Since the day he took over as Timberwolves president in 2019, Gersson Rosas has made clear he wants to maximize the peak of Karl-Anthony Towns' career as best he can by acquiring players whose trajectories align with Towns'.
That window of time tends to open as a player enters his late 20s.
So far, Rosas has gone out and acquired players such as D'Angelo Russell, 25, and Malik Beasley, 24, as pieces around Towns, 25. In Rosas' vision, both figure to be long-term complements as Towns enters his late 20s.
The first half of the Wolves' season probably goes differently if Russell, Beasley and Towns share the floor for a significant time. But thanks to injuries and COVID illness, Russell and Towns still have played just five games together since Russell arrived in February 2020.
These absences allowed the worst-case scenario for the season to play out, resulting in a 7-29 record at the All-Star break. They also exposed the potential flaws in Rosas' rebuilding plans with the other roster spots around Towns, Russell and Beasley.
The Wolves have just two tried-and-true NBA veterans on their roster, Ricky Rubio and Ed Davis. Rosas has stocked the rest of the roster with young talent in the hopes that it can develop along Towns' timeline. It might have been OK had Towns and Co. been available for much of the season.
But the best players got hurt or suspended, and that left a roster with little NBA experience — and little experience in winning — in its wake.
The Wolves under Rosas have been big on building a winning culture, but it's hard to build a winning culture when there is so little actual winning. Rubio outlined his frustration along those lines after Sunday's loss to the Suns.
"There is some evidence it may work like what happened with Philadelphia, I guess," he said. " 'Trust the process' when they went like two, three years, really bad and then they started winning. I kind of don't believe in that kind of system. We have to build good habits from Day One, and I don't think we are in the right way to be honest."
Rubio and Davis are the veterans tasked with helping build that winning culture, but Davis hasn't played in 12 games and Rubio's play has declined after his years in Phoenix and Utah.
Perhaps a move that encapsulates Rosas' approach happened before the season when the Wolves waived Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the name of maintaining roster flexibility. Even though Hollis-Jefferson was only on the team for a short while, he made a big impact on someone such as Josh Okogie.
"Just seeing him play was very inspiring, even the energy he brought out," Okogie said after a preseason game against Memphis. "He just makes you ask yourself, what kind of guy wouldn't want to play with a guy like Rondae? He had the whole bench, everybody in the game involved, coaches involved. You fall in love with a guy like Rondae."
There haven't been enough guys like that to sustain the Wolves during the first half. Not enough players to affect winning, who can show a young roster what it takes on both ends of the floor to win tight NBA games, or to not completely collapse when you have a fourth-quarter lead.
Rosas has kept the roster young and as flexible as can be after he inherited some burdensome contracts from the Tom Thibodeau era, but that has come at a cost.
The question facing Rosas and the Wolves is how much patience Towns will have from here on out? Towns already has endured four seasons without a playoff appearance in Minnesota and is all but assured of his fifth. Rosas has only been here for two of those, and the wear of all that losing might not have affected him as much as it has Towns (and the fan base for that matter).
A week after he professed his long-term commitment to the franchise, Towns was asked where his patience level was with the team after Wednesday's 33-point loss to Charlotte. He simply said: "Thank God for the break."
Organizing the roster around Towns' timeline won't mean much if Towns isn't here to bring that vision to fruition.
Rosas has another chance to tweak the roster coming up at the trade deadline March 25. The Athletic reported the Wolves are in the market for a power forward and were linked to Orlando's Aaron Gordon and Atlanta's John Collins. Maybe another trade changes the trajectory of the roster.
Maybe some of the blues go away once Beasley, Russell and Towns are able to play together again.
But as it stands now, something has to change.