Remember when the Minnesota Timberwolves were interested in Paul George in the 2010 draft? So does he.
There were plenty of draft night adventures in which the Minnesota Timberwolves played a starring role during David Kahn’s eventful tenure as president of basketball operations.
From the roller coaster ride of Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn both being selected over Steph Curry in 2009 to the infamous trade-back debacle in 2011, there was an intriguing side story to the 2010 draft sandwiched in between.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Paul George knew Wolves wanted to draft him
The Timberwolves held the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. After rumored attempts to trade up to select either Evan Turner or Derrick Favors, the Wolves stood pat and took the allegedly NBA-ready Wesley Johnson over enigmatic big man DeMarcus Cousins.
While that decision alone was fascinating and was the subject of a fair amount of consternation among fans, there was an interesting subplot that has largely fallen by the wayside in Wolves lore.
Remember when David Kahn wanted to get Paul George on draft night, then had a chance to land him in a trade and backed out?
The rumored potential swap of Jonny Flynn, who was coming off a solid rookie season, for the No. 10 pick, held by Indiana, was out there at the time.
A couple of years ago, The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reported (subscription required) that the Pacers actually agreed to the trade but Kahn shot it down. Jerry Zgoda recently confirmed on the Locked On Wolves podcast (starting at 7:45) that Kahn was interested in George and was considering trading Flynn for the chance to get him.
In Krawczynski’s article above, George is noted as not having known about the Wolves’ interest. Perhaps that’s in reference to a possible trade at No. 10, because George was recently on the Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles and said that he thought there was a chance the Wolves could take him as high as No. 4, where they ultimately took Johnson.
The conversation about Minnesota and other teams that were interested in George starts around the 9:55 mark.
Back in 2010, it certainly seemed like the Wolves were basically going to be picking between Johnson and either Cousins or Favors, depending which of the two big men was still on the board at No. 4. But apparently Kahn considered taking a risk and taking a small school guy like George earlier than he was being mocked by the experts.
Perhaps Kahn explored trading back, but it would be hard for a rebuilding team to justify moving back out of the early lottery. That explains why he considered moving Flynn and keeping No. 4, but the optics of giving up on his first-round selection from only 12 months prior were probably too daunting for Kahn to get over.
Ultimately, he went with the “safe” pick in Johnson. We all know how that went; Kahn had to attach a draft pick to Johnson in order to trade him to Phoenix and create cap space only a couple of years after drafting him.
Johnson ended up being a decent pro, but never a starting-caliber player. George, on the other hand, has racked up plenty of accolades in his career thus far and is now part of a dangerous LA Clippers team.
Add another what-if to the mounting pile of similar what-ifs in Minnesota Timberwolves history.