Who the Minnesota Timberwolves Are Becoming

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

When Gersson Rosas took the stage at his introductory press conference, he declared “this is not going to be Houston North.”

Prematurely, this notion crushed the dreams of many in the fanbase that the Minnesota Timberwolves would finally shed their archaic ways and embrace the modern NBA. The notion to the belief went: To have grasped onto The Houston Way would have not only been exciting, it, theoretically, would also have been a departure from the grating style the Wolves played with under Tom Thibodeau, and it certainly would have to change the most grating element of Timberwolves basketball: Andrew Wiggins’ shot selection. After all, last season, Wiggins attempted 180 field goals from 15-to-19 feet from the basket while the Houston Rockets, as an entire team, attempted 164 from that range.

But now, a few months removed from that press conference, the notion that the Wolves won’t be playing a modern game is appearing to become increasingly misinformed. After rounding out the roster and hiring a coaching staff, there is plenty of information available to be able to glean what not being “Houston North” will look like.

Rosas began painting this picture with his commentary at Ryan Saunders’ introductory press conference.

“Houston will confuse you a little bit,” Rosas said after removing the interim tag from Saunders’ job title. “The modern NBA game is about maximizing your best players… You go to Houston currently now, they’re not playing fast. It’s more of a full possession, isolation, strategically placing guys in positions to be offensively productive. That’s why I’ve said it often, we’re different. We’re going to play fast because our roster is going to allow us to play fast.”

Rosas has put that roster together, and it does, in fact, look to be a fast group. Slower veteran pieces like Taj Gibson, Tyus Jones and Luol Deng have been replaced by the likes of Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell amongst others.

The coaching staff has also been put in place; a staff that will function “a little like a football model,” according to Rosas. Saunders will oversee the program. David Vanterpool, from Terry Stotts’ staff in Portland, will be the associate head coach and function as the defensive coordinator. Pablo Prigioni, who was previously honing his coaching chops in Brooklyn, will be the offensive coordinator and third in command.

This new hierarchy would suggest the New Timberwolves will be one-third Portland, one-third Brooklyn and, perhaps, Rosas’ roster construction maneuverings suggest they will also be one-third Houston. The safest prognostication going forward is that this franchise will have tenets of what Portland, Brooklyn and Hoston are understood to have been. And with that, it will be Saunders’ job to be the pie crust, crafting a new, three-fold identity that will come to define what Minnesota North will become.

Through Summer League and conversations with Saunders, Vanterpool, Prigioni and Rosas, below is what I can best glean that identity to look like.

The Houston Roster Construction Model: Working in Stages

The plan for optimized roster construction in Houston was to acquire as many stars as possible (at least two) and then to round out the roster with competent role players that fit the system’s needs. In 2013, the Rockets paired their incumbent star, James Harden, with Dwight Howard — a free agent who, at the time, was a 27-year-old star in his own right. And in 2017, after the Howard experiment deflated, Houston stuck to the plan by acquiring Chris Paul to ride co-pilot alongside a now-peaking Harden.

As evidenced by the full-on pursuit of D’Angelo Russell, it’s fair to assume that Rosas’ preference was to go with that same order of operations in Minnesota. But when Russell chose Golden State, Rosas and the Wolves began working in a different order.

“A lot of it has to do with what stage are you in,” says Rosas. “In Houston, we were at a certain stage. Here, we’re at a different stage.”

As he did with Harden in Houston, Rosas believes the Wolves already have a top-10 player in the NBA in Karl-Anthony Towns.

“Here I see a similar approach,” Rosas continued, “in that we want to find great players. We’re fortunate that we have a great one in Karl.”

With other splashy moves, like signing a star in free agency, made extremely difficult by the onerous financial situation, or acquiring a star on the market, like Russell Westbrook, deemed an ineffective use of assets, Rosas and company have downshifted to another — equally Houstonian — path.

“We feel like we’re adding talent to the base of our team,” Rosas said of the acquisitions he has been able to execute thus far. “We’re adding upside to who we’re gonna be in terms of our system and our style of play. And we’ll continue developing players around Karl and executing the vision we have for this organization. It’s not gonna happen overnight. But we’ve got a plan that we believe in.”

