Tuesday the Wolves introduced another wave of players acquired during the offseason. Young, versatile, hungry, each talked about having something to prove and each said the Wolves were the team willing to give them the chance to do it.
That’s the whole idea.
Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders said pretty much the same thing in different ways Tuesday.
When putting together the roster for the upcoming season they wanted youthful energy, unbounded ambition, unfettered competition and the ability to give Saunders roster and position flexibility the likes of which Wolves fans have rarely seen.
“For these players, for myself and Ryan, we all have something to prove,’’ Rosas said. “This is a very hungry group. The way we want to play, up-tempo, open floor, up and down, creative defensively. You’re going to want to have a deep roster.’’
Introduced Tuesday were:
• Jordan Bell, fresh off two trips to the NBA Finals and one title with Golden State. He’s a big man with skill who can guard nearly every position.
• Forward Jake Layman, whose ability to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns with his range and movement without the ball the Wolves wanted.
• Point guard Shabazz Napier will be given every opportunity he can be a key backup with Tyus Jones leaving in free agency.
• Power forward Noah Vonleh and shooting guard Treveon Graham are willing to bet on themselves with one-year deals.
Four of the five players were on playoff teams last season.
With that much youth and ambition, training camp promises to be intense.
“To come in here with all these young guys, it will be a lot of fun, for sure,” Layman said. “ Everyone’s here to prove something. It will be a grind in camp to fight for spots.’’
Said Bell: “I think when you have a bunch of new guys coming to a team, it makes the environment very competitive, just because nobody’s role is defined yet. Coach was very open about that. Nobody’s given minutes here, every one will be earned. So, I think having all these guys coming in hungry, we’re all trying to prove something, both to ourselves and everybody else, that we belong. Training camp will be exciting.’’
It’s clear Rosas is constructing a roster where position flexibility is king. But the key is speed and the ability to play in the open court and to play with intensity. He wants bigs — including, more often, Towns — to be able to both grab a rebound and start the break.
Rosas wants the defensive flexibility to switch on the pick and roll without creating mismatches for the opponent.
And he wants competition.
“You want every practice to mean something,’’ Rosas said. “You want every game to mean something. The group of players we have here are at the right point in their careers, where they still have upside. They’ve been around the league. For our DNA, for our values, it’s important to have players like that.’’
A deeper rotation
One thing Rosas and Saunders say they want is to build a team that dictates matchups rather than react to them. Ideally, that means a relatively small lineup that can space the floor and operate at a high tempo. It might also mean a rather deep rotation.
“One thing you’ll see is we want to play at an intense level,’’ Rosas said. “To do that you have to play with a deeper rotation, and with quicker rotations. We want teams to adjust to us. We want to play fast, with an open floor. A lot of time that’s hard with two bigs.’’
That could mean a rotation going as deep as nine or ten players.
“My hope would be 15 guys all play unbelievably through training camp,’’ Saunders said. “And we have 15 guys who could play to make things tougher on us as coaches.’’
• Before Layman answered his first question Tuesday he gave a shoutout to his wife, Jasmine. The two were married Saturday. But Layman said his trip to Minneapolis for Tuesday’s presser was in no way the honeymoon. There will be a chance for that later.
• Napier won two national titles at Connecticut and was a first-round pick in 2014. But, by his own admission, his early experiences in Miami and Orlando were difficult with a lack of playing time. By his own admission he lost a sense of who he was as a player. But two seasons playing in Portland helped.
“In Portland I found out who I was as a player again,’’ he said.