Transformational was the word a strange guy who keeps making my day used to describe Ricky Rubio on draft night. Yes, David Kahn, you are always selling me something, but, so far, I’m buying it. I have no idea how you landed 18 year old Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio for Mike Miller and the Brandon Roy cursed Randy Foye but you did, you magnificent goofball. Foye and Miller’s contracts were going to be up after the 2009-2010 season and you turned them into franchise changer Ricky Rubio. Yes, you needed a little luck but the fact remains, you pulled it off.
With the fifth pick in the 1995 draft the newly appointed Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale took a skinny 18 year old that became the face of the franchise and a global superstar. With the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft newly appointed David Kahn drafted a skinny 18 year old who has a chance to be the face of the franchise, already is a global superstar and drops a jaw with every dime. There is symmetry here but let’s hope when it comes to symmetry between McHale and Kahn, besides drafting skinny 18 year olds, never the Twain shall meet for pizza again.
David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves also owned the 6th pick in the draft and the selection of Jonny Flynn sent shock waves through the basketball universe. David Kahn had the gall to draft another point guard. The reason why the national media is in a tizzy is not because the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn, it’s because it seems they can’t fathom superstar Ricky Rubio playing in Minnesota. The drafting of Flynn gave them another talking point besides Rubio not wanting to play in the Twin Cities because of the weather or it’s not a big enough market.
Here are the specifics: Ricky Rubio has never stated that he doesn’t want to play in Minnesota. Ricky Rubio has clearly stated in an interview on draft night that he doesn’t care about the cold. The world stated a long time ago that it is cold in New York as well as Minnesota. The Twin Cities continue to be the 13th largest television market in the NBA and continually prove to be overflowing with culture and night life.
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As for the talk of Ricky Rubio not wanting to play with Jonny Flynn, I don’t buy it. The Rubio camp led by agent Donald Fagen are playing hardball with DKV Joventut, the Spanish team Rubio is under contract with for the next two years. All of the hazy details of Rubio’s contract with DKV Joventut seem to change every day but, from what I can tell, Rubio’s best path financially is to get to the NBA as soon as possible and the best path to DKV Joventut paying off their debt to the Spanish IRS is Rubio playing in Minnesota as soon as possible.
Kahn knows the game and his statement about the Timberwolves being willing to wait two years was the perfect move. The Rubio camp should be ecstatic with Kahn for saying the Timberwolves are willing to wait two years and may have even put the words in Kahn’s mouth. The willingness for the Timberwolves to wait puts pressure on the bankrupt DKV Joventut to lower the contract buyout. Otherwise they will end up paying Rubio his measly $100,000 salary and receive none of the millions required to orchestrate a buyout. If Rubio stays two years, they dish out another $100,000 and get nothing. The only scenario making sense is DKV Joventut lowering the buyout from six million to three million, allow Rubio to pay it off over a couple of years and everyone is happy. Rubio’s father’s recent statement that Rubio intends to honor his contract with DKV Joventut is doing nothing but force DKV Joventut’s hand. The troubled team wants the millions, not to be on the hook for another $200,000.
What I’m astounded by is this isn’t reported by the national media who have been trying to find every conceivable way for Rubio not to play for the Timberwolves for the past week. The reality is the Wolves own his rights and unless they get blown away by a trade, he isn’t going anywhere. If DKV Joventut stupidly calls his bluff and Rubio doesn’t come to the states until he’s 20, so be it, which is where Jonny Flynn comes in.
The national media members who think the Timberwolves made a huge blunder by drafting Flynn have an obvious unfamiliarity with the realities of a franchise they haven’t bothered to cover since KG left. When understanding the assets the Wolves have at their disposal the Flynn pick is not guffaw worthy, rather, it’s downright celebratory.
Point guard was by far the best position available in the 2009 NBA draft and it wasn’t even close so Kahn decided to buy two beers at last call instead of one. If you take a look at a 2010 mock draft you will see the point guard well has gone dry until 2011. The consensus top pick in the 2010 draft is true point guard John Wall. After Wall there is only one true PG projected in the first round in Connecticut’s Kemba Walker who’s projected in the 20’s. That’s it. Of course, a couple point guards could emerge during the 2009-2010 NCAA season but there are only two true point guards projected in the second round as well. Willie Warren is the other PG/SG projected in the first round but he is more of a scorer than administrator and a definite tweener.
