After half a season without an official president of basketball operations, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally changed that. According to various reports, they will move forward with Gersson Rosas, who is currently an executive with the Houston Rockets.
With over 16 years experience in the Rockets organization behind him, the hire is a sign of Wolves owner Glen Taylor moving away from the country club mentality and delving into a new era, thanks in no small part to CEO Ethan Casson.
Rosas, who will become the league’s first ever Latino top executive, was the right-hand man to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. They occupied one of the NBA’s most forward-thinking, modern, and successful front offices, which should be music to Timberwolves’ fans ears.
Speaking to ESPN, Morey gave a glowing recommendation of the new POBO.
“Gersson has been an unbelievable person to work with,” Morey said. “He’s been way overqualified for his job for a while here. He’s more than earned his shot, although I wish he would’ve gone East. We’re going to have an extremely tough competitor in the West.”
While his hiring is cause for celebration, there is still a ton of work to do. There are issues from top to bottom in Wolves Land, and Rosas has been handed the tools to fix them. Now it’s time to work.
Building the Staff
First and foremost, Rosas will need to make a decision on the other two pillars of the front office. Head coach Ryan Saunders was neither here nor there in his short time as Tom Thibodeau’s replacement last season, and general manager Scott Layden’s handling of the Jimmy Butler situation and this season’s trade deadline have him on thin ice.
According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Rosas already has a relationship with Saunders, and the feeling around the grapevine is that he will likely be given a true chance to show what he can do. Perhaps it isn’t the best option, but Saunders was dealt an extremely tough hand this year, battling with an often depleted squad in the brutal Western Conference. Perhaps most importantly, franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns is said to be a fan of ‘Drip’ and we all know what can go wrong if stars aren’t kept happy.
Layden, on the other hand, might have some work to do to impress his new partner. He seemed to be something of a yes-man under Thibs, and failed to make any splash when given the chance on his own. Taylor has apparently come around a bit more to Layden in Thibodeau’s absence, and it’s unlikely he wants to eat the $2 million he owes him. However, it does seem more possible the Wolves could end with a new GM rather than a new coach — I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.
Likelihood: 100% (He literally has to)
Draft Night Home Run
Before he can move onto to any changes to the current roster, Rosas needs to make a couple of additions. Like every team, Minnesota’s draft track record has been hit and miss over the years, including what appears to be a hit last year with Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop.
In the last five years, Houston has been up-and-down themselves. Rosas and Morey have hit some nice highs, including Clint Capela at pick 24 and Montrezl Harrell at pick 32. They have also had some bummers, like Sam Dekker at pick 18.
Minnesota desperately needs to pluck Towns’ second fiddle, and with limited cap space to work with, it likely needs to come through the draft. As it stands pre-lottery, they have the 10th pick in June, with an incoming rookie class that is said to be considerably more top-heavy than years prior.
With the draft entirely in his hands for the first time, nailing that pick and finding, at worst, an immediate plus player with the potential to get better, will instantly endear him to his new fan base and boss.
Who knows, maybe Lady Luck will follow the new top dog through the door and help the Timberwolves move up in the lottery. For the first time ever.
With a cap sheet that is as messy as Andrew Wiggins’ shot chart, Rosas will likely watch unrestricted free agents Anthony Tolliver, Taj Gibson, and Derrick Rose walk to this summer. All three are likely to chase one last contract or flee to a team closer to contending for a title.
Along with those three, Luol Deng, Jerryd Bayless, Mitch Creek, and Jared Terrell are off the books and seemingly unlikely to return. That leaves sole restricted free agent (RFA) Tyus Jones as the big free agent question mark for the Wolves. How much will Rosas value him, and how much can they afford for the point guard?
Jones had a topsy-turvy season. He averaged career-highs in minutes, games started, points, assists, and rebounds while breaking the NBA record for assist-to-turnover ratio. Unfortunately for him and perhaps fortunately for the front office, he was wildly inefficient scoring the ball. His 46 percent effective field goal percentage is the worst since his rookie year, and only better than Terrell, Bayless, and Josh Okogie from last season’s squad.
His status as an RFA ensures Minnesota can match any deal he accepts from another team, but Minnesota will probably not be able to afford that luxury if the deal gets north of $8 million annually. In order to avoid that it will be crucial that Rosas and Co. get Jones in early and try to hammer out a team-friendly deal to keep the point guard in his hometown.
The Timberwolves are thin at the PG position, and don’t have enough money to grab a decent free agent (outside of the Mid-Level Exception). Jones certainly has his flaws, but he is a low-usage point guard who can keep the offensive wheels turning and provide pesky defense.
It’s pivotal that Rosas gets this deal done without breaking the bank.
Moving the Wiggins Weight
This is where things get a little bit more complicated.
There is little doubt that the future of Andrew Wiggins and the $121 million he is owed over the next four years would have been a focal point in Rosas’ interview process. Put simply, the 24-year-old has regressed over the last few years and didn’t seem to improve when Thibodeau was ousted from the coaching job, like some suggested he would.
With that much money and time left on his deal, trying to ship Wiggins off is like pushing a wheelbarrow of cement up a mountain. It’s possible, but it’s going to take one hell of a warrior to pull it off. Perhaps Rosas is that man, but betting on it being this offseason is perhaps having a little too much faith.
Wiggins was decent in his last 10 games of the season, averaging 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from long-range. While that seems like a positive indication, it was largely coming against competition that was already one step into a vacation, or one step into playoff preparation.
The best course of action, as it has been for a while now, is probably to hope and pray that Wiggins has some sort of miraculous turnaround next season. Thus increasing his trade value and allowing Rosas some sort of wiggle room. At the very least, it will be another year off his contract and one step closer to a change of scenery.
Likelihood: 10% (This summer)
While Wiggins’ huge deal is likely going to weigh down the Wolves for a while longer, moving Jeff Teague and the $19 million he opted into for next season is a more attainable goal.
Teague has been marred by inconsistency, injury, and frequent lack of aggression in his two seasons with the team, and both sides would benefit with an early split. The $19 million big ones will be a tough pill to swallow for trade partners, but the fact that it expires are the end of the season will make life easier on Rosas.
As aforementioned, Minnesota is thin at point guard, but they could easily nab someone like Darius Garland or Coby White in the draft, making Teague all the more expendable.
They can’t expect to get any real potential back for the 30-year-old, but if they can get a cheap(er) shooter or backup power forward who fits the team mold more snugly and allow Tyus Jones (assuming he stays) to run with the starters, that will be a big win.
Pulling off the Miracle
If there is one thing that would instantly have fans building a Gersson Rosas statue outside of Target Center, it’s him somehow pulling off a trade to get the team a second star. Karl-Anthony Towns is a legitimate stud, and could very well be the best player on a championship team with the right wingman, but it’s not that simple.
Robert Covington, Josh Okogie, and Tyus Jones, make up a core that could all fill and thrive in playoff roles, but they are not the efficient, creating, shot-making second fiddle that is required.
Unfortunately there a little to no teams that are looking to rebuild and move one of their best players for assets, besides perhaps the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal. Even then, it would take something truly spectacular for Rosas to get the two-time All-Star to the Twin Cities.
Something along the lines of Okogie, Saric, Teague (for salary cap purposes), this year’s first-round pick and another future pick might get a conversation started, but it’s unlikely that would be the best deal out there for Washington.
Still, a man can dream ...