LAS VEGAS – It was fitting, since the Timberwolves were in Las Vegas, that Gersson Rosas referred to a few of the signings moves the Timberwolves made this offseason as “taking bets” on players.
It seemed a natural pivot for the Wolves to take — sign players to one-year prove it kind of deals after striking out on their prized free agent target, D’Angelo Russell.
That kind of thinking may also explain why the Wolves let a popular hometown player walk out the door Tuesday as the team declined to match the three-year, $28 million contract the Grizzlies offered him. Jones is off to Memphis with the Wolves making the calculation that they’d rather have salary-cap space over the next three years in order to try and acquire a maximum-salary player via free agency or the trade market.
For the first time, Rosas was allowed to discuss the signings of Noah Vanleh and the pickup of Tyrone Wallace off free-agent waivers as the Wolves made those moves official earlier Monday.
When speaking about Vonleh, Rosas said: “Being able to add an individual like that, we’re taking bets on guys, and he’s taking a bet on us. How we’re going to play and he’s going to have an opportunity to impact what we do and how we do it.”
Vonleh has bounced around in his young career. The Wolves will be his fifth team in six seasons. Hence, the bet taking. Rosas said getting an opportunity to play could be beneficial for Vonleh and the Wolves.
“Any player that might be a system fit for us that we can acquire strategically, we’re going to do it,” Rosas said. “He’s interesting. He’s a guy that’s going to bring some play making to us that we need in our mix.”
Along similar lines, Wallace is also a “bet” the Wolves are taking.
“We have an opportunity to get a free look at him and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Wallace spent the past two seasons with the Clippers, averaging 5.5 points in 92 games. He could slide into the backup point guard role Jones is vacating behind Jeff Teague, although the Wolves aren’t done looking for other fits at that position.
The Wolves also made official the sign and trade with Portland of Jake Layman, but Layman is on a three-year deal. Layman figures to be a part of the rotation next season after playing 71 games for Portland.
“We really like his versatility, his feel, his IQ, ability to play on the ball, off the ball,” Rosas said.
With Layman, Rosas reiterated that he views the Wolves’ lineup as “a point guard, wings and fives,” eschewing the role of the traditional power forward in some lineup combinations. Layman fits that mold.
“Our ability to put different lineups on the floor [will] impact other teams,” Rosas said. “Either they’ll try to go big against us and we can play faster or they’ll make different adjustment to try and play with us as we play smaller.”
Layman is 25. Wallace is 25. Vonleh is 23 and Jordan Bell, whose signing has yet to become official, is 24. Along with taking bets, Rosas is making the roster much younger.
The Wolves also made official the acquisitions of Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham in the sign-and-trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Golden State. The Wolves also received cash and sent the Warriors the rights to Lior Eliyahu. Eliyahu was drafted by the Magic in 2006 and the Wolves acquired his rights in a 2012 trade with Houston. Napier is 27 and Graham is 25, fitting the age ranges Rosas has preferred for this roster.
The Wolves may have one of the youngest rosters in the league when the regular season opens in October. But it isn’t all about age. It’s about cap flexibility, and that’s why the team is letting Jones, 23, walk even though he may have made the team better next season.