After a scathing post-draft article in 2008, I feel I owe the Timberwolves a moment of praise following their masterful 2009 effort. Let the haters say what they will, Kahn took the two best players on the board with his back-to-back #5 and #6 picks. When you’re a team in the middle of a major rebuilding phase and you can use help at nearly every position, you draft the best player available. Period.
Right now, the focus on the Timberwolves needs to be acquiring as many assets as possible, first, and wondering how those assets fit together, second. There’s plenty of opportunity to fill in the gaps and exchange parts through free-agency and trades. The Wolves are far better off parlaying Johnny Flynn into a proven young veteran shooting guard via a trade, than trying to make due with Stephen Curry if they really weren’t convinced about his game. The undeniable truth is that, two years ago, this Timberwolves franchise was in draft-pick debt, cap-strapped beyond repair, and had one tradeable asset – Kevin Garnett. After last night, we now have four very hot commodities – Jefferson, Love, Rubio, and Flynn, have potentially three first-round picks in 2010, and tons of cap flexibility. Kahn has the world on a string and will be involved in practically every trade conversation requiring a third party for the next year or two. Not since the days of KG, Steph, and Googs has the future looked so bright in Minnesota.
As far as all the talk of Rubio and Flynn not being able to co-exist goes, I find it to be quite short-sighted. I agree that Kahn’s scheme to play both guys at the same time is a pipe-dream, much like the Love/Jefferson front-court that was hyped following the Mayo swap. The pairings may work in short bursts or in certain situations, but, in general, the Wolves will be much better off with a true shooting guard next to Ricky and a center next to Big Al. However, nobody plays 48 minutes per game. Having Flynn come off the bench ensures that the Wolves will have solid play at the point throughout the entire game. Finding a quality point guard is perhaps the most important, and probably the hardest, part of building a contending team. Kahn can now check that box on his to-do list and focus on filling out our shooting guard, small forward, and center positions.
Finally, a lot of people have stated that the Wolves have somehow shown a “lack of confidence” in Rubio by drafting Flynn, which has caused the young phenom to want out of Minnesota. My bet is that this is a bunch of smoke being blown by talking heads looking for an interesting post-draft story, and a typical ploy by the New York media following a draft in which they missed out on every player they wanted. Regardless of whether or not he feels threatened by Flynn, the bottom line is that if Ricky Rubio wants to play in the NBA – and he does – he’s going to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves. If he wants to go play in Spain for a year or two and work on his game, he can be our guest. In America, the Timberwolves hold his rights.
If Kahn is smart, and thus far he’s done nothing to make me think otherwise, he’ll continue to hold on to them and ignore the trade hype that everyone now seems to eager to spew. Ricky Rubio is a once in a generation talent, and, at the moment, I can count on one hand the number of players I’d accept as compensation for him (LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, Chris Paul, and maybe Bosh). I’m not saying that Dwane Wade, or Deron Williams, or a handful of players aren’t better than Rubio, but Ricky is one of a kind. If you trade away Ricky, you’re never going to be able to replace him. As large of a haul as Kahn may be able to receive in a Rubio deal, I’d much rather see him hang onto Ricky and try to acquire those important pieces with our other assets. Rubio’s a special player, and if he’ll simply embrace the people of Minnesota, the T-Wolves nation is more than willing to make him our superstar.
At the end of the day, the Timberwolves took their 5th and 6th picks, and, without making a trade, managed to walk away with my #1 (Rubio) and #4 (Flynn) prospects in this draft. How anyone could possibly call this outcome a failure or cause for concern is beyond me. Outside of the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Magic, I can’t think of a single team in the league with as many assets or as much potential as the T-Wolves. We’re certainly not ready to contend with the likes of those three, but the plan to get us there is fully in motion. Al Jefferson is a beast, Kevin Love is a work horse, Ricky Rubio has basketball in his DNA, and I’m already beginning to form a KG-ish man-crush on Johnny Flynn. We’ve got picks galore. We’ve got nearly an entire roster of expiring contracts. And most importantly, we finally, after five long years, have a future.