The Minnesota Timberwolves have been involved in quite the soap opera. Like with any struggling small market team, they have been trying to convince their star player, Kevin Love, that he doesn’t need to leave for a bigger market to compete for a championship. However, as the losses continue to mount, there’s a feeling that Love’s spotlight could shine brighter with a move to Los Angeles.
On the surface, this seems like the foreword of “NBA Superstars for Dummies.” But if you dig a little deeper, the almost imminent departure of Love could have been prevented if the franchise had never suffered the wrath of David Kahn.
Kahn’s relationship with Love has been mentioned as frequently as anonymous general manager reports saying Love is leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers. With Love’s rookie deal expiring, Kahn made the unwise decision to keep his max contract in his pocket rather than reward the team’s best player coming off of a career season. This becomes even more laughable when considering he was saving it for Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.
This is enough for Love to leave on this alone, but it’s also the other mistakes that Kahn has made in an attempt to surround his star player with talent. Remember when Kahn took Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry? Of course you do. Remember when Kahn could have turned the Timberwolves into a perennial playoff contender on draft night in 2011? Probably not.
On that fateful night, Kahn made a rare great basketball decision by trading Flynn, the 20th overall pick and a 2012 second round pick for Brad Miller, the 23rd overall pick and the 38th overall pick. As with any draft night deal, all the picks had to be completed before anybody knew how good of a deal this really was. (Spoiler alert: It was a doozy.)
In this deal, the Wolves wound up giving away Donatas Motiejunas with the 20th overall pick. In return, they received top European prospect Nikola Mirotic with the 23rd overall pick and some guy named Chandler Parsons with the 38th pick.
At this point, if Kahn turned off the lights at his Target Center office, the Wolves would probably have many of their current issues solved. Mirotic would be waiting in the wings to form a strong frontcourt with Love and Nikola Pekovic while Parsons and his 38.2 percent clip from 3-point range could have been the wing that the franchise has craved since Wally Sczerbiak was sent out of town.
But that’s not Kahn’s style.
Kahn went into dealer mode and kept trading down. He traded Mirotic’s rights to the Chicago Bulls. He took the pick he received in return (28th overall) to draft Norris Cole and trade him to the Miami Heat. Then he made the biggest mistake of the night by trading Parsons back to the Rockets. This wouldn’t be as bad if Kahn got some assets in return, but for all this trouble he only received cash in an effort to start an ill-fated battle with the Portland Trail Blazers for Nicolas Batum‘s services.
In reality, Kahn should have just been throwing assets and money down a drain while laughing maniacally. He took several pieces of what could have been a playoff contender and traded them for dollars to stuff in an owner’s already loaded wallet. Such a realization becomes painful when his superstar has to rely on J.J. Barea and Corey Brewer as a supporting cast on a nightly basis.
Believe it or not, the situation could get worse if the Timberwolves fail to finish in the worst 13 teams in the NBA. When Kahn felt like doing some more damage in the summer of 2012, he successfully shipped out Wesley Johnson (another Kahn mistake) to the Phoenix Suns — along with a first round pick.
Thankfully, Kahn had the common sense to make it a protected pick, but it only covered the top 13 picks. Yes, if the Timberwolves were unlucky enough to be the last team out of the playoffs, they’d have to relinquish their pick to the Suns. With this team’s history, why wouldn’t it happen during a year where one of the most loaded draft classes in recent memory is taking the stage?
This will be important to remember when Love rejects any last-second offers current president of basketball operations Flip Saunders puts together just over a year from now. If the supporting cast Kahn had inadvertently assembled had stayed together, the Timberwolves may not have been juggernauts, but would at least be on the cusp of legitimacy.
Instead, Timberwolves fans may be heading outside in the middle of a thunderstorm upon seeing Love in a Laker uniform in July 2015 and letting out a bloodthirsty scream toward the heavens…