Kahn must act now, or it's over
Well, finally, it's done.
The Minnesota Timberwolves just completed another flop of a season, and Kurt Rambis has a record of 32-132 in his two years as head coach.
Added to the misery of a season that finished 17-65, is that Minnesota dropped its last 15 games.
Ugly, depressing stuff. And the kind of stuff that leaves this franchise wondering where to start in order to change this mess.
Well, the most obvious beginning is the head coach. Rambis, who seems full of intelligence and cool (he speaks well and he doesn't seem to rattle), has nonetheless shown that he is not cut out to be an NBA head coach — at least not this team's.
The Wolves, who sported a much younger and more athletic roster this season, were actually sparking some interest early in the year. Newcomer forward Michael Beasley had some monster scoring games, power forward Kevin Love was a double-double machine all year, and rookie Wesley Johnson showed promise with his shooting stroke and overall athletic ability.
But none of those bright spots added up to winning games. What we got instead was a team that hung with just about everybody for the first two thirds of the season, but always found ways to lose games down the stretch. Turnovers were a consistent killer, as was a complete lack of team defense. Yes, the Wolves showed they had a bunch more scoring capability this season, but when you turn the ball over at crucial times and you can't defend, you're not going to win much.
They didn't, and for those mistakes, the incredibly young Wolves players were only partly to blame. The rest of the blame has to go to the head coach, Rambis, who should and will get canned in the coming weeks. You can't coach a team that continually makes the same mistakes and not be culpable for it.
There are also those who are calling for general manager David Kahn's head. I say it is too soon to get rid of Kahn. He promised to bring the Wolves a younger, longer and more talented team this year, and he did that. He also must be credited for bringing in two talented players via trades who came at little cost — Beasley and fellow forward Anthony Randolph. For Beasley they gave up a second-round pick, and for Randolph they shed Corey Brewer. I'd do both of those trades again in a heartbeat.
True, Kahn has also made his blunders. The most ghastly of them is drafting point Jonny Flynn instead of point guard Stephon Curry two years ago. Curry looks like an all-star, while Flynn looks like an immense bust. That move ranks with the Foye-for-Roy trade that Kevin McHale stuck us with a number of years ago. The kind that stings for a decade.
Still, Kahn has made more good moves than bad ones in his short time on the job, including shedding the team of some bad contracts, giving it plenty of room to sign a free agent or two this summer (now he has to DO IT), drafting Johnson, and bringing in Beasley and Randolph.
But the onus is firmly on him now to take things up a gigantic step this off-season. That starts with hiring the right coach (how about tough-minded former Timberwolf player and former Toronto coach Sam Mitchell). From there he needs to make the right moves on draft night. The Wolves are assured of picking no later than fourth overall. That's a good spot to be in, in a draft that looks about four players deep, though with no obvious franchise player to be found.
The ridiculously young Wolves would be best served by trading that pick (it could be as high as No. 1) for an established borderline-star veteran player who can defend. My pick would be 6-foot-6 Philadelphia shooting guard Andre Iguodala, a terrific athlete who is tough, strong, unselfish and an elite defender. Sure, he is not an elite scorer (about 16 ppg.), but this team seems in decent shape already in terms of scoring.
The other move that has to happen is to get Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio to agree to play here next year. Minnesota has the rights to his services, but the potential for an NBA lockout might dissuade him from coming stateside next year. The Wolves, who are desperate for help at point guard, need the pass-first Rubio here, and Kahn must make that happen. Not only would Rubio help get the team get some easy buckets with his ability to drive and dish, but he would immediately starting putting butts in the seats with his flashy, stylish play.
Then, Kahn must bring the Wolves a free-agent center who is athletic, tough and competitive. In other words, he must be everything that current Wolves start Darko Milicic is not. Impending free agent Tyson Chander of the Dallas Mavericks comes immediately to mind. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, can move and loves to dunk and block shots.
Make those moves, and next year's staring lineup would look like this: Rubio, Iguodala, Beasley, Love and Chandler. Your bench players would be: Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster, Johnson, Randolph and Milicic.
And your coach would be a butt-kicker: Mitchell.
Those are moves that would make Wolves fans interested again. Now it's up to Kahn to make such things happen.
— Pat Ruff