Those acquisitions include Layman, Vonleh, Bell, Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham and Tyrone Wallace. And the maneuvers are akin to Houston in the sense that they sacrifice minimal cap flexibility while addressing the team’s greatest need: in this case, defense. All six of those acquired players will individually earn a salary worth less than three-and-a-half percent of the 2019-20 salary cap and are, at worst, competent defenders.

This differs from the previous regime that prioritized offensive weapons with the fringe salary slots. Of the nine players Thibodeau signed for less than five percent of the cap during his tenure, only Luol Deng and Marcus Georges-Hunt could reasonably be seen as defensive assets.

It’s not that Thibodeau’s strategy couldn’t have worked, but it is not what the Houston model has been. Under Daryl Morey, the Rockets infrastructural plan was to stack the roster with heavy salaries at the top and to fill the bottom of the squad out with near-minimum deals that complement those heavier salary players.

There has been fair hand-wringing over the notion of Rosas not pursuing talents above those near-minimum level contracts. These players he did acquire may be on cheaper deals but it’s hard to argue they possess more talent than the outgoing contracts of Taj Gibson, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose and Anthony Tolliver. In short: The roster looks worse than it was a year ago. And that sentiment carries a concern to a fraught fanbase that has already started the Anthony Davis clock on KAT.

Right or wrong, making those type of moves for high-end role players was not the Houston way — at least not in the early stages of their roster construction. In going back through the Rockets transaction log, really, the only times they paid up for vets was when they felt they were truly ready to compete for a championship.

The players of that ilk Morey signed on the free agency market were Eric Gordon (four years, $53 million in 2016), Ryan Anderson (four years, $80 million in 2016), PJ Tucker (four years, $32 million — the mid-level exception — in 2017) and Clint Capela (five years, $90 million in 2018). When Harden and the Rockets were peaking, those players all filled a specific role that the Houston front office believed would help unleash Harden.

If Rosas is mirroring that pattern, the high-end pieces need to first be in place before he is willing to pay up beyond five percent of the salary cap for a role player.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A difference from the recent Houston model, however, appears to be a greater commitment to player development. When Houston went all-in on Howard way back in 2013, using draft capital on making actual picks became a tertiary priority for the championship-hunting franchise. Houston has only drafted in the first round twice since signing Howard — Sam Dekker (18th overall in 2015) and Capela (25th overall in 2014).

A signal that Rosas sees the Wolves to be in a different stage is that he did not trade the team’s 11th overall for a ready-to-go co-pilot for Towns. Instead, Rosas traded up in the draft, sacrificing the player Thibodeau viewed to be Towns’ frontcourt partner of the future, Dario Saric, to do so.

“It costs you to make moves, it costs you to move up in the draft,” said Rosas of the move up for Jarrett Culver. “Dario Saric is a very talented player and a guy that we valued in our program and in our system. You’ve got to give up value and talent to get value and talent.”

Some dot-connecting would suggest that the goal with Culver is to develop a homegrown version of those high-end role players Houston had in Gordon, Anderson and Tucker. The hope is that Culver can be the Wolves’ Capela.

“For us, a wing that can create for others, a wing that can play off of Karl is something that’s very interesting,” Rosas continued. “A prototypical, two-way, playmaking wing in the NBA is super valuable. We feel like we got our hands on one in the draft.”

The commitment to player development extends to the cheap free agents Rosas did sign this summer. In addition to being acquired on the cheap, particularly Layman, Wallace, Bell and Vonleh fit the same age curve as Towns and Wiggins. Layman is 17 months older than Vonleh — who is three months older than Towns and six months younger than Wiggins. Bell is, oddly, 43 days older than Towns and 51 days younger than Wiggins. And Wallace is within a year of both Towns and Wiggins — eight months Wiggins’ senior and 11 months older than Towns.

“Most players are what they’re going to be by the time they turn 24,” a league executive told me last season when I was asking how much room for growth Saric had left. The majority of the Wolves’ young core falls in that 24-year-old range, but room for optimism with them is born out of acknowledging the lack of opportunity Layman, Vonleh, Bell and Wallace have accrued thus far in their careers.

