Any time an executive makes an attention-grabbing decision, it’s easy to think Would Flip have done that? Flip Saunders was the coach who made the Minnesota Timberwolves must-watch television in the late 90s and early aughts. He reminded us how much we love basketball here, and he let the nation know that this isn’t just a Vikings town or the State of Hockey.
For a Clevelander, he had an innate sense for what we wanted here. He turned the upstart Wolves into a playoff team for eight straight seasons. In his second stint he not only drafted Karl-Anthony Towns No. 1 overall in 2015, but he traded up to take Tyus Jones at No. 24. He brought Kevin Garnett back and sold us on the potential of a Flip and KG ownership group.
Last night’s trade for Ricky Rubio felt like a Flip move.
Ryan, his son and the current coach, has a close relationship with Rubio. He’ll distribute the ball to a lineup of scorers who are going to want the ball in their hands. A hot second after Rubio expressed consternation about the business of basketball on Twitter following a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rosas brought Ricky back home.
He reminds us of a time when it seemed like the Wolves would be relevant again. When the Spaniard who looked like a Beatle whipped passes around the court like a wizard, he mesmerized a fanbase that wondered if he’d ever arrive in the Twin Cities.
He’s a sweetener on a night that was bittersweet. Gersson Rosas couldn’t move the No. 1 pick, so he took the player who appeared to have the most upside: Anthony Edwards. A player who used his athleticism to dominate his opponents in college, but doesn’t seem to love basketball. Sound familiar?
Sure it was Flip who traded for Andrew Wiggins, but Kevin Love was disgruntled and wanted out, and Wiggins had the talent to be a franchise player. Flip had other flubs, too, like trading for Adreian Payne because his buddy Tom Izzo liked him. But he knew how to create buzz around a dormant team. KG returned! Maple Jordan is a popcorn player! They tanked and finally got the No. 1 pick!
The Wolves were unlikely to make the playoffs even if they traded back for Tyrese Haliburton and were somehow able to select Zeke Nnaji, Tyrell Terry, Daniel Oturu and Tre Jones. But on a night where the Wolves took players from Georgia, Washington and Argentina, Rosas was able to channel a little bit of Flip and manufacture a homecoming story.
Taking a swing at Leandro Bolmaro, one of the best international prospects, with the 23rd pick and a toolsy college player falling down draft boards like Jaden McDaniels at No. 28 seem like Rosas moves — he’s definitely not risk-averse.
But this doesn’t look like a modern basketball team. Their best shooters are KAT, a big-man, and Malik Beasley, who has only played 14 games with Minnesota and ran afoul of the law in the offseason. Their only great defensive players, Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, are young wings who don’t shoot well.
Rosas created a team worth watching. A team that will be fun on some nights and get blown out on others. This isn’t a finished product, but it never was going to be.