On the final day of the regular season, the Timberwolves and owner Glen Taylor announced they would seek to hire a new president of basketball operations. In a process that lasted nearly a month, the Wolves landed on Gersson Rosas, who has worked the past 16 years for the Houston Rockets, with a brief stopover in Dallas in a three-month stint as Mavericks general manager.
Rosas will now begin the process of making over the Wolves in his image. Some decisions will require his immediate attention. Some will be more long term and come incrementally over multiple seasons. Here’s a list of some of those items:
Future of Layden, Saunders
Ever since the last weeks of the season, the perception around the league is that interim coach Ryan Saunders would be back on a permanent basis thanks to his relationship with Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, and the support Saunders has in the locker room from players like Karl-Anthony Towns. Layden’s future was more uncertain given that he was Tom Thibodeau’s hand-picked GM, but Layden also has a good relationship with Taylor. Rosas will need to evaluate whether both will fit into his plans going forward.
The roster and the cap
Rosas inherits a team that doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for next season. The Wolves already have about $109 million committed to eight players, and it could be more if the value of Towns’ contract extension increases if he’s named to an All-NBA team. The projected salary cap next year is $109 million. Rosas may have to find some creative ways to keep the Wolves under the projected $132 million luxury tax. It may mean swinging a deal that might require the Wolves to bite the bullet to send Jeff Teague’s $19 million salary somewhere else next season or the two years and $33.5 million owed to Gorgui Dieng. Or …
Where does Wiggins fit in?
Perhaps the biggest question facing the Wolves on the court. Wiggins has four years left on a max deal he signed in 2017. Last season was his first playing on that contract. His production and efficiency didn’t rise to the level of a maximum player. He averaged 18.1 points per game — but he needed 16.6 field-goal attempts per game to get there. He shot 41% from the field, the lowest of his career. Rosas comes from the Rockets, one of the most analytically minded organizations in the league. Could he get Wiggins to reduce the number of midrange jump shots he takes? Wiggins was 11th in the NBA in midrange attempts and hit just 34.7% of those shots. Is there a trade out there Rosas could find to lessen the burden of Wiggins’ contract, or can he help improve Wiggins’ game, making his contract easier to take?
Rosas earned his stripes in Houston by shaping the Rockets’ pro and college scouting departments. It will be worth monitoring what changes he may implement on that side of the operation. That could begin with this year’s draft, where the Wolves are back in the lottery. The Wolves traditionally haven’t been able to attract big-money free agents. The way they will become competitive again is by molding the talent they acquire either through the draft, trades or lower-tier free agency. Rosas’ background in scouting should give them a chance to find the talent they need to contend again.