I think that it's pretty safe to say that John Wall and Evan Turner will not be left on the board when it comes time for the Wolves to make the #4 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. However, there are plenty of players remaining on the radar, and, unless Trader Kahn has a trick up his sleeve, the player the Wolves choose with their #4 pick will play a very large role in the Wolves' chances of returning to respectability.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this post, let's take a second to get a good feel for the Wolves' current situation. Myself and many others have gone over ad nauseum why this off-season is THE most important since Sammy C and Spree came to the Twin Cities, but I'll offer a refresher anyway.
#1 - We owe the Clippers an unprotected 2012 1st round draft pick. After this season, the Wolves have ONE more chance to turn things around before both our rebuilding plan and the psyche of the ten remaining members of the fanbase suffer a critical blow. (Thanks, McHale) Needless to say, it's nearly impossible to go from the basement to the playoffs in a single season, so the Wolves need to start getting things turned around ASAP. Next off-season is not the time to try and pull the game-changing move.
#2 - For the foreseeable future, the Wolves aren't going to have as much cap space as they do now. Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Johnny Flynn, Wayne Ellington... Those guys are all on rookie salaries and won't be for much longer. The Wolves also have seven contracts that have expired. Other than Big Al, the Wolves don't have anybody making more than Ryan Gomes' $3.9M, and even he has a team option on his contract, allowing him to be cut loose. The bottom line is that if we roll that cap room over to next season there will only be less of it for us to work with.
#3 - The 2010 Free Agent crop is the strongest in NBA history. Now is the time to buy if you're in the market for a free agent, because there won't be better ones coming along any time soon. Just like the Wolves will have less cap space in 2011, they will also have a much poorer selection of possible acquisitions to choose from.
#4 - We all know that the owners in the NBA are losing tons and tons of money. The Wolves haven't been relevant in half a decade. The Target Center is an empty cavern on most nights. You have to sell a serious amount of tickets to pay for even Al Jefferson's $12M/year contract, let alone all the other players, coaches, and staff. I think it's safe to say that Glen Taylor lost money last season. He's still made a bundle due to the inflation of the team's value since he purchased it in the mid-90's, but at what point do the Wolves become a liability? If the Wolves continue to lose both on the court and in the wallet, there comes a time when any sensible business man decides to close up shop. Given the state of affairs in Minnesota, if that happens, I'm guessing it won't be to an owner who's intending to keep the team up North.
Are the stakes high enough for you? I can't say that I envy David Kahn. The weight of the franchise rests squarely on his shoulders this summer. To his credit, he isn't taking this burden lightly and has been burning up the phones. Rumors are that he even called the Los Angels Sparks regarding a possible draft pick swap. With that in mind, predicting what will happen in Thursday's draft, July's free-agency, or in the Trade Mill is going to be next to impossible. So instead of prognosticating about some crazy swap of Big Al for a wing, or trading every asset we own for Evan Turner, I'm going to focus on something much more simple. What if we just keep the #4 pick?
The way I see it, if you're picking fourth this season, there are only three realistic options. Depending on what New Jersey does, only two of these three options will be available to Kahn when it's our turn to pick. I'll go over the pro's and con's of each selection and ultimately weigh in on what I believe the Wolves should do.
Option #1 - Wes Johnson
Wes Johnson is the player who has been linked to the Wolves more than any other draftee this summer. He fills a big need for the team as the Wolves are extremely weak at both SF and in the jump-shooting department in general. He's a quality individual who seems like a natural leader. It's hard not to like the guy after listening to one of his interviews. The big question is whether or not Wes can provide the Wolves with the "star" quality that their roster lacks. Many feel that with Johnson, the Wolves would simply be adding a young role player to a roster already filled with young role players.
Fills a need on the team
Can't create his own shot
Relatively old for a rookie
Best Case: The next Shawn Marion
Most Likely: The next Wally Szczerbiak
Wolves outlook: The #4 pick is the Wolves best opportunity to do something truly franchise-altering. By drafting Wes Johnson, the Wolves would be playing it safe and basically resting the future of the franchise on Kahn's ability to swing a major trade this off-season. Well, either that or landing a top-tier free agent. (Don't hold your breath) If neither of those two pan out, it's now up to the ping pong gods to save the franchise in 2011. Either the Wolves finally get some luck, or it's "Hello Las Vegas Lobos!".
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