In a flurry of moves over the last week, the Timberwolves added a No. 1 draft pick, brought back one of the most popular players in franchise history, re-signed a starting power forward, added a renowned veteran and re-signed their best shooter despite his legal woes.
Each move in isolation is intriguing and perhaps even promising. Taken together, all of these moves send a clear message to the most important person in the franchise.
The message: “Karl-Anthony Towns, please don’t sell your snow boots.’’
The decisions made by Wolves boss Gersson Rosas may have made sense in any context, but the context that matters most is this:
The Wolves know they need to get the most they can out of Towns. They know they need to keep him in Minnesota long-term or risk another long stretch of hopelessness.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Rosas’ most important moves over the last week made sense both in terms of roster building and Towns retention.
Last season, Rosas traded for D’Angelo Russell, a friend of Towns’ who can team with him on the pick-and-roll and perhaps tie each to the franchise for the long haul.
Last week, Rosas chose Anthony Edwards with the first pick in the draft. Maybe Edwards would have been the first pick under any circumstances; he also conveniently fits an offense in which Towns needs wings who can either occupy defenders or make defenders pay for overplaying him.
Then Rosas traded the 17th pick in the draft for point guard Ricky Rubio.
Rubio would have made sense as either a complement or a backup to Russell. He makes even more sense given Towns’ admiration for him. Rubio is adept at getting the ball to Towns and rewarding him on the fast break, and he brings a mature voice to a young locker room that will find his leadership style much more pleasant than Jimmy Butler’s.
Rubio is also an example of a player who likes living and playing in Minnesota.
Rosas signed shooting guard Malik Beasley to a contract extension even though Beasley is facing felony charges. If Beasley is found guilty of waving a gun around near his child and pointing it at an innocent family, the Wolves will be responsible for any future misdeeds he commits in Minnesota.
This is a logical basketball move and this regime’s first risky move in terms of character and roster makeup. The Wolves are simultaneously bringing in “good people’’ like Rubio and Ed Davis and placing their faith in someone facing felony charges. This seems like an inadvisable risk for a player who is not a star.
But he fits well as a basketball player. One possible small-ball lineup the Wolves could use would put Russell, Rubio, Beasley, Edwards and Towns on the floor at the same time. When they do decide to use a traditional power forward, they will be relying on Juancho Hernangomez and Davis.
Hernangomez fits in well in terms of personality and energy but will not match up well with quality power forwards. Davis is not a productive player but has been lauded around the league for his attitude and leadership. He is here to provide veteran wisdom to Towns.
Two years ago, Towns was playing for a coach he didn’t seem to love in Tom Thibodeau and a veteran leader who enjoyed calling him out in Butler.
Now he has two friends playing point guard, two talented wings who should spread the floor for him, a coach he likes in Ryan Saunders, a veteran big man who will lend an ear, and a front office that is doing all it can to make him happy.
These moves don’t immediately make the Wolves a top team in the stacked Western Conference. But if they can help Towns improve defensively and encourage him to stay around, it could be the beginning of a rare stretch of competitiveness for the historically woeful Wolves.
At least, that seems to be the plan — a plan that is all about Towns, his friends and their willingness to consider spending many more winters in Minnesota.