(See, told you I'd be around.)
For once, Kevin McHale appears to have done something good.
Not only did one of the NBA most notoriously incompetent personnel managers actually manage to dump some bad contracts, but he appears to have actually helped his team in the process.
This is rare for a guy who made a bad habit out of handing out bad contracts (Hi, Marko Jaric!), making bad draft picks (Hi, Ndubi Edi!), and making bad trades (Hi, Ricky Davis!).
Instead, Kevin McHale appears to have used the leverage he had for a greater good.
The Timberwolves picked third in the NBA Draft. They wanted UCLA forward Kevin Love, but couldn't justify picking him third overall. Instead, they took the guy everyone had third on the "big board", USC guard O.J. Mayo. After the pick, Wolves brass said all the right things about Mayo helping the team and how they wanted to keep him around.
Memphis took Love fifth overall, about the right spot for that prospect. However, Memphis wanted Mayo, and the Wolves wanted Love. It was time to talk deal.
At least publicly, Minnesota made it clear they were willing to keep Mayo. Surely, the Grizzlies knew they had the chance to make this deal, but McHale held firm, making sure he could 1) make the Timberwolves better, and 2) help the team's contract situation.
He did both.
McHale dumped a bad contract in Jaric (three years for $21 million remaining) and an unhappy veteran in Antoine Walker, who would never have been happy coming off the bench. He added a couple potentially bad contracts in Jason Collins and Brian Cardinal. However, Collins is in the last year of his deal, and Cardinal has only two years left on his. That's manageable, and it beats the hell out of having Jaric - better known for his recent engagement to Adriana Lima - on the team.
(Yes, Marko Jaric is engaged to her. Be jealous. Talk about outkicking the coverage. Geez.)
McHale also added a very solid player in Mike Miller, who is just 28, shoots the three very well, and now gets to experience a homecoming of sorts. Miller, who played college at Florida, hails from lovely Mitchell, South Dakota. This is as close to home as he'll ever get to play NBA basketball.
Miller's outside shooting should open up the paint a lot more for Al Jefferson, as well as Love. Even if Love doesn't turn out to be as big a star as Mayo does, this is a good deal for Minnesota. The Wolves needed to help out Jefferson, and while Mayo could have done that, Miller has already established himself as a good outside shooter, and Love will take a lot of defensive pressure off Jefferson, freeing him up more on the offensive end. Not only that, but Jefferson isn't a great one-on-one defender. Love's presence gives Randy Wittman a second big who can be used to defend the solid big men of the Western Conference. Mayo isn't going to guard those guys (duh).
I'll admit some bias here. I haven't been a big Mayo fan going back to high school. I think he's cocky, extremely self-centered, and not nearly as good as his attitude would make you think he is. I don't think he would have been a great fit on this growing young team. Love, meanwhile, understands how his game can help the Timberwolves, he's a hard worker, and I think he has tremendous offensive upside.
Jim Souhan is right in that Mayo's stardom could make this deal look really bad, but it's a chance I think McHale was right to take. At some point, the Wolves had to deal with the fact that they had three solid players for two spots. They did that, and they got rid of Jaric.
It's a good day for Kevin McHale.