David Kahn was hired as the Timerwolves president of basketball operations on May 22, 2009. The Timberwolves had gone 24-58 during the 2008-09 season and had lost an enormous amount of money. The two main edicts from owner Glen Taylor to Kahn were clear:
One, get a decision from Kevin McHale on whether he wanted to return as the coach only; and two (and most importantly), get the payroll in order.
McHale had been running the team as the vice president of basketball operations for 14 years. He had coached the final 63 games (20-43) of the 2008-09 season. There was never much chance Kevin was going to work for his successor, but that still was out there when Kahn took the job.
The 2009 draft is remembered as a Kahn embarrassment, even though he had been on the job for only 34 days and was relying on McHale's basketball people to rate the players. The Wolves took three point guards in that draft: Ricky Rubio at No. 5, Jonny Flynn at No. 6 and Ty Lawson at No. 18 in a prearranged deal with Denver.
Rubio stayed in Spain for two years, which proved an advantage for his game and for the Timberwolves. Flynn turned out to be a non-shooter and thus a non-player. Lawson is terrific, although the chance that the Wolves would have taken a third point guard if they had been drafting for themselves at No. 18 is nil.
Kahn said Thursday during a radio interview that Flynn was rated No. 1 by the Wolves scouts among available point guards in the 2009 draft. If so, the scouts were dead wrong, and Kahn should have been looking for advice elsewhere.
It should be remembered in savaging the Flynn choice that Kahn and his scouts did make a good trade on the day before the draft to get the No. 5 pick to go with the No. 6 that Wolves held. They traded Mike Miller (and his $9 million salary) and Randy Foye ($2.8 million) to Washington for three warm bodies and the fifth pick.
The coach on the other end of that trade was Flip Saunders, newly hired in Washington. This was the lead on the Washington Post's story the day after the trade:
"When Washington Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld approached coach Flip Saunders about the possibility of acquiring Mike Miller and Randy Foye from the Minnesota Timberwolves, he didn't have to make a hard sell. Saunders, the former Timberwolves coach, still has a residence in suburban Minneapolis and spent his season away from coaching watching his former team on a regular basis.
"Because he was familiar with the strengths of both players, Saunders was immediately on board. 'If we can get those two guys,' Saunders recalled telling Grunfeld, 'it's almost a no-brainer.' ''
Let's hope Flip is wiser in his new role as Kahn's replacement than he was four years ago in endorsing a trade to add the washed-up Miller as a $9 million player.
For Kahn, the Washington trade did a great deal toward getting the payroll in order, as Glen Taylor had insisted.
The Timberwolves concluded the 24-victory 2008-09 season with Al Jefferson, Mark Madsen and Jason Collins (whatever happened to him?) as centers, rookie Kevin Love, Craig Smith, Shelden Williams and Brian Cardinal as power forwards, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes and Rodney Carney as small forwards, Miller and Foye as off guards, and Sebastien Telfair, Kevin Ollie and Bobby Brown as point guards.
The Timberwolves concluded the 31-victory season of 2012-13 with Nikola Pekovic, Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson as centers, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and an injured Love at power forwards, Andrei Kirilenko and Mickael Gelabele as small forwards, Chase Budinger as small forward/ off guard, Luke Ridnour as point guard/ off guard, Alexey Shved and injured Malcolm Lee as off guards, and Rubio and J.J. Barea as point guards.
Have the Timberwolves screwed up personnel opportunities on several occasions in the past four years? Yes.
Are the Timberwolves better off in May 2013 than they were in May 2009? Also, yes.