  • Jake Layman — Prior to playing 1,327 minutes last season, Layman received 409 total minutes in his first two seasons in the league.
  • Noah Vonleh — After bopping through Charlotte, Portland and Chicago, Vonleh received 1,722 minutes in New York last season (the best run of his career).
  • Jordan Bell — While Bell has been afforded the opportunity to play in 32 playoff games in his two-year career, his role in Golden State grew increasingly volatile over the course of his tenure there. In 30 games from mid-December through mid-February with the Warriors last season, Bell played under 10 minutes in 13 games and was altogether DNP-ed 11 times during the run.
  • Tyrone Wallace — In the first season of the implementation of the two-way contract, Wallace was the poster boy for the dysfunction of a contract that restricts players to 45 days out of the G-League. While Wallace found success in the peculiar arrangement, the predicament prevented him from ever truly carving out a role in Los Angeles.

“This is an ongoing process, especially for us. We’ve got young guys, we’ve got a good core that we’re trying to invest in and make better,” is how Rosas described the young group. “But it’s ongoing. We’ve gotta develop from the inside-out. We’ve gotta explore the market and what’s available. And, for us, it’s a continual process of improvement with this roster.”

Again, the order of operations Rosas has implemented in Minnesota is different than it was the past handful of years in Houston. But the ethos is the same: It’s Moreyball construction, just at a different stage of the process.

“Big picture,” Rosas said, “we’re always gonna be focused on the best available players, whether they’re in trades, in free agency or in the draft, like we’re doing with Jarrett.

“Just know that whenever those players become available, and we feel like they’re fits for our system and our program and our vision, we’re aggressively looking to acquire those guys in any shape or form.”

The Brooklyn Offensive Model: Strategic Unpredictability

Few teams in the NBA tested more roster combinations than the Brooklyn Nets did last season. That was born out of a coaching staff willing to experiment and a roster that could reasonably handle it. Minnesota’s staff and roster, now, checks those boxes as well.

Through a model of one lead-guard, a glut of wings and one big, Brooklyn played 13 players over 950 minutes last season. Rather than being reactive to the size of the opponent, Kenny Atkinson and his staff wanted opponents to adjust to the diversity of lineup combinations Brooklyn could roll out. The Nets most-used five-man lineup only played 189 minutes together last season. This is a stark contrast to the Timberwolves the past few seasons and Tom Thibodeau’s preference of playing the starters together as much as possible. During the 2017-18 season, the Wolves’ five-man starting unit of Jeff Teague, Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Gibson and Karl-Anthony Towns played 1,131 minutes together.

“I think positionally we’re point guard, wings and fives,” says Rosas. “Our ability to put different lineups on the floor, that will impact other teams. And either they’ll try to go big against us and we can play faster or they’ll make a different adjustment to try and play with us as we play smaller.”

Connecting some dots from Brooklyn, these are the parallels to draw between the lineups the Nets ran out and what the Wolves may look to roll with.

One Big Man

Brooklyn last season, like Minnesota this season, only had two traditional bigs: Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis. It’s not as if Allen and Davis were completely staggered in their playing time, but the two do not show up together in any of Brooklyn’s 20 most-used five-man lineup combinations from last season. I would anticipate something similar in the frequency of staggering of Towns and Gorgui Dieng.

(Where Noah Vonleh fits into this remains somewhat ambiguous. Rosas says Vonleh has the “physicality to play a couple of positions, some four, some five.” The ambiguity is borne out of Vonleh’s size — height: 6’9″, weight: 250, wingspan: 7’4″ — and the contradicting of the whole only one big man at a time thing by saying “some four, some five.” At this point, Vonleh is just a lineup enigma. Does he start as the de facto four? Does Covington? Rosas, understandably, wasn’t willing to answer that question, yet.)

One Point Guard

As far as the “one point guard” deal goes, Brooklyn likely does hold a strong example for how the Wolves will balance the utility of Teague, Napier, Culver and Wiggins in those situations. The lead guard role in Brooklyn shuffled between Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Napier. However, in an effort to find optimization, those players also shared the floor — taking turns sliding into one of those wing roles.

Russell played with Dinwiddie for 753 minutes (minus-3.6 net rating); 682 minutes with LeVert (minus-1.3 net rating); 315 minutes with Napier (plus-5.9 net rating). If Teague is to be the Wolves’ Russell, it seems he’ll receive a similar split with Wiggins and Culver, and even Napier — whose track record of being able to play alongside a traditional point guard stems back to Portland in 2017-18 where he thrived sharing the floor with Damian Lillard for 580 minutes (plus-12.3 net rating).

