Timberwolves

Timberwolves Look to Redefine Perceived Identity

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With the NBA Draft almost here, and trade rumors (some legitimate, some of the smokescreen-nature) already here, Minnesota Timberwolves fans are collectively fiending for content that has come sparingly since March. 

The Timberwolves have three picks in tonight’s draft, each being fairly spaced throughout the night. This front office’s affinity and aptitude to swing a deal is suggestive of potentially a busy Wednesday, and while there is a temptation to get sucked into particular scenarios and trade options, one thing is for certain– the result of November 18th will be an integral part of what Gersson Rosas is trying to accomplish.

Shoutout to Thibs, Khan and Co.

For years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had the reputation as potentially the league’s worst franchise. Their general lack of success and cold climate has built a model for a market that isn’t appealing. Era after era, one incompetent shot-caller after another, there finally seems to be a sense of relief that Rosas knows what he is doing. He has built a diverse front office and empowered each member to have their voice heard. A wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds is a complete change from the tenure of the franchise’s previous President of Basketball Operations.

It didn’t take Rosas long to turn the roster over. The post-trade-deadline press conference sported nearly an entirely new team. Gersson’s language when addressing the trajectory/goal for the franchise has been largely to the tune of doing something that has never been done before or maximizing and making the most of every available opportunity. His confidence in his vision has seemingly never wavered, and his actions have backed that sentiment…so it at least appears locally.

Redefining a Perceived Identity

The lingering notion of the Wolves as a bottom-tier franchise, built up by the cold weather and ghosts of POBOs past has built a diminished narrative about where things sit for the Wolves currently. 

The Timberwolves won 19 games last year. The bottom line is that they have something to prove, and the only real way to do so is by winning. With winning comes exposure, and with exposure comes a more accurate depiction of who the Timberwolves really are. People are suddenly not (as) low on Andrew Wiggins now that he’s in Golden State. This year’s top draft pick is widely seen as a curse, while the second pick is a significant asset. The franchise with a better reputation will get a favorable narrative. This happens as a result of a prior understanding and a lack of opportunity to reshape that understanding. 

But that initial opportunity is the November 18th Draft. It is a chance to capitalize on a shining moment of exposure, having the number one overall pick.

Uh, a Busy Few Weeks

The Draft

The Wolves have their choice of the field, whether that means drafting a player or trading the selection. LaMelo Ball would bring the most excitement to a team that desperately needs it. James Wiseman might be the best player in the draft and could carry the most trade value. Anthony Edwards seems to be the most logical choice due to fit. But none actually fit well and each player has their own baggage as it’s relevant to the Wolves. 

The Wolves have done well to disguise their intentions. Each option has a high-enough upside to garner interest from teams that have different needs. If there was a consensus top pick, the positional fit might play more of a factor in a team’s willingness to trade up. Keeping the door open for three players to potentially go number one could attract more suitors. 

They also have the 17th and 33rd selections in the draft. Even rumors of what those picks are up to aside, it is likely these will serve as sweeteners in other deals. That, or they could just draft players with those picks. This draft is deep in quality NBA-caliber players despite not being very strong at the top. 

Free Agents on Roster

James Johnson 

James Johnson has a $16 million player option that he will certainly accept. He isn’t worth $16 million per year but provides value to the Wolves as a (lonely) veteran. He is a half-decent defender at nearly all five positions and provides offensive versatility with his ability to handle and shoot respectably. If nothing else, an expiring contract of that size is beneficial when pursuing a bigger trade salary matching purposes.

Malik Beasley

Malik was acquired in the multiple-team deal at the trade deadline from the Denver Nuggets. He expects to be back next year, despite the felony weapon and drug charges he faces from last month. The team has been outspoken in their support of Malik and deferred to the legal process needing to play out before taking action. His initial court date is shortly after the draft, November 19th. 

He fits well within what the Timberwolves would like to do schematically, and he made the most of an expanded role after the deadline. A qualifying offer could be a safer alternative than pinpointing an extension price with so much in flux. 

Juancho Hernangomez

Juancho was also acquired from the Nuggets at the deadline. He is a great fit offensively due to his ability to stretch and run the floor, but he lacks defensive ability at the 4 that is so badly needed next to KAT at center. Juancho is expected to be extended, but ideally on a contract in line with that of a team’s 7th or 8th man. 

Kelan Martin and Jordan McLaughlin

Kelan and Jordan were both Two-Way contract players with the Wolves. The Timberwolves maintain their rights, but could again use this build-from-within mentality to round out a roster where there isn’t much cap flexibility otherwise.

Free Agency

The T-Wolves will have just over $9 million in mid-level exception money to spend. The Wolves could use the MLE to pursue one player or break up among multiple players. What they look to do in free agency is largely contingent on the direction they go on draft night. There isn’t an expectation to make a splash in free agency due to limited cap capabilities. The priority should be retaining their current free agents on team-friendly deals. 

Adding a defensive big on a minimal deal could help to anchor the defense next to Towns. Players like Nerlens Noel or Mason Plumlee would bring defensive stature and could be obtained at a relatively inexpensive price.

What’s to Come?

Missing out on the bubble was a significant setback for an already devalued organization. Smaller-market teams have improved their standing around the league, just from the added exposure. The Suns went from a bottom-tier team to one of the league’s next up. The Nuggets were a bottom-half playoff team and now are a legitimate contender. National TV games will come more often with wins.

There’s pressure from KAT to be building toward success before he wants out. The Timberwolves are currently for sale with a buyer coming any day now. If a sale does happen, only so much can be done to keep the team in Minnesota. They (probably) don’t have their first-round pick next year.

Should the Wolves push for more immediate results, even if it is likely in their best interest to prolong things and develop?

After eight months of minimal Timberwolves content, the next few weeks will surely make up for what was missed.

Follow us on Twitter @TWolvesLead for the latest Timberwolves news and insight.

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