Obscured amid the chaos of the world shutting down, emerge the barely-perceptible buds and blossoms of a remarkable turnaround. In his short 14 month tenure, Minnesota Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas has made a Turkish bazaar look sedate. He has wheeled and dealed the downtrodden franchise into a promising and even enviable position for next year.
When Rosas arrived, the Wolves were mired in salary cap hell, a mere $3 million short of the luxury tax. A very informative analysis by Dane Moore displayed an even more alarming $57 million over-the-cap for this season. Moreover, the Thibodeau regime held bloated contracts for Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Teague that no other team wanted.
In February, Rosas stunned many NBA analysts when he was to able move the Andrew Wiggins contract, a $148 million ball and chain on the franchise which was tied to an underperforming, indifferent player. The trade cost the Wolves a protected 2021 first and second round draft picks — in exchange for All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Rosas has yearned to acquire Russell and fill the Wolves pressing need for effective ball distribution and 3 point shooting prowess. More importantly, Russell is a close friend of Wolves superstar Karl Anthony Towns (KAT). When Russell signed, KAT was literally waiting with open arms and his teammate’s new jersey when he landed at MSP. Rosas may have killed two birds with one stone: a very good, young point guard and a key reason for KAT to invest in the team’s future
The sudden, shocking suspension of the NBA season is likely to pay off for the Wolves. Several long losing streaks culminated in the second worst record in the NBA. Given the CDC’s recent two month advisory against crowd gatherings, I find it very unlikely that the NBA will continue the regular season at all. An end to the regular season would enable the Wolves to share the highest odds (14%) for drawing the top pick in the draft. Of course, there is not a Zion in this draft but the prospect of lucking into a freak shooting guard like Anthony Edwards of Georgia is a seductive daydream for Wolves fans.
While it was sometimes difficult to follow the logic in the flurry of Timberwolves player moves, one benefit shone through loud and clear. Rosas has created maximum salary cap flexibility. According to the trusted source Earlybirdrights.com, the Wolves can spend a potential $37.4 million in 2021 before they reach the luxury tax hurdle. Further, Rosas holds the 15th pick in the first round and an open mid-level exception (MLE) to complement his hand. The MLE is like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card because a player signed in that slot doesn’t count against the Wolves $37.4 million surplus.
A chunk of that money will be needed if Rosas elects to hold onto restricted free agent Malik Beasley. He is another very athletic wing and he was shooting the lights out from the three point stripe before the season came to a halt. It will be exciting to see how Rosas uses his burgeoning portfolio of assets. As a long-suffering Wolves fan (who attended their first five draft parties), Rosas has definitely gotten my attention. I believe that Glen Taylor may have finally broken his long losing streak of hiring inept basketball leadership with this hire.
As we sit jailed at home watching commemorations of the Lake Placid Minnesota Miracle, I feel a tingle of excitement. Whenever the 2021 season begins, I will be entertained to watch Russell and the certain arrival of several new, quality players at Target Center. Will this be the start of something big? A deep playoff run by the Wolves would be so unexpected, so amazing that many of us would whisper those iconic words: “Do You Believe in Miracles?”