When Gersson Rosas became president of the Timberwolves, he promised to remake the roster by making it younger and finding talent that could play an up-tempo style of basketball. He added that one of the primary ways he would accomplish that was through trades.
Rosas wasn’t hiding much in those statements, because as Rosas marks his one-year anniversary on the job, the Wolves roster looks nothing like the one he inherited — and even nothing like the one he assembled after his first free-agent cycle. Just Josh Okogie and Karl-Anthony Towns remain from the roster Rosas inherited. Several came in the days preceding the trade deadline: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, James Johnson and the apple of Rosas’ eye from the moment he took the job, D’Angelo Russell.
“Building an organization, building a foundation, the DNA and the values of who we’re going to be, I feel like we’ve done that in a very tangible way after Year 1,” Rosas said in a phone interview. “Roster-wise, our front office staff deserves a ton of credit because as we sit here, we’ve changed over 13 out of 15 roster spots. … That typically takes organizations two to three years. That we were able to do it by the trade deadline was quite an achievement for our staff.”
It was fortuitous that Rosas made the moves he did when he did at the trade deadline in early February, about a month before the coronavirus threw the league into a holding pattern of uncertainty as it relates to this season, next season and the salary cap.
Rosas has his foundational pieces in place in Towns and Russell, and Beasley and Hernangomez are restricted free agents the team would like to sign for the long term.
“The opportunity and the ability to execute only present themselves when they present themselves,” Rosas said. “We were fortunate we were able to execute, but like anything we’ve stayed proactive and we’ve been aggressive. … Not for the sake of saying, ‘Hey, we’re trading and being aggressive,’ but these are things that were in our plan, in our timeline. We were very fortunate we were able to execute at a rate of turnover that we were to set up our roster.”
Rosas reiterated that a big factor was owner Glen Taylor, who allowed Rosas to go into the luxury tax to make the trade with the Warriors for Russell happen.
Looking forward, Rosas said he was excited about the draft capital the Wolves will have — whenever a draft does take place.
They have their own first-round pick and are likely to pick up Brooklyn’s first-round pick, so long as the Nets make the playoffs (though it’s unclear what would happen with that pick if the NBA cancels the remainder of this season). The Wolves would also have a pick high in the second round, and Rosas didn’t rule out converting that capital into trade chips.
“[It’s an] opportunity to continue to build out the roster, whether it’s young players you continue to add to our talent base, or using those picks in trades to acquire players that may be more ready to help us now,” he said. “It puts us in a very strong position.”
Beyond the roster changes, Rosas wanted to establish a familial culture around the Wolves, one that would stick with players even after they have moved on from the organization. After Rosas made the series of trades, he told the newcomers that the team pictures from earlier in the season would stay up in the facility.
“Recognizing that some fits just weren’t going to work and we needed to move forward and they needed to move forward, but that didn’t change how we treated our current or former players,” Rosas said. “Even to now, it’s why you talk about being a family, but it’s how you do it.”
The coronavirus has put that to the test, as the Wolves try to stay connected through this time, as Towns mourns the loss of his mother and as others, such as Beasley, who had a relative die from the virus, grapple with the virus in their own lives.
“These things have brought us together as an organization and the things we believe in as a family, that we talk about, we’ve been given the opportunity to personify that as much as possible …” Rosas said. “This has forced us to grow up as an organization and come together, which in hindsight is going to be something very important for us.”