Gersson Rosas had plenty to say Monday when he was introduced as the Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, but a point of emphasis was clear: There is not a magic formula for winning, and Minnesota fans shouldn’t just expect Rosas to import the exact recipe used in Houston, where he spent 17 years, when rebuilding the Timberwolves roster.
“This is not going to be Houston North,” Rosas said. “This is going to be about Minnesota and we’re going to build our own identity and we’re going to build our own organism.”
But he was just as clear on this: The on-court product will look different from how it has looked in the past, with Rosas trying to build a roster and implement a way of playing that maximizes strengths and includes an analytics-based approach.
“You guys are going to hear it from me consistently — it’s action over words,” he said. “We’re going to focus on the process. We hope the results will come sooner rather than later. But there’s going to be an impact in how we play, and how the market feels us.”
While one can appreciate Rosas’ desire to create a new and unique identity for the Wolves, I have to wonder this: Maybe there’s a model out there that is worth borrowing heavily from, even if it’s not outright copying.
And no, it’s not the Rockets. Becoming “Houston North” would require having a league MVP point guard and another all-time great point guard sharing the court while feeding three-point shooters and slashers. The Wolves don’t have that personnel, and even if they tried to start accumulating it now it would take several years to replicate.
What they do have, though, is a star big man in Karl-Anthony Towns who is a gifted athlete and who can hurt teams at the rim and from three-point range. The Wolves have yet to maximize the efficiency of his offensive gifts, even though Towns is already an incredibly efficient offensive player.
If they did … they might be able to look, at least statistically, like a different highly successful team in a similar market. Yes, if the Wolves are going to borrow heavily from any model, at least with their current personnel, they should aim to look like “Milwaukee West.”
The Bucks didn’t endure the same playoff drought the Wolves did, but until this season they hadn’t won a playoff series nor won more than 46 games in a regular season since 2001.
This season, buoyed by the gifts of Giannis Antetokounmpo and an offensive model that was similar in efficiency to that of Houston but achieved in a different way, the Bucks broke through to win 60 games. They currently have a 3-1 series lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals and look like a good bet to reach the NBA Finals (and perhaps win a title).
The Bucks shot the second-most three-pointers this season, but they still took 600 fewer than Houston. Threes accounted for 41.9 percent of their field goal attempts — a big part of their attack — but they also took 34 percent of their shots at the rim — the second-highest mark in the NBA), while Houston ranked 26th in that category.
An absurd 57.3 percent of Giannis’ attempts came at the rim this year. Towns, meanwhile, attempted a career-low 29.7 percent of his shots at the rim this season.
Among the many missions of Rosas this offseason should be this: Get Towns geared toward going to the rim on drives or post-ups. Do the same with Andrew Wiggins. Surround them with reasonably priced three-point shooters instead of aiming at pie-in-the-sky free agents who don’t want to come here (or to Milwaukee).
Borrow liberally from our neighbors from the East. If Minnesota is going to replicate anything, that makes more sense than copying Houston.