Gersson Rosas made no secret when he took the job as Timberwolves president that the primary way he was going to restructure the Wolves was through trades.
Minnesota has never been a free-agent destination in the NBA, and Rosas wasn't naive enough to think he could change that overnight for big-ticket players. Instead, trades, the way Rosas' former team in Houston became a contender in landing James Harden, were going to drive the roster overhaul.
D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Ricky Rubio and Jarred Vanderbilt all came to the Wolves via trade, and the draft pick that eventually turned into Jaden McDaniels also came in a trade.
The March 25 trade deadline is nearing, and reports are circulating of the Wolves' reported interest in Atlanta's John Collins and, to a lesser extent, Orlando's Aaron Gordon. Hall of Fame NBA reporter Jackie MacMullan said on Bill Simmons' podcast recently that she heard from sources the Wolves were "dying" to get Collins.
Just as Rosas made clear trades were the primary way he was going to reshape the roster and then followed up on that, when reports have emerged about Rosas' pursuit of a given target, fire typically has followed the smoke.
The Wolves never gave up on their pursuit of Russell, and their interest both in the 2019 offseason and before the February 2020 trade deadline was public knowledge. Even as reports varied about the state of negotiations in the days leading to the trade, in the end the Wolves dealt Andrew Wiggins and a first-round pick for Russell.
Before Robert Covington was traded, it was an open secret the Wolves were shopping him, as some national writers strongly hinted in the days leading up to the four-team gargantuan trade that netted the Wolves Beasley, Hernangomez, Vanderbilt and a draft pick.
Now the same dance seems to be happening with Collins, who will be a restricted free agent after the season but is reportedly looking for a max contract.
Trading for Collins now ensures the Wolves would secure his Bird Rights, as they did with Beasley and Hernangomez, and would also ultimately control whether he re-signs in restricted free agency, but just what might that cost? Would the Wolves have the room to keep him?
Would part of that cost come in another first-round pick? Since the Wolves owe Golden State a top-three-protected first-round pick this year — and there's a chance the Wolves land in the top three and the (unprotected) pick conveys in 2022 — they can't deal a first-round pick until 2024, as the NBA doesn't allow teams to deal first-round picks in consecutive years.
Perhaps it's just as well the Wolves are hamstrung in dealing first-round picks, considering they may finish this season with a record that gives Golden State a 60% chance of retaining a pick that falls between No. 4 and No. 7. The Wolves were hoping when they dealt the pick that it would be somewhere in the teens, not the top 10.
The way this season has gone, the pressure has built on Rosas to make another move on a roster that still needs building. All the games the Wolves had to play without Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns or both have made that clear.
Towns also won't want to play in a state of constant rebuild for long. Trade deadlines and offseasons are the time tectonic roster shifts can happen, and Rosas has pulled the plug on multiple moves in the past two cycles. This deadline promises more of the same. The signs are there, and Rosas is likely to make a move of some kind. As time goes on in Rosas' tenure and the Wolves continue losing, there's more riding on each move Rosas makes.
He has shown he won't sit quietly as the NBA turns around the Wolves, but making the right move is more paramount than ever in his tenure.
Chris Hine covers the Timberwolves and NBA for the Star Tribune.