For Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas, there is one sure path to success in the NBA: getting superstars.
That could be in a trade, in free agency or, most relevant to Thursday, drafting and developing that talent.
“The reality is, you’re trying to take advantage of opportunities in the market, and it usually doesn’t line up where it perfectly meets your needs,” Rosas said. “Sometimes it does but most of the time it doesn’t.”
One need Rosas emphasized during his predraft comments was a mandate to maximize the “window” the team has as All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns is in the prime of his career.
“As we look at that window of time for Karl, we want to make sure that we’ve got pieces in place that can grow and develop with him and can peak at the right time,” Rosas said.
He added that the window for Towns could be “10 years.” But if the landscape of the NBA has taught fans anything, that window for the Wolves to be competitive as Towns begins his five-year deal might be more like three or four years, with stars such as Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and even Jimmy Butler seeking trades with a year or two left on their contracts.
Rosas has said the Wolves will do whatever it takes to acquire that kind of talent. As it pertains to Thursday, that could take on a number of forms.
Perhaps Rosas has identified a talent he likes that will go toward the top five of the draft. ESPN reported the Wolves were looking into the possibility of moving up to the No. 4 pick, which the Pelicans acquired in the Davis trade with the Lakers.
Doing so might require letting go of an asset with a friendly contract the Wolves have on the roster, such as Robert Covington, Dario Saric or Josh Okogie. Even though the perception is that this draft isn’t as deep as others past the top three, it still will cost a significant amount to move up that many spots.
With that pick, it’s possible the Wolves might go after Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. Rosas said Tuesday he’s spoken with every team in the league to gauge what the Wolves’ possibilities are.
“History will tell you it’s hard to trade up into the top three of the draft, even top five in the lottery,” Rosas said. “It’s very difficult. We know because we’re tried, and will continue to try. But that price, the premium that teams charge for that is at a high level in any draft in any year.”
You could read Rosas’ talk of needing to maximize Towns’ window as a possibility the Wolves might steer away from a project such as France’s Sekou Doumbouya, who might take a while to develop into his talent, but Rosas said he would take the best player available. He wouldn’t draft for need.
But perhaps Rosas envisions another path to gaining a top-tier talent. Perhaps he hasn’t identified a prospect that is gettable and instead chooses to free up salary-cap space by jettisoning the pick with an expensive contract such as Jeff Teague (one year, $19 million) or Gorgui Dieng (two years, $33.5 million).
That would perhaps allow the Wolves to sign D’Angelo Russell, the restricted free agent from the Nets who is close with Towns. But in a draft that is reportedly shallow on top-end talent, would another team want to pay that price for a lottery pick?
Or, and here’s a radical thought, the Wolves could end up staying put and making the pick at No. 11. They also have the 43rd pick in the second round.
“We’re excited about where we’re at in terms of picking,” Rosas said. “We feel like we’ll get good value at good spots.”
But those spots could change — and will the value they receive be worth the cost of moving?