The free agent madness begins in t-minus two days and the Wolves have been gearing up to make a splash. Kahn has been outspoken that he thinks that the Timber Puppies are serious players in this summer’s market. Never have the Wolves been buyers during free agency; they usually just look for trades to upgrade — or usually downgrade — their roster. But Kahn says this year things will be different.
While I don’t think the Wolves have a shot at the “Big 3,” — Lebron, Bosh and Wade — they do have a chance to sign some supporting players or even one of the second tier guys. Amar’e Stoudemire, David Lee and Rudy Gay won’t get max contracts — maybe Stoudemire but I don’t think so — so they have a better chance at landing in Minny. But, ultimately, the weight of reeling in a big-name free agent relies heavily on the shoulders of David Kahn. Will Kahn be able to use his secret ability to sweet talk a free agent into playing for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs for six years?
Wooing free agents is not my job, thank god. My job is to criticize and create scenarios in which the Wolves could ultimately benefit from a free agent signing long-term. So taking what it is already assumed about this upcoming free agency period, it’s time to look at Kahn’s goals. But with all the evil luck that has suffocated this team since the start of its existence, Kahn needs to have contingency plans for when his initial goals turn to mush, because they most likely will.
Let’s start with Darko:
1. Kahn wants to re-sign Darko
This is a smart move. It’s hard to believe that the Serbian center was drafted ahead of Melo and others a full seven years ago. But Darko is still only 25 and showed glimpses last season as to why he was the #2 overall pick in 2003. Will he ever prove his worthiness with the Melo’s of that draft? Hell no. But can he still be a solid starter in this league for years to come? You betcha!
Re-signing Darko would be a huge confidence builder for all parties involved: Kahn, Glen Taylor and the fans. Darko would solidify our front court and hold down the paint on the defensive end. If he continues to work on his post game, he could even prove to be a threat underneath that may demand double teams, which in turn opens up the court a bit for our new sharpshooters outside. The only problem is that we don’t need three big men starting. Whether its Love or Big Al, one of them will be on its way out of town when Darko puts pen to paper. This may not necessarily be a bad thing but it does create more work and stress for Kahn, even though we could get something good in return for either Love or Big Al.
But what happens if Darko says, “Forget it, I’m going back to Serbia” in that deep, foreign voice?
Contingency plan: Sign Tyson Chandler
Darko leaves and we get screwed? No way, not if they go after another legit 7-footer that will hold down the defensive paint like a champ. Chandler fits the mold of what the Wolves are looking forward in a center: a man with size, strong defensive abilities and experience. Again, Chandler, only 27, would give the Wolves experience in the paint but they won’t have to sacrifice their love for youthful talent.
I will say this, though; Chandler is not yet a free agent. This contingency plan is strictly going off the rumor that Chandler is serious about foregoing his player option with Charlotte, which would then make him an unrestricted free agent. Chandler would certainly be an easy target for the Wolves and could be considerably cheap compared to other free agents, but I mean cheap compared to the big-namers. Chandler would be the only true center in free agency, so his name could be more sought after than I’m expecting. But that’s why this is just a back-up plan! Re-sign Darko!
2. Sign Pekovic; Trade Big Al:
Nikola Pekovic seems to be a major target of Kahn’s this summer. After all, he was a part of Kahn’s pitch to woo fans into believing a brighter future. So without actually signing him, when will the future actually come? Or will it ever come true?
Signing Pekovic — and hopefully Darko — automatically means a trade must be made for Big Al. I firmly believe that Big Al has the tools and wherewithal to have an enormous season but trading him could ultimately be the right move. After testing the market before the draft, the Wolves found out the market for Big Al is there but not biting on the bait quite yet. What needs to happen is that the Wolves ought to sweeten the deal a little more. Say we package Big Al and Ramon Sessions and ship them to Houston for Kevin Martin and a first rounder. Somehow the deal needs to be sweetened, whether it means throwing in Sessions or another player, Big Al should be moved within weeks. With Big Al out of town, Kevin Love can work his way into a starting role and Pekovic can slide in behind Love and back him up next season.
There are a couple problems in the way of signing Pekovic, though: He wants to win a championship with Olypiacos and he wants nearly $7 million a year for the next 3-4 years.
Contingency Plan: Keep Big Al
The Wolves could very well decide that Big Al’s market just isn’t there and giving him away isn’t in their right mind. If Pekovic decides to stay one more year, the Wolves could hold onto Al, who may be primed for a bounce-back season in 2010-11.
Really, if Pekovic decides that this year isn’t his time, the Wolves don’t have to do much at all. It would put a damper on creating more cap space because Al’s big money would still be in the books but his production may very well be worth while and we wouldn’t have to worry about taking on Pekovic’s desire for gaudy money.
3. Sign a “big-namer”:
I’ve already said that you will not see Lebron, Bosh or Wade in a T-Wolves jersey next year but as you know, this free agent class may be the best of all time because it doesn’t end with those three guys. Rudy Gay was quickly identified as the Wolves’ top target, but after Kahn’s draft day splendor in small forwards, Gay seems to be a little far fetch’d. He could still be a target as a sign-and-trade victim with Memphis where the Wolves would give a few of the small forwards away that we acquired on draft night. But outside of Gay, there are still a few guys that could catch Kahn’s eye.
Nearly 13 months ago, when Kahn took over, Amar’e Stoudemire was on his radar. Might he be again this summer? I think so. David Lee could fit in nicely alongside Love because he is more defensively sound than Big Al currently is. Tyrus Thomas is a restricted free agent but acquiring him would upgrade our athleticism and defense immediately.
There are quite a few guys that Kahn could single out as the Wolves’ top free agent this summer. Since our wing positions our pretty busy, a move of Big Al would automatically open up a spot for a free agent big-man to come in and replace him.
Contingency plan: Don’t sign big and save cap space for next summer
How boring, right? And how stupid. Not taking advantage of this summer’s market is a no-no and Kahn knows this. Next summer’s crop isn’t nearly as enticing, being led by Carmelo Anthony, who is actually working on a contract extension with Denver now.
So it really comes down to this: There is no back-up plan for if the Wolves don’t sign a big-namer this summer. Nothing good comes out of it besides saving cap space for next season but there’s nothing worth looking forward to next summer.
The Wolves need to take advantage this summer and be as much of a buyer as possible. Even if it’s a long-shot, bring in Bosh; try to work a sign-and-trade for him. Otherwise look into the others like Stoudemire or Lee or Johnson. Go after Gay if the circumstances are right — by that I mean don’t just sign your fourth SF this summer; make something of the roster beforehand. There are so many names that to dabble with them all is merely innocent. Even if we have no serious chance at courting anyone big, something has to happen to this team before it’s too late and even the tens of Wolves fans decide to abandon this forsaken franchise. Even reports of the Wolves reaching out to D-Wade will send a message to the fan base that this franchise is serious about turning things around.