MINNEAPOLIS -- One of Gersson Rosas’ first tasks as Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations? Get lucky.
Minnesota’s new basketball boss will represent the Wolves on stage Tuesday night, May 14, for the NBA draft lottery at the Hilton Chicago, hoping to create a little magic to jump-start his tenure — and perhaps signal a change of course for the franchise.
Although the Timberwolves did land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft lottery, netting them franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns, they have never moved up in the lottery. And they’ve had a lot of chances. If Minnesota is “due,” now would be a good time to cash in.
Minnesota needs a lot of things — shooting and defense chief among them — but getting a star guard/wing to play alongside Towns has to be the No. 1 priority.
For years, Plan A was Andrew Wiggins. Plan B was to trade for one. Neither worked, and now the Wolves are back to praying the light goes on for Wiggins because they have neither the cap space nor assets for Plan B. Rosas is expected to be creative in his attempt to improve the Timberwolves’ roster, but the best answer for this quandary may be the most obvious one: The Wolves will have to draft their next star wing.
Denver center Nikola Jokic was brilliant in the Nuggets’ second-round series against Portland, averaging 27.1 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists and shooting 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. But guards and wings carry the day in the NBA’s biggest moments. Portland had no answer for Jokic, but his dominance was outweighed by the brilliance of guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who led the Blazers to a seven-game series win.
That should serve as another reminder to Minnesota that Towns, as good as he is, won’t be able to carry the Wolves to championship heights on his own. Teams need someone who can consistently create — and make — shots off the bounce in the last five minutes of games, particularly in the postseason. Toronto’s successful strategy for much of these playoffs has largely been “give Kawhi Leonard the ball.”
Getting a franchise wing in the draft will likely require some good fortune on Tuesday. The Wolves are slotted to select 10th and have a 65.9 percent chance to stay there. That’s where a team can find more quality big men and non-shooting wings than what the Wolves desire in this year’s draft.
North Carolina’s Coby White could be available at No. 10, and maybe he solves many of Minnesota’s problems. If Minnesota somehow moves down a spot or two, the cupboard could be somewhat bare, but if they somehow, for the first time, move up in the draft, options become far more plentiful.
Duke forward Zion Williamson is the undisputed top prospect in this year’s draft and will be the No. 1 pick come June; the Wolves have just a 3 percent chance of landing that spot Tuesday. But they do have a 13.9 percent shot at nabbing one of the top four picks. Any of those would do, bringing a player such as Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, Murray State’s Ja Morant, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter or Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland into play.
Any one of those guys could be the running mate Towns needs to turn Minnesota into a legit contender in the West sooner rather than later.
This is the first year of a lottery format that features more level odds among the 14 lottery teams, as well as a fourth spot for a team to potentially jump up into. For Minnesota, maybe a new format will deliver a better result.
A little luck would make Gersson Rosas’ new gig a whole lot easier.