When Tuesday's NBA draft lottery was about to hit the home stretch, the reps from the three teams still alive -- Minnesota, Utah and Cleveland -- were asked to step onto the stage of the NBA's studio in Secaucus, N.J.
The Wolves president of basketball operations knew then he had no chance.
David Kahn was standing there with Utah General Manager Kevin O'Connor and 14-year-old Nick Gilbert -- the son of Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and a young man battling a rare nerve disorder. "I did tell [O'Connor] ... as soon as the 14-year-old kid joined us, we were toast," Kahn said. "There was no way the 14-year-old was about to be denied in a league that has a habit of compelling story lines."
He was joking, folks. Kahn was not suggesting that Cleveland's getting the top pick right after losing LeBron James -- and with a first-round choice acquired in a trade with the Clippers! -- was anything other than lottery luck. Cleveland was the big winner, ending up with the first and fourth picks. Utah also jumped up into the lottery, finishing third.
By finishing second, the Wolves might have been toast, but they didn't get burned, either. It's the team's highest finish in 14 trips to this lottery.
Kahn has the second pick in what is generally considered a two-player draft, with Duke guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams considered the top two. And while Kahn took issue with any ranking done this early in the draft process, he did allow that the Wolves have some leverage to make moves in the coming weeks.
"We have a lot of flexibility," Kahn said. For a couple of reasons. First, Kahn still believes he has a roster filled with young players with potential and potential value. Second, with such a young team, the Wolves have salary cap flexibility to adjust their roster in several ways: through the draft, in trade or via free agency once a new labor deal is done.
Kahn, of course, was vague about what lies ahead. He gave no details of his recent trip to Spain to talk with point guard Ricky Rubio, even though how that situation pans out will have a huge impact on the Wolves' draft-day decisions. But Kahn did say he wanted to "stabilize'' his point guard situation and add some leadership and experience to his young roster.
He now appears to have the chips to do so. Whether the Wolves finished first or second, the obvious choice would have been at point guard, where the team already has a pile of players. Jonny Flynn is widely regarded to be on the trading block, the Wolves still own the rights to Rubio, and Luke Ridnour is the veteran backup. At forward -- whether Williams fits best at the small or big slot -- the Wolves have numbers in Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson and Anthony Randolph.
So Kahn has options. Assuming Irving goes to Cleveland, perhaps there is a team looking to move up to get Williams. If Kahn likes somebody else who could be acquired by a lower pick -- Turkish big man Enes Kanter, for example -- he might be inclined to trade down. Of course, none of those decisions will be made for a while. Teams will analyze rookies at the upcoming combine in Chicago. Then there will be individual workouts and interviews.
Kahn said he felt this draft had some depth, but he wasn't ready to anoint Irving and Williams as the top two.
"I think the depth [of the draft class] is actually quite strong," he said. "I don't have a feel yet for the top of the draft. There is so much more to come. ... Even though the calendar says [the draft] is not far away, it's eons away from where we sit tonight."
Kahn sounded like a fellow fairly happy with how things turned out. As he mentioned, the Wolves had a 25 percent chance of winning the top pick, a 75 percent chance of finishing second through fourth. And the Wolves also own the 20th pick in the first round, thanks to a pick that came to Minnesota from Utah in the Al Jefferson trade.
"We know what our pick is now," Kahn said. "This is the starting gun for the offseason."