Every Wednesday and Friday between now and the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, FOXSportsNorth.com’s Phil Ervin will take a look back upon the past half-decade of Timberwolves’ selections and grade the front office’s work based on how each draft class has panned out. This is the fourth in a five-part series.
David Kahn’s Target Center office will forever be known as the point of no return.
Not because it contained some portal into the abyss of the netherworld — although some Timberwolves fans might argue it did — but because most of the key personnel moves Minnesota’s former president of basketball operations made simply didn’t pan out. And when he or his predecessor Flip Saunders realized they wouldn’t, it was often too late to generate any type of return via a trade.
The 2011 NBA Draft offers quintessential evidence.
The Wolves finished the previous season with a dismal 17 wins, just two more than their previous total, and Kahn fired coach Kurt Rambis as a result. Minnesota didn’t glean as many draft picks as it had in recent drafts but did have a pair of first-round selections, including the No. 2 overall pick.
But as he did in arguably every draft over which he presided, Kahn whiffed.
First round: Derrick Williams, second overall; Donatas Motiejunas (later traded to Houston), 20th overall
Williams, an athletically imposing, 6-foot-8, 241-pound forward, rose to national prominence in his sophomore season at Arizona, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on the way to second-team all-America accolades. He projected as one of the top players in a 2011 draft class full of skill but not transcendent talent.
After Kahn went with Williams second overall to make him the highest draft pick in Wolves history, players like Jonas Valanciunas, Klay Thompson, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson went off the board. But Kahn liked Williams, whom he thought could be an electrifying power forward once he adjusted to the NBA grind.
There was just one problem: Minnesota already had a marquee power forward. His name is Kevin Love.
That led to a struggle for playing time for Williams when Love was healthy. It also led new coach Rick Adelman to try him at a couple different positions, to no avail.
Ultimately, it caused Saunders to deal him early last season in a trade hardly becoming of a No. 2 overall pick. But by then, teams around the league weren’t going to offer much else.
At 20 — a pick originally belonging to Utah acquired in the Al Jefferson trade — Kahn took Motiejunas and sent him, 2008 No. 6 overall pick Jonny Flynn and a 2012 second-round pick to Houston in exchange for Brad Miller, 2011 second-round pick Chandler Parsons, 2011 first-rounder Nikola Mirotic and a 2013 first-round draft pick.
Miller played 15 games and started one in 2011-12 for Minnesota before being traded in July 2012 to Phoenix, which waived him a month later. Parsons was dealt straight back to Houston for cash.
Second round: No picks
Due to a series of previous trades, the Wolves didn’t have a second-round choice in 2011.
But they didn’t walk away from the second round empty-handed.
In addition to Parsons, Minnesota acquired 28th overall selection Norris Cole, 43rd overall pick Malcolm Lee and cash from Chicago in exchange for the rights to Mirotic. Lee played two seasons in Minnesota before being traded in the 2013 draft, while Cole was immediately traded to Miami in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic, whom the Heat had drafted with the first pick in the second round originally belonging to the Timberwolves.
Bogdanovic, a Croat who plays in the Turkish Basketball League, has yet to play in an NBA game.
So, after a convoluted series of trades and trade-backs agreed upon by Kahn, the Wolves ended up with Williams and a role player in Lee.
Neither are with the franchise anymore.
With Love already in the fold and blossoming into an All-Star, it quickly became apparent Williams’ chances of being traded at some point were high. Following a rookie season in which Williams shot 41.2 percent from the floor and 26.8 from 3-point range while averaging 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 21.5 minutes per game, the rumblings hadn’t gone anywhere.
Hand injuries and knee surgery for Love gave Williams a chance to start 56 games at his more natural position in 201213. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds during his final 33 games, which lent credence to his development but also to his trade value.
So Saunders talked up Williams publicly, even picking up the $6.3 million option on his contract for 2014-15, in order to tack on some extra trade value. On Nov. 26, 2013, Minnesota traded him to Sacramento in a one-to-one exchange for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a defensive-minded forward who had averaged 25. 1 minutes, 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for Milwaukee before being traded to the Kings.
Mbah a Moute appeared in 55 games for the Timberwolves this past season, averaging 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds.
That’s all Minnesota got back for its highest-ever draft selection.
Lee appeared in a total of 35 games spread across two seasons. The Wolves dealt him to the Warriors in last year’s draft, and he was eventually traded to Phoenix and then again to Washington, which waived him before the beginning of the season.