The Wolves continue to wheel and deal talent at a video game like pace. Today, they sent Etan Thomas, a 2010 2nd Round Pick and a conditional 2010 2nd Round Pick to Oklahoma City for Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins. At first, one sees the involved players and most likely yawns. But for a moment, consider the deeper implications. For the fanatics and capologists and capologist wanna-bes out there there's more to this trade than meets the eyes. Why else would either team do it?
For the Zombie Sonics I assume they felt that with their glut of guards and need for a big man the trade made sense. Everyone involved is playing in the final year of their contract so there's no financial obligation beyond this upcoming season. They also probably felt like they were able to condense their roster a bit. Plus, they got a couple of 2nd Round Picks. All valid reasons to make the trade. For the Wolves, they balance a roster short on guards. But that, I suspect, is merely a bi-product. My gut instinct, which is based on Kahn's short but spastic history, tells me this is just another piece to the puzzle. Sure, Chucky Atkins could provide veteran PG council to Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio without demanding many minutes. And sure, Damien Wilkins is a very solid all-around wing player, who on a side note, I've been a big fan of for years. Those things make sense but in the end this trade, just like the Q-Rich deal, will be exposed as another cog in the wheel, another link in the chain, another anal in the analogy.
Consider this, Etan Thomas is slated to make 7.9 mil in 2009-10. Chucky Atkins will make 3.48 mil and Damien Wilkins 3.4, together totaling 6.88 million. Also, only $748,00 of Atkins' salary is guaranteed. Bust a little math, round some stuff for simplicity sake, and you learn that the Wolves are only on the hook for 4.2 million between these two players next year. That means in this trade alone they saved 3.7 million. Given that every rational NBA mind won't try to justify Etan, Chucky or Dominique's Nephew as relevant, the Wolves essentially just sold one or maybe two 2nd Round Picks for 3.7 million buckarooss. The Zombies no doubt have their reasons, but I gotta appreciate the savy by David Kahn on this one.
Sure, the average fan will say "Who cares about Glen "Billionaire" Taylor saving a few dollars. Why don't they trade for some real talent instead of lining their pockets?" At any other point throughout the last ten seasons I probably would have agreed with them. But these are different times. The ill-conceived, penny pinching, blind leading the blind, mediocrity inducing ways of McHale/Taylor are officially dead. This is the Kahn/Taylor Era and we can all plainly see who wears the pants in this relationship. To his credit, Taylor recognized he had completely lost touch with modern day basketball and did what he had to do to fix that. Also to his credit, he went with the guy he liked and not who the fans were clamouring for (David Kahn never would have been hired had the fans had any say). A third and final credit to Taylor, he has stayed completely out of the way. Hardly a peep from the guy since Kahn was hired. Kahn still has a lot to prove as a talent evaluator, but as I've said over and over again, it's at the very least refreshing to be under leadership that you trust is making things happen and not just accepting what comes to them.
FUN FACT: Including the two most recent acquisitions today and the inevitable hiring of a new head coach, over the past 5 seasons (2004 - present) the Wolves have acquired the rights or hired 72 different players and head coaches. I repeat, 72 players/head coaches since 2004. Definitely not the trademark of a winning franchise, but amazing nonetheless. That's roughly the equivalent of six complete roster revolutions. Don't believe me, check this link:
(Seriously, check it out. It'll be a trip down memory lane, with unfortunately too many bad memories).
THE WOLVES WILL BE THE WORST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE NEXT YEAR AND IT WONT EVEN BE CLOSE
This is a common sentiment I've been hearing and reading lately and I'd like to take a brief moment to refute it. I've got no illusions of a playoff berth or even a +.500 record, but I see no reason why this team won't exceed last year's win total. Leaving Rubio and Rodney Carney out of the equation for the moment as their situations are currently unresolved, the only main contributors they lost are Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Sebastian Telfair. On the flip, they've added Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington and Quentin Richardson. Foye lost the team more games than he helped win. That's a fact. Miller was an enigma and I wouldn't at all be surprised if Wayne Ellington proves more valuable. At the very least, Q-Rich will match his production. I really believe that Jonny Flynn will be in the top three for Rookie of the Year if Rubio doesn't come over and substantially better than Telfair in every facet of the game. And most importantly, Al Jefferson missed half of last season. If he doesn't do that this year I see no reason why this team is not only way more entertaining, but also just flat out better.
David Kahn spent most of last week in Spain meeting with Rubio and his people. Everyone has been really quiet since then, which could either be a good thing or a bad thing. David Stern is sending a team of league salary cap officers over this week to iron some more stuff. Again, could be good, could be bad.
Down to three, according to most sources. There may be an announcement by the end of this week. The next Wolves head coach will most likely be Kurt Rambis (Lakers Assistant), Mark Jackson (Analyst) or Elston Turner (Rockets Assistant). All three have pros and I'd have a hard time criticizing any of them right off the bat, as I don't know enough about them. I have heard that Kahn's philosophy on head coaches is to get a guy the players like and will play for, which explains the Rambis and Jackson factors. Assistants can handle the technicalities but a head coach needs to get through to the players over the course of an 82 game schedule.