Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn gets a bad rap, particularly for his head-scratching draft selections and questionable free agent signings.
While Kahn angered many fans with a lot of his moves, he is responsible for many of the team’s fan-favorite players.
In the 2009 NBA Draft, Kahn selected three point guards in the first round and shortly after traded the third, Ty Lawson, to the Nuggets. Jonny Flynn, the second point guard selected, is currently out of the NBA at age 23.
On the bright side, the Timberwolves finally ended up with Ricky Rubio—the first point guard selected by Kahn—a few years later.
Part of Kahn’s master plan consisted of him drafting players and signing free agents, all to later turn around and trade them for basically nothing. Kahn’s most infamous signing was when Darko Milicic was handed an unwarranted four-year $20 million contract. Milicic was later designated the amnesty waiver with two years and $10 million remaining on his contract.
ESPN writers Chad Ford and John Hollinger (now Grizzlies’ president of player operations) called his tenure “baffling” in 2010.
Kahn may have baffled the media and fans, but somewhere in all those moves he ended up with center Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic was drafted a year before Kahn took over, but Kahn is responsible for talking Pekovic into joining the club in 2010.
Then again, Kahn reportedly tried to trade away Pekovic on at least three different occasions.
Kahn’s best offseason
Even though the Timberwolves are having a disappointing season, Kahn made most of his better moves this past offseason.
Let’s look at them:
Kahn traded guard Wayne Ellington to the Grizzlies for forward Dante Cunningham. Cunningham, under contract for two years at $4.09 million, is one of the team’s most consistent players. With forward Kevin Love out, Cunningham is easily doing his part to patch the front-court with his hustle and defense.
Alexey Shved is playing like a top-10 draft pick and Kahn signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Russia. Shved is signed to a three-year $9.45 million deal, which is a steal for the production he provides.
Even though Kahn was unable to pry away Nicolas Batum from Portland, he lured and signed forward Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year $20 million contract. It is probably a good thing that Minnesota ended up with Kirilenko instead of Batum. Kirilenko is a wonderful defensive presence, having a great overall season for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves traded their first round pick for forward Chase Budinger. Budinger, under contract for less than a million, provides the depth that Minnesota really needs. Budinger’s knee injury is not Kahn’s fault.
The signings of guard Brandon Roy and big men Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson did not turn out quite well as the others. Stiemsma and Amundson, in theory, should have added a defensive presence to the team’s front-court. Some would argue that Stiemsma is playing exactly the role that he was signed for, but has been forced to play significant minutes due to injuries to Love and Pekovic.
The story of Roy is quite sad, but not unexpected. It was reported that Timberwolves team doctors never got the chance to inspect Roy before his signing. Kahn essentially tossed away $5 million in valuable cap space that could have been used elsewhere.
Future for Kahn
Some are surprised Kahn made it through even last season. He has made some moves early in his tenure as the decision maker to merit a change in the front office.
At times Kahn leaves you baffled and at times even angered, but he also brought Rubio, Pekovic, Shved and others to Minnesota. This past offseason could be a sign that this team is headed in the right direction. Even with how the signings of Roy and Amundson turned out, this team was projected to make the playoffs.
The Timberwolves have been haunted by injuries to key players, which makes it difficult to judge the team that Kahn has compiled this season. Kahn may have made some bad moves in the past, but fans may need to see a full season with a healthy Rubio, Love, and Budinger before they call for his head.