This coming October marks the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John Kennedy was faced with fresh knowledge of missile bases in Cuba. (Yes, I know I’ve now begun consecutive posts with “anniversary” sentences. Don’t ask me.) JFK quickly assembled a panel to meet in secret and decide on appropriate measures. The three basic choices were an airstrike on the weapons base, a full invasion of Cuba, or a naval blockade. After days of debate and internal struggle, Kennedy decided against an attack on Cuba, instead opting for a naval blockade. This was against the overwhelming consensus of his panel which included officials of intelligence, military and finance. Kennedy’s primary concern was that an attack on Cuba would be met with a nuclear response on Berlin, commencing an all-out nuclear war in Western Europe and possibly America. The prez’s decision could not have been more correct, as the blockade prompted talks with Khrushchev that resulted in the removal of weapons from Cuba. In his recently-published, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Chris Matthews explained:
It was later learned that the Soviets had deposited in Cuba a disturbing cache of nuclear weapons in early October, well before the Kennedy administration had the photographic evidence that spurred it into action. There were ninety nuclear warheads in all. Thirty of them possessed sixty-six times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. There was an equal number of warheads with the firepower of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, plus an assortment of other, smaller ones.
Matthews, Chris. Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. Simon & Schuster, 2011 (p. 317-18).
Matthews then quotes from Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs:
“If a quarter or even a tenth of our missiles survived–even if only one or two big ones were left-we could still hit New York, and there wouldn’t be much of New York left. I don’t mean to say everyone in New York would be killed–not everyone, of course, but an awful lot of people would be wiped out…And it was high time that America learned what it feels like to have her own land and her own people threatened…
The Americans knew that if Russian blood were shed in Cuba, American blood would surely be shed in Germany.”
Kennedy’s foresight, courage and restraint prevented nuclear war and preserved world peace.
So what the hell does this have to do with Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn, you ask?
MORE THAN YOU WOULD THINK.
In the wake of the Lakers’ second-round playoff exit and Kobe’s public questioning of Pau Gasol’s aggressiveness, there is a growing sentiment that the Spanish center will be moved in this coming offseason. Here is a brief list of reasons why the Timberwolves will be among the teams that show interest in Gasol:
- We have Ricky Rubio. We love Ricky Rubio. We want Ricky Rubio to be happy. Ricky Rubio is Spanish. Pau Gasol is Spanish. They are friends from Spain.
- David Kahn has made mention of a SINGULAR MOVE. This has yet to materialize in a way that cannot be mocked by his detractors. Acquiring Pau Gasol, an All-NBA performer from 2009-11, would be sufficiently “singular” to appease TWolves Nation.
- Rick Adelman’s best teams in Sacramento kicked ass with a high-post player who could pass (Chris Webber, Vlade Divac.) Pau Gasol was BORN to play for Rick Adelman.
Alright, you’re still probably wondering what any of this has to do with the restraint shown by President Kennedy in 1962 in dealing with Nikita Khrushchev. The answer involves a different Nik, this one being brute center, Nikola Pekovic.
Any Pau-to-Wolves trade will involve Derrick Williams changing uniforms. This is a given, for reasons I don’t need to lay out here. But with Pau’s salary dwarfing Derrick’s, the Wolves will need to send out multiple other players (to either LA or a third team) to make the deal work under the CBA rules. If the Wolves players were to be ranked by “trade value” it would start with Love and Rubio, then Derrick Williams, and then Mr. Pekovic. Naturally, when Kahn digs in for these trade negotiations, Pekovic’s name will come up early and often.
When a Williams & Pekovic (and garbage fillers) for Pau facsimile is received at 600 1st Avenue, Kahn will face a difficult decision. With a Rubio-Love-Gasol core at his fingertips, there will be a strong temptation to accept the trade offer. He’ll certainly have people in his ear (hell, maybe even Rubio’s agent), as Kennedy did, telling him to pull the trigger.
But he shouldn’t trade Pekovic and here are some reasons why:
- First, Pekovic is really good and is showing quick and vast improvement. Here is a comparison of last year’s Gasol and Pekovic. Pek scores more and more efficiently than Gasol. Their total rebounding numbers are very similar. Gasol is the better passer by a wide margin and blocks more shots. When you factor in age (Pek is 26; Gasol is 31) and salary (Pek makes $4.6M next year; Gasol makes $19M in each of next two seasons) it isn’t so clear that Gasol for Pekovic STRAIGHT UP is a winning deal for the Wolves. Pau is the better all-around player, but makes four times as much money and is on the tail end of his prime instead of just entering it.
- Second, front court depth matters. A lot. Flipping two front court players for one really leverages the Wolves on Love-Gasol and any injury that one of those two suffers would mean a losing streak. Look at how the Heat have been affected by losing Chris Bosh and compare that to how Memphis and Chicago (to name two) have been able to win without a star big man due to depth up front.
- Third and most importantly, by refusing a Williams & Pekovic offer, Kahn might just call LA’s bluff. They might take the package anyway. As Eric Pincus explains (linked earlier), the Lakers’ salary situation is pretty dire in the coming years. The new CBA has a “repeater tax” that, beginning in 2014-15, will severely punish teams that always exceed the cap (as the Lakers do). With a trade like this one, LA could shed about $13M of salary for the 2013-14 season, and position itself for a future built around Derrick Williams and Andrew Bynum. Are we sure that they’re in a position to say no to that? Might it play out like the KG-Celtics trade when Danny Ainge refused to include Rondo in the deal and got his man anyway? (On second thought, maybe that’s a more-apt comparison than JFK and nuclear warfare. Oh well.)
The Pau trade chatter is only beginning and you can expect the Wolves to be a big part of it. We’d be lucky to get him in a deal centered around Derrick Williams and salary fillers. But when the inevitable proposal including Pekovic arrives, let’s all hope that our POBO channels his inner POTUS and refuses to pull the trigger.