Is it guaranteed to work? Of course not. But Kahn seems like a man with a plan and he is determined to carry it out. Compared to the way the Wolves (or any other Minnesota sports franchise) have gone about business in the past, this is a welcomed change—be it successful or not.

Great player; No clue how to run a team

This new approach all started with the decision not to bring back Kevin McHale as head coach (or any other front office position for that matter). McHale, who could easily be described as the most hated man in the history of Minnesota professional sports, had long been blamed by the fan base for the team’s failures. Much of this blame was deserved. McHale botched draft picks, gave out horrific contracts (some illegal), had no eye for talent, and was unable/unwilling to surround the franchise’s greatest player with even serviceable teammates. Though his time as VP of Basketball Operations had been over with since midseason, Kahn decided that the team needed to rid itself of his services entirely. I’d say this is a brilliant move: distance the team from its unsuccessful past while endearing yourself to the fan base by getting rid of their villain.

The start of a new beginning

The next step revolved around the draft. The Wolves entered the 2009 NBA Draft with four first-round picks: one from their 08-09 record, two from previous trades, and one from Kahn getting rid of core players Randy Foye and Mike Miller. If you’re starting a major rebuilding project, a gluttony of early draft picks is a great way to begin. On top of that, Kahn was getting rid of failed McHale-era players and basically starting from scratch. With their picks, the team selected the draft’s most marketable player (Rubio), a stud point guard (Flynn), another talented point guard (Lawson), and a deadly three-point shooter (Ellington). They then traded Lawson for an additional 2010 first-round pick (likely giving them three total in next year’s draft). While the results on the court are yet to be determined, you’d have to say that the draft was a success. The team got the new potential face of the franchise in Rubio, and a couple of young guns who will get plenty of playing time to prove their merit. They also rid themselves of anything linking the “new” Wolves with anything from their unsuccessful past. Additionally, they set themselves up to add a lot more young talent in next year’s draft.

A concern for all NBA teams

As a fan, I would have been very content if that was the end of our offseason movement. But Kahn’s plan was not over yet. Sure, he’d cleaned house and was starting anew with a very young team, but that’s only one side of running an NBA franchise. The other side deals with money. One problem that a ton of franchises have is that they’ve paid too much money for inferior players and are in risk of having to pay a luxury tax because of it. Kahn (wisely) decided that a team that struggles to get fans to come to games and sell season tickets probably shouldn’t be wasting its money on luxury taxes. So he dumped serviceable players such as Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen, and Etan Thomas (acquired in the Foye/Miller trade) for Quentin Richardson, Damien Wilkins, and Chucky Atkins—all of whom have bad contracts that expire after the season and free up a lot of money for the team to sign free agents (be them their own or others). While these aren’t front page/SportsCenter type moves, they are intelligent and necessary for properly running a franchise (something McHale never quite figured out).

Crunch will lead us in the right direction

So are the Wolves done making moves? Is Kahn is eyeing a couple of free agents that he’s hoping to sign on the cheap (or use the mid-level exception on) or planning on bringing in some veteran presence to have off the bench and mentor the Timberpups? Are there more cap-friendly moves on the way? Will he be able to work out a deal and get Rubio to come and be the new face of the franchise? Most importantly, will any of this actually work? Only time will give us the answers to these questions. What we do know is that Hurricane Kahn has swept through a doormat of a franchise that was loaded with bad contracts and underachieving players and has left in its wake a young (albeit rebuilding) franchise that is monetarily sound and set to add more young talent in the future. And I, for one, am excited about the direction this franchise is moving.

1 comment:

Shawn Bradley Guy said...

Amen...the quotes in our local papers suggest that he's not nearly done yet moving people during this off-season. Why is Bill Simmons ripping him as having a "shaky start"? Is he just bitter he didn't get the job.