Well, that wasn’t ideal.
As you’re well aware by now, the Minnesota Timberwolves continued their record-setting pace of never moving up in the NBA Lottery, instead falling a spot to #11. While continued sadness was an expected outcome for any longtime Wolves fan, I don’t think anyone could have seen the ping pong balls falling exactly like they did. To make matters worse, while the Wolves fell one spot, all three teams around them (Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, and New Orleans Pelicans) actually moved UP into the top four. No, for real, just look at these end of season standings (Warning: NSFW):
As someone who prides himself on being an eternal optimist, even I caught myself being noticeably bummed last night after seeing the lottery play out like it did. Not only did the Wolves fail to move up yet again, but they saw three other Western Conference teams — all of which are facing a rebuild themselves — increase their position, thus increasing the likelihood of them landing a better player this June.
With all that said, things could be worse (looking at you, Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat). As it currently stands, some of the bigger names projected to be available at #11 include Nassir Little (North Carolina), Romeo Langford (Indiana), Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), Sekou Doumbouya (France), Bol Bol (Oregon) and Jaxson Hayes (Texas).
Listen, none of those names are sexy whatsoever, and I’ll be honest when I say I don’t even recognize half of them. However, as I continue to comfort myself with large amounts of wine while watching this Blazers vs. Warriors game, it should be mentioned that two of the best four players currently on the floor (C.J. McCollum and Klay Thompson) were drafted in the 10-11 range, so not all hope is lost.
Would winning the lottery last night have catapulted the Wolves into the next tier of possible contenders? Yeah, probably. But if you’ve been subscribing to this team long enough, you knew that was never, ever going to happen. Outside of landing Zion Williamson, the most important moment for the Wolves this offseason was always going to revolve around hiring a competent and knowledgable president of basketball operations to lead this team into the future. While it’s clearly too soon to rule on whether or not Gersson Rosas was the man for the job, the early returns seem promising, including...
External Candidates Welcome
...A real, professional head coaching search?! What is going on here?!
If you’ve been keeping score at home, it was just 35 short days ago that Woj tweeted this little doozy just moments after the Wolves season had mercifully come to an end:
Minnesota is finalizing plans to keep GM Scott Layden and coach Ryan Saunders, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 10, 2019
Since then, the Wolves have interviewed four candidates to be their new POBO, quickly settling on Rosas, and have now opened up their head coaching search to include multiple highly-touted prospects, rather than simply hand-delivering the job to young Ryan Saunders.
Now, to all my cynical Wolves fans (of which there are many), I know what you're thinking: this is all just window-dressing in an attempt to make it look like Ryan earned the job because of his resume, rather than simply having it handed to him because of his last name. I get it, I really do (and I tend to agree with you). I still firmly believe that when the dust settles, Ryan Saunders will be named as the permanent head coach of the Wolves, beating out talented names like Juwan Howard, David Vanterpool, and the dark horse candidate Chris Finch.
However, similar to what I wrote about last week, the process here is almost as important (if not more important) than the actual result. As mentioned above, I don’t know if Gersson Rosas will turn out to be a better POBO than Trajan Langdon, or if the new head coach will pan out more than the other candidates who enter the same room. But to me, the most important thing is that we are finally, after years of ineptitude, seeing a professional process take place right in front of our eyes. When you consider everything this franchise has done over the last few decades, that in itself is something to hang your hat on (sad, I know).
Clearly the Ethan Casson effect is becoming more and more of a thing, and while it’s unlikely that the Wolves CEO knows much of anything about constructing a strong basketball team, he does posses the one trait that may trump everything else: Glen Taylor’s trust. If Casson, along with Rosas, can continue to be empowered by their owner to be innovative and thorough in their decision making, the Wolves may finally have turned the page on mediocrity (or maybe that’s just the Pinot talking).
Pump, Pump Pump It Up
Outside of the Rosas hiring, NBA Lottery, and recently announced head coaching search, it’s been a fairly dry time for the Wolves in terms of interesting kahntent. With the draft order now set, we should expect to see more and more players coming into Mayo Square for workouts, and a plethora of trade speculation as Rosas and his team continue to work “inside-out” to rebuild and re-structure this Timberwolves franchise.
The only other item that caught my eye over the last week was this timely (and clearly strategic) tweet sent out by our friend Shahbaz Kahn and the rest of his digital team:
Does a few simple photos of Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington lifting weights in early May mean anything? Probably not, but if you know anything about me, you know I like to overreact. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is honestly the first time I can remember seeing physical evidence of Wiggins working on his upper body strength, something that is near the top of his “Summer To-Do” list (in addition to learning how to dribble, taking better shots, and becoming a better defender than Yi Jianlian’s training partner).
Regardless, with only a week or so on the job, I think you’re starting to see shades of the new culture that Rosas wants to instill with this franchise. It is widely known that Mayo Square was a ghost town last summer, with notable players rarely showing up to their home facility to train, let alone work out together. Shoulder pressing 35’s with your starting wing partner isn’t going to miraculously FedEx the Larry O’Brien to downtown Minneapolis, but it is a small step forward. For a franchise that has taken so many steps back, something like this actually matters.