Rosas believes that over time Culver can be an offensive initiator. “I think right now we see him,” said Rosas, “and coach Saunders can probably speak to it at a higher level, but for sure as a secondary pick-and-roll guy who can create off the dribble or in live situations. His ability to see the floor, make plays is something that we value a ton. He basically played point guard for Texas Tech last year, so he’s got an experience set there that we can grow off of. And hopefully, over time he can become a primary playmaker.”

I asked Saunders if the idea of leading the offense is a secondary thing for Culver, and he was quick to dismiss the idea that being the lead guy has to be a tertiary thing for Culver.

“He played some point guard at Texas Tech, so I see him fitting in perfectly with that,” said Saunders. “That’s how I like to play… You’ve got KAT, who obviously commands a lot of attention, and then you like to have a point guard, but having a guy like Andrew Wiggins or Jarrett Culver bring the ball up the floor, that’s not a bad thing.

“If [Culver] gets the rebound, we’ve been working all summer on our positions being interchangeable, he has the ability to bring the ball up the floor.”

A Glut of Wings

Particularly if the model is similar to Brooklyn’s last season, it is shaping up that every player on the Wolves roster not named Jeff, Karl or Gorgui could receive time on the wing. In Brooklyn, Allen manned the big man spot and his frontcourt partner was a mixture of big wings (like DeMarre Carroll and Rodions Kurucs) and undersized forwards (like Jared Dudley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson).

In Minnesota, those players are shaping up to be a grouping of Covington, Layman, Bell, Vonleh and maybe even Wiggins — who is as tall as any of those guys. While Rosas’ comments on Vonleh were more ambiguous, he was more direct in pointing to the need for addressing this role as the reason Layman was signed.

“We really like his versatility, his feel, his IQ, ability to play on the ball, off the ball. To play a couple of positions offensively, defensively,” Rosas said of Layman. “He’s going to be a guy that makes our offense go… He played a key role for that team in Portland last year and we really see him carrying over, continuing to grow and develop. He’s a great fit for how we want to play offensively and defensively.”

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

All of that really only touches on who will be on the floor. Arguably the more meaningful adjustment to the offense will be in how Saunders and his offensive coordinator (Prigioni) structure the offense. But style and personnel connect. By playing a diversity of players, an offense can garner an advantage in camouflaging itself.

“Everybody now has advanced scouts everywhere, so the idea is to design an offense that helps us to be unpredictable,” said Prigioni. “It’s gonna turn into a read and react offense, which requires a level of IQ from the player.”

Selflessness, understanding and embracing a collective mindset are what elevated Brooklyn last season from a group of mediocre offensive talent into an effective unit. Along those lines, Prigioni lays out that offensive success in Minnesota will also be derived from embracing a collective understanding of how to play.

“Shot selection is huge for us. We’re trying to involve the analytic guys more and more,” Prigioni continued. “Everybody knows that the best shot, the most efficient shot in the league is transition offense… So that should be priority number one. Number two is look for rim finishes, 3-point shots and getting to the free throw line. Those are the most efficient shots in the league. So limiting those long twos, the jumpers, those floaters, that will kind of be a goal.”

Just as Houston can confuse a bit, Brooklyn is the same way. Since Atkinson took over three years ago, the Nets have been top-5 in 3-point frequency, but they haven’t necessarily played fast. Sometimes those two things can be subconsciously tied to each other. Brooklyn pushed the pace a bit after makes last season, attempting a shot at the 11th quickest pace in the league in those situations. But following defensive rebounds and opponent turnovers, Brooklyn was in the bottom half of the league in the length of their possessions, per Inpredictable.com. (A comparable pace to the Wolves last season.)

Rosas, Saunders and Prigioni have all been direct about wanting to “play fast.” But they also acknowledge that comes with discretion. Brooklyn was always quick to get into the halfcourt, yet showed a willingness to slow down if the defense transitioned properly. They were measured in their pace.

“If you cannot get the layup, find those shooters for corner 3s,” said Prigioni of what he understands optimal transition offense to be. “Corner 3s are high-efficiency 3s. So, yeah, when I mention 3s, I also mention transition 3s… [But] it depends. We gotta go more in detail on who is taking that shot. Maybe, ‘I don’t know if I can take that pull-up.’ Damian Lillard can do it. Those guys. You gotta know the personnel.”

