By Jon Krawczynski, Published June 25 2009
Timberwolves expected to be major players for tonight's draftMINNEAPOLIS – David Kahn spent the previous five years toiling in the anonymity of the NBA Development League before taking over the Minnesota Timberwolves in May.
In just over a month, he has already managed to position himself as the major player heading into tonight’s draft.
The new Timberwolves president completed a deal with Washington on Wednesday that brought the No. 5 overall pick to Minnesota, giving Kahn four first-round selections going into his first draft at the helm of a franchise.
The Wolves sent guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards and also received forwards Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov. The Wolves now have the fifth, sixth, 18th and 28th selections in the first round, and all the flexibility and options that come with them.
“I felt very strongly that it would be good for the team, for our organization, if we had another high pick,” Kahn said Wednesday. “I felt that this was the time to do it with these two players.”
Miller and Foye will give the Wizards two starting-caliber players with expiring contracts to add to a team that is trying to win right now.
Getting that fifth pick could give the Timberwolves, who are still rebuilding after trading Kevin Garnett to Boston two years ago, enough assets to trade up even higher in the draft. Multiple scenarios were being discussed, and the Wolves could end up sticking with the fifth and sixth picks, Kahn said. But one thing was certain.
“We will not trade 5 and 6 for 2,” Kahn said. “We will not do that, under no circumstances.”
Kahn is trying to reshape a team that has not made the playoffs since 2004. Coincidentally, that was the last time he was employed in the NBA, with the Indiana Pacers. He left the Pacers and served as owner of several NBDL teams before Minnesota owner Glen Taylor handed him the keys to Target Center, and there is no doubting who is driving the car now.
Last week Kahn decided not to bring back coach Kevin McHale, who held Kahn’s job for 15 years before taking over on the bench in December.
Now he has cut ties with Foye, who despite averaging 16.3 points last season never has been able to shed the comparisons to Brandon Roy, Portland’s All-Star guard who was swapped for Foye on draft night in 2006.
And Kahn is just getting started.
“This is only the first period of activity that I anticipate over the next 15-16 months,” Kahn said. “No matter what occurs (in the draft Thursday), training camp doesn’t start Friday. We have all summer to continue to explore some opportunities and to address the roster. And three months is a long time.”
But first things first.
For the first time in franchise history, the Timberwolves have two picks in the top 10. They have needs everywhere except power forward, where they are set with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.
Kahn said Wednesday that he was in talks with Memphis at No. 2 and other teams ahead of the Wolves about possibly moving up in the draft, perhaps to grab Spanish guard Ricky Rubio, Memphis guard Tyreke Evans or UConn center Hasheem Thabeet.
These are the Timberwolves, however, so of course all the excitement generated comes with a caveat. Most analysts and experts view the 2009 draft as one of the weakest in recent memory, with even the hottest prospects showing warts.
Kahn doesn’t buy that evaluation.
“I think some of the players, especially at the top of the draft in the vicinity we’re at, could be really helpful,” he said.
With Miller and Foye gone from the backcourt, Kahn brought in Arizona State guard James Harden on Wednesday afternoon for a last-minute workout.
Whatever they do, Kahn said “it will be my decision.”
It will be the first time he has been in a decision-making role on draft night since serving under Donnie Walsh with the Pacers.
“I’ve been in nine of them. So I kind of know the drill. I wouldn’t say it’s like riding a bike. I’m sure as we approach it there will be some anxiousness. Human nature, right?” Kahn said. “But I think in a good way. I think we’re fairly well-positioned. Based on the way that the draft is laid out, I’m fairly confident stating that we’ll be able to take two pretty good players.”
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