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Updated: February 12th, 2012 9:25pm
Zulgad's Roundup: Wolves' David Kahn could face interesting decision

Zulgad's Roundup: Wolves' David Kahn could face interesting decision

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

After seemingly not doing much, if anything, right for the first two years of his tenure as the Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations, David Kahn seems to now be making some astute moves.

Kahn might have blown it by taking Jonny Flynn with the sixth-overall pick in the 2009 draft, but it looks like he knew exactly what he was doing when he plucked point guard Ricky Rubio with the selection right before Flynn.

Concern about whether Rubio would ever come overseas to play for the Wolves, and then even more concern about his less-than-impressive stats in Spain, are now overshadowed by the fact the 21-year-old has big-time skills and a bright future.

Kahn's best move might have come during the NBA lockout when he convinced Rick Adelman to take a reported three-year contract worth $15 million to become the Wolves' coach.

Kevin Love is the Wolves' best player, Rubio is quickly becoming their big-name attraction, but Adelman might be the most valuable piece of the puzzle.

And now Kahn and his new coach are about to be faced with an interesting situation.

The Wolves have lost three in a row and are 13-15 after Saturday's disappointing defeat against the New York Knicks at Target Center. That leaves the Wolves in last place in the Northwest Division, but they are only two games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

This means that as the March 15 trade deadline approaches, some decisions are going to need to be made at Target Center.

The Wolves won a combined 32 games over the past two years and most would tell you that expectations for this lockout-shortened season weren't extremely high, even with Adelman taking the job.

But it's become clear this team is at least competitive and that is without the benefit of a real shooting guard. Adelman has been starting Rubio and Luke Ridnour in the backcourt but both of them are point guards.

Ridnour had five points on 2-for-7 shooting in 27 minutes on Saturday in a game in which the Knicks rallied for a 100-98 victory as the Wolves made only one field goal in the final 9½ minutes.

Ridnour also scored only five points on Friday night in 25 minutes of a 104-97 loss to Dallas at Target Center.

So would Kahn consider trying to swing a trade for a legitimate shooting guard, such as Memphis' O.J. Mayo, New Jersey's Anthony Morrow, Houston's Kevin Martin or Boston's Ray Allen?

It would certainly make Rubio a better player.

The issue is the Wolves are going to have to decide where they are at in terms of their development and whether they want to possibly get rid of some parts for the future in the name of attempting to make a run at a playoff spot.

A recent article posted on the ESPN.com site suggested the Wolves should consider trading the first-round draft pick that they acquired from the Utah Jazz. That selection is lottery protected in 2012.

The point of the article was that the Wolves already have enough young players to develop and might be better off not adding another one to that mix.

Wolves fans have come back to Target Center this season because the team is exciting to watch and, honestly, making the playoffs simply would be gravy. This is one of those seasons were pleasantly surprising the fan base might be enough.

But there could be an argument made that Kahn and Adelman aren't going to view it that way. Kahn is in the last year of his contract and while he would now seem to be on safe ground, making the postseason would only help him from a security, not to mention financial, standpoint.

Adelman, meanwhile, is 65 and he isn't used to missing the playoffs as a head coach in the NBA. He made the postseason 16 times in his first 18 seasons, missing in back-to-back years with Golden State, before failing to make it the past two years with the Houston Rockets.

At his first press conference after the NBA lockout, Adelman clearly came across as a guy who wanted the challenge of turning the Wolves around as quickly as possible and getting out of them what Kurt Rambis never could.

There would be no better way to make this point than by getting the Wolves into the playoffs.

Not sold on the future

The Insider section of ESPN.com occasionally runs a feature labeled as its NBA Future Power Rankings.

It is an attempt to project the on-court success expected for each team in the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. You might think the projections see great things for the Wolves but you would be wrong.

The latest rankings have the Wolves 20th, one spot behind the Atlanta Hawks and one in front of the Golden State Warriors. That is still up from the ranking of 27th that the Wolves held in March 2011.

The Wolves have a future power rating number of 552, generated by rankings of their players, management, money, market and draft. The management is rated 26th in the NBA and the market is 29th.

Among the issues pointed out by authors Chad Ford and John Hollinger is the fact the Wolves did not give Love a five-year contract extension and, instead, signed him to a deal that has an opt-out after the third year.

"History shows that this will start the clock on Love departure rumors about halfway through the Future Power Rankings' three-year cycle," reads the article.