Another difference between Houston and Brooklyn, and an angle Minnesota seems likely to parallel of Brooklyn’s, is in an offense that has more of a flow than a rigidity. As Rosas mentioned, Houston is more a full possession, isolation, strategically placing guys in positions to be an offensively productive team. The Wolves will be different in that there will be more of a fusion between the analytics and instinct.

“At some point,” Prigioni said with a shrug, “you gotta trust in your instinct and how you see and how you feel about that particular action. But definitely, [analytics are] a huge help because it makes you think about it. And the numbers don’t lie.

“So at some point, there’s something there. It’s just really true. You’ve got to put your feeling with those numbers together and get to the best option possible.”

The Portland Defensive Model: Protecting ‘The House’

Vanterpool is a fascinating hire for a number of reasons. Just on the surface, it’s an objectively strong hire. One league executive in Las Vegas said he was “shocked” Vanterpool left Portland when I asked about the hiring. “He will be a head coach in this league, 100 percent,” the executive continued.

Peel back a few layers and draw parallels to Portland and the move is even more intriguing. The most important, schematically, coming between Jusuf Nurkic and Towns. Nurkic, like Towns, is a center who has always been utilized defensively in a way that covered up specific weaknesses.

“He did a great job protecting the paint and protecting the rim, which we call The House,” Vanterpool said of Nurkic. “Being a little less fleet of foot than some of the guys that he had to deal with, some of the fast guys, even like Jeff Teague, coming downhill at him was difficult for him. So, we had to kind of make adjustments as far as where we wanted him to be in pick-and-roll defense and what we wanted him to do as far as chasing some of those guys.”

That adjustment was what is known as “drop” or “blue” coverage — a scheme that asks the big man to retreat to The House in pick-and-roll situations.

“One thing that helped him, he’s 7-feet, 295,” Vanterpool continued on Nurkic. “That’s an imposing figure. That’s a big guy… He made sure that nobody came in The House unwarranted, I’ll say that.”

The irony and, to some, the concerning element of Vanterpool coming from the Portland is that, schematically, this is the way Towns has been used defensively for the majority of his career. In the recent past of the NBA, it was Thibodeau who popularized the drop scheme against the pick-and-roll. In Boston, when the Celtics had the best defensive rating in the league, Thibodeau used Kevin Garnett as his dropping big man. In Chicago, when the Bulls also had the best defensive rating in the league, Thibodeau’s house protector was Joakim Noah. And in Minnesota, when the Timberwolves were a bottom-seven defense for three consecutive seasons, Thibodeau’s imposing figure was Towns.

It’s not that Towns can’t find success in a scheme that asks him to be the backline tentpole of the defense, it’s that he hasn’t found success doing it for four years running. Minnesota has been worse defensively with Towns on the floor in four separate seasons and under three separate head coaches than they were with him off the floor. All three of those coaches asked Towns to function similarly defensively: as a dropping big man.

Evidenced during his first season under Thibodeau, where the Wolves surrendered 9.7 additional points per 100 possessions with Towns on the floor than when he was off, that schematic change was the most complicated Towns had ever seen. (Of note: Towns also had the worst defensive supporting cast of his career that season. But still, 10 points per 100 possessions is glaring.)

“Foundationally, we tried to keep everything as simple as possible (in Portland) for everybody on our defense so that everyone knew what was going on and what was supposed to happen,” said Vanterpool, who notes the Blazers always had a better defense with Nurkic on-the-floor versus off. “Obviously, there are always holes, holes happen, and things happen, breakdowns happen. Just gotta be there… You have to support.”

This, too, is the plan with Towns: cover up the holes; execute; don’t put it all on KAT.

“KAT wants to move his feet a lot, he and I have talked about that a little bit,” said Vanterpool. “I know KAT, and again he’s a competitor. He’s had some things go on here where they didn’t have a great year defensively for the past few seasons and we look to hopefully have everybody welcome to some adjustments that may help alleviate that so we start to go in the proper direction.”

That direction might end up being a diversity of coverages — more than Portland implemented defensively.