So, if I’m thinking what Kahn is thinking, and you’re going to wait Rubio out, well, I get in on the point guards while the getting is good. At 5, you have to draft Rubio. No brainer. So here Kahn sits at 6 and, the way I see it, there were only two guys besides Flynn worthy of that pick, SF DeMar DeRozan and SG Stephen Curry. If the Wolves had drafted DeRozan or Curry and Rubio stays in Europe or forces a trade, then Sebastian Telfair would be the starter in 2009-2010 and I think I just puked in my mouth. By selecting Jonny Flynn, Kahn accomplishes a number of things at once.
Kahn isn’t going to be stuck without his future floor general heading into the point guard weak 2010 draft. He has a fan-base energizing starting point guard for the 2009-2010 season in either Jonny Flynn or Ricky Rubio. An even better scenario is the buzz created if they both play in the upcoming season. Kahn has already anointed Ricky Rubio the starter the moment he puts on a jersey but there are plenty of minutes to go around. They each could play 24 minutes at point guard and spend a total of 16 minutes on the court together. That’s 40 minutes, which is a lot for a rookie but Timberwolves rookies are going to be thrown into the fire.
In Flynn, Kahn drafted the player with the highest vertical leap in the draft. Flynn is also considered the best perimeter defender and most NBA ready point guard. He also possesses the biggest basketball heart available in the 2009 draft. Yes, Stephen Curry can shoot but he is not a true point guard and not in the same universe as Flynn when it comes to defense and athleticism. The 5’11 Flynn plays way taller than the 6’3 Curry and isn’t a bad shooter himself.
With two dynamic power forwards in 20 year old Kevin Love and 24 year old Al Jefferson, the Timberwolves need a true point guard more than anything to feed those big men. Some will argue the need for Jefferson to have a shooter on the wing, which is absolutely true, but the Timberwolves have the resources to find a shooter down the road. They may already have one in Wayne Ellington who was considered the second best shooter in the draft behind Curry and possesses SG size at 6’5. Regardless of how Ellington performs, the team has nothing but time to find a shooter. The other thing about Curry is he didn’t want to play in Minnesota. Curry refused to make a trip to Minneapolis before the draft even though Minnesota was in his draft path twice. I’m sure Curry would have been a good company man if drafted but Jonny Flynn wants to be in Minnesota. A true point guard is hard to find and true blue fans know this better than anyone else. So it came down to Flynn and Curry and Kahn picked the biggest asset of the two and I’m getting the feeling that asset is one of David Kahn’s favorite words.
David Kahn will be the first to tell you, it’s all about assets and Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn are huge assets. If Rubio stays in Europe and Flynn performs above expectation, then both of those chips will be huge in the summer of 2010 which is going to equate to the 1849 gold rush when it comes to the talent rich yet point guard-less draft and a free agent class considered the best in NBA history. Now, let’s consider the assets the Wolves have at their disposal. Depending on where Minnesota, Utah and Charlotte finish, the Timberwolves will potentially own three first round picks in the 2010 draft to address needs at C/SF/SG. Plus, upwards to $30 million to spend in the great free agent bonanza of 2010 a week after the 2010 draft concludes. The Wolves aren’t on any superstar’s radar but a scoring SG or SF is something that can be easily attained if you throw enough cash at somebody.
There is a huge disconnect between the national media and the reality of the Timberwolves situation. Let’s put aside the wants of the nation and consider that Kahn may have played this draft perfectly by grabbing the two best true point guards in the draft and two of the 3 best true point guards available until 2011. Is this sinking in ESPN?
Why does anybody care that the Timberwolves didn’t draft a position of need? A team that was on national television a grand total of zero times last season and now everybody has an opinion about how the Wolves should fill out their roster?
The way the national media is spinning this yarn, you’d think the Wolves are a player away from a championship when the reality is (Sebastian Telfair and Bobby Brown are not in this equation) the Timberwolves had ZERO guards going into the NBA draft. How many guards is zero guards?
They came out of the draft with two point guards and 1 shooting guard. Would have it been better if they drafted 2 shooting guards and 1 point guard? Huh? Why? What? This draft was full of point guards. One center was drafted in the first round and the shooting guards/small forwards in the 2009 draft were below average.
In the world of hyperbole, the beast gets what it wants, and that’s Rubio in New York or on the moon, but hyperbole is not a planet where reality exists.