Teams have bad drafts all the time- it has actually been a hallmark of the NBA experience, sadly more for some teams than others. It can happen in a variety of ways: poor selections, bad trades, or taking options off the table for no reason. In the case of David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2011 draft, all three occurred in extremely rapid succession.
Minnesota started the night with an interesting composition of resources. They had the No. 2 pick after falling one spot in the lottery, as well as the No. 20 selection via the Al Jefferson trade of the 2010 offseason.
They walked out of the Prudential Center with Derrick Williams (taken at No. 2), Brad Miller (while losing Jonny Flynn), Malcolm Lee (taken at No. 43), a future first from the Houston Rockets that ended up being No. 26 in 2013 (while losing the No. 40 pick in 2012), their own 2014 second round pick, the No. 52 pick from the Nets in 2013, and cash.
As already detailed, the Wolves started out with just two picks in 2011: No. 2 and No. 20. Over the course of the evening, they made five different transactions without touching the No. 2 selection.
Move One: Traded No. 20, a 2012 second (No. 40 eventually) and Jonny Flynn to Houston for No. 23, No. 38, Brad Miller, and a conditional future first (No. 26 in 2013 as it turned out).
In effect, they moved down three spots, swapped Flynn for Miller and picked up an early second (which comes back later) and a future first.
Move Two: Traded No. 23 to Chicago for No. 28, No. 43 and cash.
Picked up a mid-second to move down five picks in the late first. A strange price since No. 38, No. 39, and No. 45 were all later acquired with cash and no future assets.
Move Three: Traded No. 28 to Miami for No. 31, a 2014 second (looks like it was their own, originally traded for Michael Beasley), and cash.
While the first pick of the second round holds a special value for international players, late first rounders are some of the best bargains in the league because of their cheap salaries and two team option years.
Move Four: Traded No. 31 to the Nets for a 2013 second (eventually No. 52) and cash.
Whatever value the first pick in the second round may have had, David Kahn got almost nothing of substance for it. A late second two years later and cash is a horrible return considering who was on the board.
Move Five: Traded No. 38 back to Houston for cash
Even without knowing who the player was, acquiring a mid-second as an asset and then sending it back to the same team for cash on the same day is just bad. Basically, just another loophole to get the owner more money.
Post-Draft Move Six: Traded a future second (less favorable of own or Denver’s in 2015) to Portland for the rights to Targuy Ngombo.
Ngombo is one of the single strangest stories in NBA Draft history, having been taken No. 57 overall by Dallas in 2011 despite having an age discrepancy of five years that would have made him ineligible to be drafted. Even with that, the man born in the Congo who plays for the national team in Qatar was traded twice in a week and appears unlikely to play in an NBA game.
Basically, the Wolves sent the No. 20 pick into the ether for a few eventual resources and cash.
The Players They Passed On
What makes the story so much worse are the players that could have been Timberwolves if they had settled at various points.
The No. 20 pick they started with became Donatas Motiejunas, a reasonably solid player for the Rockets. Kenneth Faried was chosen two picks later, though Minnesota likely would not have taken either Motiejunas or Faried due to Kevin Love’s place on the team.
The No. 23 pick Minnesota moved down to was used on Nikola Mirotic, widely considered the best drafted player not currently in the NBA and potentially a quality frontcourt piece. Reggie Jackson was taken next.
The No. 28 pick became Norris Cole, a piece of two Miami championships and useful guard. Jimmy Butler went two picks later.
While Bojan Bogdanovic was picked at 31 and has not played in the NBA yet after the Nets failed to reach a buyout with his European team, Kevin Love’s AAU teammate and current Detroit Piston Kyle Singler went two picks later.
The No. 38 pick that Minnesota acquired in the first trade with Houston and later sold back to the Rockets for cash was used on Chandler Parsons.
The Players They Ended Up With
Derrick Williams still has plenty of potential, but yielded very little value for the Wolves. They traded him to Sacramento for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in November of this season.
Malcolm Lee played on Minnesota for two seasons and then was traded to Golden State in another remarkable move where the Wolves moved the No. 26 pick (the first they acquired in the Houston trade!) and a former first rounder (Lee) for a future second and cash. It actually sounds like a deal they could have made in 2011.
Brad Miller played in 15 games for the Wolves, almost half as many as Jonny Flynn played that season. Minnesota actually gave up picks (originally including the 2012 second from the Nets that was a part of the No. 31 trade in 2011) to shed the final year of his contract in order to sign Andrei Kirilenko.
After some weird turns, the Nets’ 2012 second became Lorenzo Brown. Minnesota waived Brown before his first regular season NBA game.
Astonishingly, at present none of the picks used or acquired in the six 2011 draft moves are playing for the Timberwolves right now. Two of the future assets they walked out of the draft with were later used to shed contracts of players they acquired that day.
At this point, what started with the No. 2 and No. 20 selections for a team that already had Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic has yielded Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 205 combined games in Minnesota uniforms for Williams, Lee, and Miller, two 2014 second round picks (while losing one in 2012 and one in 2015), and cash.