Most years, we'd be on board with this. Patrick is a Timberwolves fan and the pure insanity that Kahn has shown over the years is enough to make anyone's blood boil. But this season was different. Kahn almost appeared intelligent in his moves. And for once, Wolves fans had hope. Of course, injuries stole that dream. And with moves like keeping David Kahn after years of ineptitude, only to fire him when he finally makes good moves, I can only say that Wolves fans should not feel that happy.
Kahn was a really good GM this year
Patrick did a great post about David Kahn's good moves this season. It boiled down to the following:
- Ditching Darko and Wes Johnson was really really good.
- Getting Andrei Kirilenko was really really good.
- Instead of wasting a draft pick, getting Budinger was really really good.
- Stiemsma was a good pickup.
And, it should be noted that all of these moves occured before the season started. And all of these were really smart moves. With a decent core of Ridnour, Rubio, Love and Pekoviv, it looked like Kahn had finally surrounded them with the pieces to compete. Patrick said the upper limit could even by 57 games!
I often hear people say injuries in the NBA aren't an excuse. All teams have them and the good teams perservere. With all due respect, that's false on so many levels. First, some players matter more than others. If Chris Bosh goes down, the Heat can still win in the playoffs. In LeBron goes down, are they still favorites in the finals? Second, if a team has injuries to many major players, then it will definitely matter. It's hard enough for a team to pay for a good 5-10 players to win. To expect them to have another 5-10 in waiting on the off chance of major injuries is insane. Let's review that by the way
- Andrei Kirilenko - missed 18 games
- Nikola Pekovic - missed 20 games
- Ricky Rubio - missed 25 games
- Chase Budinger - missed 59 games
- Kevin Love - missed 64 games
We were excited the Wolves finally had multiple top tier players (Kirilenko, Pekovic and Love) and each of them missed a quarter of the season. Love was the major star pulling the Wolves and he went down practically the whoel season. Rubio and Budinger were supposed to help even out this great core. Budinger was lost the whole season and Rubio was out for over a quarter. Patrick's math had this as a very good team. Let's revise it:
[Great Team] - [Star Player] - [1/4 of season for good players] - [Chase Budinger] = [33 Win Team]
It actually seems to line up!
Good decisions that didn't work out
I'd like to point to three decisions that Kahn did this year that seem poor in hindsight but I think were good. Kahn signed Alexey Shved, who played terribly. He signed Greg Stiemsma, who played terribly, and he signed Brandon Roy, who didn't play. So, clearly he messed up, right? No!
Shved is a young player and Kahn signed him for three million a season. Now, maybe he never pans out, but he's young, affordable and his contract was only for three years. Stiemsma played very well in short minutes for the Celtics last season. Kahn signed him for two years for less than five million. Again, young, affordable, possible high ceiling, and short contract. Roy was once very good. Now, it was unlikely he'd return to form. That said, Kahn signed him for five million a season and only one season was guaranteed (based on health). It was a gamble. I risk five million. If I'm right even a small percentage of the time I get a star player. If I'm wrong, I only lose one season of cap space and less than the mid-level exception.
These are great decisions by a GM. We want our GMs to make affordable gambles that have high upside and low downside. Combined these three players cost as much as one season of Beasley cost the Wolves! And if any of them pan out, it's definitely worth it.
Grade decisions not outcomes
The fact that the Wolves waited until the end of the season to fire Kahn shows the major problem. Now, maybe the Wolves just wanted his contract to run out because they didn't want to waste any more money on GMs. But that's the sunk cost fallacy, which Patrick has explained runs rampant in the NBA. The truth is that the Wolves are upset they lost and want to blame someone. Blaming Kahn in prior seasons would have made so much sense. But, if they were going to fire Kahn over that, then they should have done so before this season started! If a season of making the completely right moves was not going to save his job, then why keep him around? The truth is sad. Teams don't understand what wins games and as such are poor at evaluating decisions. And as long as that's true of the Wolves, they'll rely on luck to win games. Of course, that strategy has oddly worked out occasionally for them.