This seems logical because the best defensive run of Towns’ career came in the first string of games he played alongside a healthy Robert Covington. During those 11 games, the Timberwolves had the third-best defensive rating in the NBA, surrendering a mere 100.7 points per possessions — a figure 11.5 points lower than the Wolves full-season defensive rating of 112.2. At least part of that success came from the freedom Covington provided Towns to get out and move his feet a lot. KAT seemed to revel in the opportunity to do something different.

“Whatever ends up being best for the team and for the unit is what we’ll do,” said Vanterpool of potentially deviating from the scheme he ran in Portland.

Defensive schemes are different than they are in football; they are the best guess at what will stop the defense. Basketball teams don’t define themselves by a base defensive set like a 3-4 versus a 4-3, they are defined by how frequently they blitz versus how often they drop back into a zone. Trapping a pick-and-roll is a blitz, where dropping the big is falling back into the zone.

Even though Prigioni will be wearing the offensive coordinator cap, he also spoke to how the team needs to find a balance defensively between reading screening actions and switching them.

“Obviously, there are a lot of teams like Golden State and Houston they switch everything, which forces the offense to be a read-and-react,” said Prigioni. “So yeah, it’s gonna be something we’re gonna try. We’re gonna try things also defensively, especially same-size guys that switch.”

But that won’t be the full defensive menu.

“At some point, a switching defense turns into a lazy defense,” Prigioni continued. “You don’t have to change. Just point switch, and that’s when the offense uses the slip to take advantage. You want to teach how to switch properly.”

To that point, and along the Portland parallel, it should be noted that there were times that the Blazers did mix it up. Protecting The House was the baseline, but sometimes the game asks for adjustments.

The most hopeful parallel to draw between Minnesota and the strides Portland has made defensively is not between Towns and Nurkic, it is between Towns and Damian Lillard. Early in his career, Lillard struggled immensely on the defensive end, and it was through working on that side of the game with Vanterpool that he not only elevated his own game but brought the Blazers, as a team, up to par as a defensive unit. Lillard elaborated on this after Game 2 of the Portland’s first round series against Oklahoma City.

“Early in my career, I was criticized a lot about my defense,” Lillard said. “A lot of times, young players in the NBA struggle because you don’t understand the NBA lingo. You don’t know the terms. You don’t know, kind of, what to expect …

“I’m not watchin’ film to see highlights of myself. I’m watchin’ film to see how I can take advantage of the other team. How can I give myself a chance to play better against the other team? And a lot that is defensively, going over stuff with coach Vanterpool, and then going out there and taking the challenge.”

If Vanterpool can have this impact on Towns, the potential is immense. But he will likely need help, and that help could be best served by the team’s best defender: Covington.

“You have somebody with that type of positioning in the league, they also garner a certain level of respect from their teammates,” said Vanterpool of Covington and his status as a defender. “It’s just like being a knockdown shooter. You’re a knockdown shooter and you wanna tell somebody, ‘hey, you can improve your shot this way,’ chances are you’re going to listen to that guy. That’s an opportunity for Cov to be a leader in that respect… And they should be listening to a guy that’s All-Defensive team.”

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

To say the New Timberwolves identity is split one-third Houston, one-third Brooklyn and one-third Portland is too simplistic. It’s also probably not a great idea to directly stay on any of those paths.

Portland may have spiked up to sixth in defensive rating in 2017-18, but they dropped back to 16th last season. Defensively, they were no match for Golden State in the conference finals. They are imperfect. Brooklyn may have been one of the league’s great surprises last season, but they were still only the league’s 19th-best offense. At the end of the day, they won two more games during the regular season than they lost, and they were bounced in the first round in five games. They are imperfect. And Houston, sure, they’ve been visionaries in their own right. The way they have evolved James Harden is more than noteworthy. But they too appear to have run into a glass ceiling of their own. An obstacle they’re looking to break through with Westbrook. (We’ll see how that goes.) They too are imperfect.

As lofty a goal as it may be, perfection is the ultimate goal. Being the best is what all franchises should be striving for. Now, Minnesota is too. As Rosas said during his introduction, you “have to question the norm.” Minnesota does have to question the Portland path, the Brooklyn path and the Houston path — because those are all becoming the norm. They have to be something different to become what they want to be: Champions.

Rosas also said, “it’s actions over words.” These are the first actions that will lead the Timberwolves to be whatever it is they are to become.

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