The Minnesota Timberwolves have grown accustomed to splashy roster events during the pRosas. From the jump, Gersson Rosas traded up five spots in his first draft to pick Jarrett Culver in 2019. It didn’t work out (yet), but it was exhilarating to see some assertiveness. The Wolves didn’t make their splash at the beginning of free agency in 2019, but it wasn’t for lack of trying as the front office evidently took D’Angelo Russell on a helicopter ride around Los Angeles. Eventually, as we all know, he would make his way here in a last-second blockblister deal that sent the Wiggins albatross to the Golden State Warriors while possibly mortgaging the future by sending this year’s top-3 protected pick. If you’re wondering what a blockblister deal is, it’s like a deal involving superstars, but “much better!”
Even before the highly anticipated DLol trade, we saw the whole roster get reshaped, eventually resulting in Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt, and the pick that turned into Ricky Rubio, Leandro Bolmaro, and Jaden McDaniels. It was a feat of asset prowess to flip what Nate Duncan and Danny LeRoux dubbed the two worst contracts in the league (Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins) into a young roster smoldering with potential. And speaking of that pick 17, Rosas even managed to make a splash with that selection that rivaled the No. 1 overall pick in terms of intrigue by trading for one of the most beloved basketball players in Minnesota history. Chelanga is still recovering from the trauma of drafting Aleksej Pokusevski:
So it makes sense that the Timberwolves’ fan base has been Pavlov-ed into thinking that Sachin Gupta and Rosas would continue to be aggressive at the trade deadline during yet another disappointing season for the franchise, but because of the precedent set, the disappointment yesterday on Wolves Twitter was palpable. Unfortunately for those fans, though, standing pat was the correct move.
“See What You Have”
The beat writers are broken records at this point: Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell have played less than five full games together. The three best players have been sidelined for a combined 51 games in the 44 games played thus far. But there’s a reason for this redundancy — there’s no finished product on the court, so there’s been nothing to talk about.
There has been so little to talk about that the entire fan base had nothing better to do than become TradeNBA.com experts. Don’t get it twisted, I’ve spent more than my fair share on that site, but unfortunately our noses were so deep in trade rumors that we forgot to stop and smell the Rosas. Here’s what he had to say:
Almost every single player on the Timberwolves right now should be considered a depressed asset. Beasley had off-the-court issues, DLo had preventative surgery, Rubio has struggled adjusting to a new team, and KAT is recovering from injury, coronavirus, and unfathomable grief. I even feel like trading Ant and Jaden would be selling low.
Everyone else on the roster is not valuable to opposing front offices. We like Naz Reid here, but to the rest of the NBA, he is the backup center on the worst team in the league. Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie have been fighting for minutes. Jarred Vanderbilt is an esoteric fit for 2021 NBA offenses. Now is the worst time to put all the chips in the middle of the table; either way, the Wolves will still be in the same spot this summer. But by then we’ll hopefully know more about the potential of this team as constructed.
I understand the thought to bring in an Aaron Gordon in general. He’s a low-usage player who can provide defense, switchability, and pace, which fit Chris Finch and Gersson’s structure. But the Orlando Magic ended up getting more for Gordon than the Timberwolves would ever be willing to match, and that’s okay.
John Collins, on the other hand, is a less versatile player whose fit with Towns on defense would be a mystery at best and will evidently require a deal better than four years for $90 million this summer. He’s also the third-best player on a .500 Hawks team that went all out to win this year.
The Wolves don’t even know if their current team, with a clean bill of health, can win at all, much less whether either of those more expensive hypothetical teams with Gordon or Collins can. Either move would likely have the Wolves paying salary tax next year, and none of that mentions the fact that buyers often overpay at the trade deadline out of FOMO. As important as assertiveness is at the right time, so is patience.
If the Timberwolves made a trade for any of the players acquired at the deadline, they still would not have made the play-in game. They would have to make up 11.5 games in the standings with only 28 games remaining. The 10th-seed Warriors winning percentage is currently 48.9%. When extrapolated over the rest of the 72-game season, that’s an even 36-36. This means that the 10-34 Wolves have to go 26-2 for the rest of the season in order to match the current pace of the last play-in game. Gersson Rosas could trade cash considerations for prime Michael Jordan, and it still might not be enough.
This is why the correct move all along was to get to the offseason, “see what you have,” and make the big decisions in July/August. The old adage says that the grass isn’t always greener, which is true. On the other hand, the grass is greener where you water it, so let’s let the seeds that Gersson Rosas planted take root before importing sod.