Other negatives: The Wolves' cap situation isn't as great as one would think, and even if it was in better shape the writers aren't sure how much top-level talent will ever want to play in Minnesota. It's also pointed out that Kahn whiffed on the Flynn pick and Wes Johnson appears that he might be a bust.

Looking for another year

Forward Trevor Mbakwe would like to return to the Gophers men's basketball team in 2012-13 after having what should have been his senior season ended early by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Mbakwe, who frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter, tweeted last week that he hopes to get another year of eligibility but acknowledged it will be up to the NCAA whether that will happen.

"I probably won't find out (until) April," Mbakwe told his followers.

Mbakwe was injured against Dayton in November in the Old Spice Classic only seven games into what was his fifth season of college basketball. He was leading the Gophers in scoring (14 points per game) and rebounding (9.1) when he went out.

Mbakwe also had an injury to his left knee that ended his freshmen season at Marquette in 2007-08. He ended up redshirting.

The feeling among many has been that the 23-year-old wouldn't petition to return because he would want to attempt to start his NBA career. He had been projected as a late first- to early second-round pick in the June draft.

But Mbakwe also might realize that his value isn't going to be what it once was until he proves he is fully recovered.

It will be interesting to see if the NCAA grants Mbakwe another season or denies his request, once it is officially made.

Opening game issues

The Gophers men's hockey team got off to a 9-1 start this season and in doing so compiled a 5-0 record in the opener of two-game series'.

This included victories over Sacred Heart, Minnesota Duluth, Vermont, Alaska-Anchorage and North Dakota.

Since that time, however, the Gophers have gone 2-7 in series openers. This does not include the Gophers' 5-1 victory over Niagara in the first game of the Mariucci Classic or their 4-3 loss to Notre Dame in a standalone game on Jan. 7.

The Gophers, who were first in the most recnt USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and second in the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings, are sure to tumble after being swept by Denver University over the weekend.

It's the first time the Gophers have been swept this season. They blew a 3-2 lead late in the third period on Saturday when Nick Shore scored a power-play goal with just over a minute to go. Shore then scored the winner only 17 seconds into overtime for the Pioneers.

That marked only the Gophers' second loss of the season in the final game of a series. They are now 11-2-1 in those situations and Saturday's loss was their first in a second game since a 5-4 loss to Vermont on Oct. 23 at Mariucci Arena.

That was the Gophers' first defeat of the season.

Staying put

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the Rams' general manager's job was George Paton's to lose. Paton was the Vikings' director of player personnel and on the surface it seemed the move to GM would have been a big and important step in his career.

But Paton decided on Friday that he would accept an offer to become the Vikings' assistant general manager and remain in Minnesota. He did not end up interviewing with Rams owner Stan Kroenke over the weekend.

So what happened?

Paton might have realized that he had a better thing with the Vikings, working alongside his friend Rick Spielman and also weighed in the fact that Jeff Fisher already has been named the Rams coach.

Spielman is now the Vikings GM - a job he was promoted to after the team's 3-13 season - and he already relied heavily on Paton when it came to front office matters.

Paton knows exactly how things work with the Vikings and what type of input he will have into rebuilding the team. In St. Louis, Fisher is going to have some big-time power and say into what happens.

The reality is that Paton would have been working for Fisher.

Paton might have decided it was best to stay away from the unknown of that situation, no matter how good the title looked.

The Rams hired Les Snead, who had spent the previous 13 seasons working for the Atlanta Falcons.

End game

• Lindy's Baseball preview is out and, not surprisingly, the predictions are not kind to the Twins. Coming off a 63-99 finish, Lindy's has the Twins projected to finish fifth in the AL Central behind Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox. The Scout's Take portion of the write up on the Twins reads, "They've declined as rapidly as any team I've seen in a long time, and in every area." Ouch.

• The Ottawa Sun reports that several NHL general managers have asked the league to consider putting in a one-time amnesty clause into the next collective bargaining agreement, allowing teams to buy out one contract that wouldn't have a cap hit. The NBA had the same thing coming out of its lockout, but the Wolves did not apply it on any player. The NHL's CBA expires next September.

• As much as it might pain some Wild fans, they might be crazy if they don't look to deal off some veterans before the Feb. 27 NHL trading deadline. This is a league that right now is filled with teams looking for players and there is a lack of anyone willing to trade guys. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher might be in a position to get a heck of a deal if he decides that his struggling club should attempt to move some of its parts.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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