Could the Timberwolves front office mess be a blessing in disguise?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

Last week, the Minnesota Timberwolves fired GM Gersson Rosas. It was the latest move to showcase the franchise’s instability, but could it be a blessing in disguise?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a state of disarray. This is not particularly newsworthy on its own since that has been the standard state of the franchise since its inception. But last Thursday, the franchise took a dramatic step by firing general manager Gersson Rosas. While the firing itself made sense, considering the team’s 42-94 record during his tenure, with the new season right around the corner, the timing made it inexplicable. At least until further reports emerged.

These stated that Rosas had created a deeply unpleasant work environment in addition to having an affair with a coworker. Regardless of whether or not the Wolves were happy to have an excuse to fire him, his management style coupled with his “inappropriate relationship” forced the team’s hand. However, for a franchise with little to celebrate over the course of its 32-year history, the firing of Rosas is an opportunity, a chance to enter a new era

It’s not clear how good of a GM Rosas was. In the 2019 Draft, he traded up to select Jarrett Culver, a shooting guard without a reliable shot. Last season he struggled to keep a spot in the rotation and has already been traded. The biggest move of Rosas’ tenure was the D’Angelo Russell trade. However, it remains impossible to evaluate over a year and a half later in light of how little he has shared the floor with friend and franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns

Entering last season, it seemed like fans would have a better idea of where the team stood after the 2020-21 season, but with both Russell and Towns missing extended time, that has been postponed another season. Though early returns do have signs of promise. Towns, Russell, and Edwards played 327 minutes together over the course of 24 games, going 13-11 in those contests. Their offensive rating in those minutes was 120.9, more than two points per 100 possessions higher than the league-leading Nets. The trio’s dynamic firepower was enough to make up for their struggles on the other end, giving them a net rating of 4.9, which would have been good for seventh of the course of a whole season. There’s reason for optimism, leavened by Minnesota’s history.

The Minnesota Timberwolves get another chance to start over and get it right

For years, the Timberwolves have seemed on the verge of putting it together. But that promise never coalesces into anything besides disappointment and misused potential. They had Kevin Garnett for 12 years and only made it out of the first round once. They then had Kevin Love at his peak and never managed to make the postseason once. Now, Karl-Anthony Towns is entering his seventh year with the team and with only one playoff appearance to show for it

Towns is one of the best big men in the NBA, a fact that has been obscured by his lack of team success. He has been patient with the team up to this point, rarely voicing any sort of dissatisfaction with the team though, with his contract expiring in two years, time is running out for Minnesota to prove to him that they can build a winner around him. In light of his abilities, it’s impossible to believe that Karl-Anthony Towns cannot be the best player on a very, very good team. Yet somehow, the Timberwolves have been unable to crack what, in theory, should be a fairly simple code.

The answer is simple in theory. Hire the right leadership and find a way to build a team around Towns as quickly as possible. Yet the team has failed to do so year after year. Since Towns entered the league, he has played under four different general managers and four different head coaches. Players have been shuttled in and out in the hopes of finding some combination that works and nothing has taken hold. Hopefully, the team’s new general manager can do what Rosas failed to — provide stability while also making moves that maximize the presence of their young superstar

I believe that the Timberwolves should be genuinely competitive this year, though I’m hesitant to say so. The big problem last year was not the lack of skilled players, but the lack of availability from those players. With all of them healthy entering the season, and with Edwards getting better with each game last year, the Wolves may finally be a team on the rise.

The firing of Rosas may be a long-term positive for the team. In light of post-firing revelations about the work environment that he fostered, things should at least be more peaceful in Minnesota. However, the timing adds an even greater sense of instability to a franchise that is desperate to prove that it can right the ship before franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns can leave in free agency or ask for a trade. While the short-term instability is less than ideal, leading Towns and many others to wonder “wtf,” as he tweeted when the news was announced, it provides the team another chance to start over, to make things right.

During Monday’s media day, Towns commented on the constant churn in Minnesota: “What happened last week, it just adds to the list… I’ve been through I feel like almost everything.” Yet in spite of that, Towns reaffirmed his commitment to the franchise, saying “Even when it required me to be a punching bag to the world, I put the Wolves first, before myself.” He may not agree to do that forever. If the team wants to keep Towns, they are running out of chances to prove they can build a winner around him. So far the cycle of drafting an All-NBA big man, failing to take advantage of his talents, trading him and then trying to rebuild has happened twice. Here’s hoping there’s not a third one imminent.

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