Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor made what could be interpreted as some pretty telling comments during an interview with Chad and Sid Hartman that aired on 830 AM (WCCO Radio) last Friday, stating that he’s asked general manager Milt Newton to “run the draft and free agency” this summer. “It would be tough for me to evaluate him fully because he has not had the opportunity to go through the draft and free agency,” Taylor told The AP shortly thereafter.
“I have to let him do that in order to have a chance to give him a full evaluation.”
Newton spent a decade as the Washington Wizards’ vice president of player personnel before being hired by the late-Flip Saunders as the Timberwolves GM in 2013. They worked alongside one another in Washington for roughly 2 1/2 seasons. During his time in Washington, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Newton was instrumental in directing the scouting department. He is said to have “played in a significant role in draft and free agent decisions and created the Wizards’ comprehensive scouting database.” In addition, Newton “led pre-draft efforts and conducted workouts for prospects” and “assisted with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders delegations in South Africa and Senegal.” He also assisted with the management of the salary cap.
Prior to his stint in Washington, Newton had a hand in the curation of the National Basketball Development League (commonly known as the D-League). The Wizards’ team website states he “assisted in the development of league policies and procedures and served as the Director of Player Personnel for three years,” where Newton “was responsible for the evaluation, recruitment and signing of all players, and assisting the Executive Director in the league’s day-to-day basketball operations.”
“In the league’s first two years of operation, Newton assisted in the development of 22 players that were promoted from the NBDL to the NBA.”
It’s important to note that during his time with the Wizards the team was rather unsuccessful in terms of wins and losses. That said, at least by these accounts, it seems Newton had been used as a glorified scout and player-development coordinator; despite putting together some comprehensive database of prospects while also providing input on how to best develop talent, Newton does not appear to have been the one pulling the proverbial trigger in regards to draft selections and free agent acquisitions.
While Washington may have put forth an awful product on the court, it did not happen as a direct result of decisions Newton had made off of it.
For the first time in his career as an NBA executive, Newton will have the chance to call the shots on draft night and throughout free agency. And yet, somewhat surprisingly, this does not ensure he will hold the title of Timberwolves GM when the 2016-17 season begins.
Taylor said his decision to give Newton the summer to enact his plan does not mean that he is certain to be the GM at the start of next season. Taylor said the two will sit down after free agency to see where the team is at. “It has to do with how he goes through the process,” Taylor said. “I want to see him do the work and see how he goes about using all the tools available to him.”
The AP’s Jon Krawczynski noted last Friday that Taylor would “encourage Newton to bring in more help in the front office to assist him in the draft and free agency.”
Granted Taylor intends to evaluate Newton on the process in which he goes about handling business in the offseason, it seems incredibly unlikely that a competent owner would allow a GM to make decisions involving player-personnel only to terminate him/her before the following season, as it would not allow ample time to fairly assess draft picks and/or free agent acquisitions. By this logic, it would appear as though Newton will retain his position as the Timberwolves GM for at least one more season — beyond that, nobody can truly say for certain.
As for the fate of interim coach Sam Mitchell, Newton will defer to Taylor, who told The AP he intends to see how the Wolves finishes the season before making that decision.
Photo credit: Draft Express/YouTube[830 WCCO, The AP, Washington Post, NBA.com/Wizards]