Rosas Can Refresh Minnesota’s Draft Strategy


The Minnesota Timberwolves hired Gersson Rosas as the franchise’s new president of basketball operations with the hope that he would modernize an organization known for its “country club” philosophy. On background alone, Rosas accomplishes this two-fold. He is the first Latino POBO in basketball history and a student of Daryl Morey’s analytics revolution. Rosas has also ushered in a new era of Timberwolves basketball through his early staff signings. But while he’s been open and personable so far, Rosas remains tight-lipped on Minnesota’s draft strategy.

The Wolves have not seen results from many of their recent first-round draft picks, but that’s largely because of trades. Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine were both shipped out in the Jimmy Butler blockbuster. Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns was a consensus top prospect in 2015. Otherwise, Minnesota has landed a defensive ace in Josh Okogie (20th overall in 2018) but whiffed on the injury-plagued Justin Patton (16th overall in 2017).

This season finds the franchise holding the 11th overall selection with a new captain at the helm. And while fans still don’t know the plans for June 20th, early moves by Gersson Rosas and the front office send speculation in three different directions.

Draft Strategy: Studying Abroad?

The most noticeable trend in the first months of the Rosas era has been an emphasis on a global mindset. Former Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool was the first new coaching hire and a critical acquisition for the Timberwolves. Vanterpool, known for his work with the Blazers’ dynamic backcourt, was also once an assistant coach of CSKA Moscow.

Pablo Prigioni, who once was a member of the Knicks and Rockets, joined the staff last week. Prigioni has a strong reputation for connecting with players after he shined in a developmental role with the Brooklyn Nets last season. He also played professionally in Spain for thirteen years.

Rosas swiped Gianluca Pascucci from the Nets as well. Pascucci, who served as Brooklyn’s director of global scouting, was once the general manager of Italian squad Olimpia Milano. He’ll be the Assistant GM in the Twin Cities.

With Rosas, Pascucci, Vanterpool and Prigioni, the Timberwolves are quickly becoming a team with international experience. Draft night could see that pattern extend to the roster. This would be a drastic change for Minnesota’s draft strategy — no overseas talent has been selected in the first round since Ricky Rubio, all the way back in 2009.

All signs point to France’s Sekou Doumbouya as the player who could snap the streak. Doumbouya, a 6’9″, 230-pound forward, has the athletic ability to be a perpetual mismatch between Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. However, he’s incredibly raw, and the jump from a French league to the NBA is extremely steep. Doumbouya needs time to develop before receiving rotational minutes.

Doumbouya is already meeting with the Timberwolves and spending time in Minnesota while undergoing medical testing. He’ll also be working for the franchise on June 12, per Darren Wolfson. While Doumbouya did hold his own “pro day” of sorts, the Timberwolves are one of only three teams that has hosted him individually. So far, both sides seem interested.

Relocating the Rockets

Rosas has not been shy about bringing his Houston experiences up north. Prigioni and Pascucci both have ties back to the Rockets. In addition, newly-hired vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta was once a member of the Rockets’ staff. According to The Athletic, Gupta was instrumental in forming the 2010 trade for Kevin Martin. This deal later helped the team acquire James Harden.

Could the Rockets’ influence impact the Wolves’ draft strategy? Rosas could hunt for players with styles similar to his former roster. P.J. Washington, a sophomore stretch four from Kentucky, shows 3-and-D potential that could be molded into an athletic P.J. Tucker. Tyler Herro, a sweet-shooting guard also from Kentucky, could fill the off-ball sniper role of Eric Gordon.

Houston has used a first-round pick just twice in the past six years. The franchise selected Sam Dekker 18th overall in 2015 and snatched Clint Capela with the 25th choice in 2014. This sample size is too small to show a real strategy for the first round. The Timberwolves are in a completely different position at #11; Houston has not held a pick that high since 2006. Therefore, Houston’s draft history likely won’t translate to Minnesota’s draft strategy.

It’s In the Data

Perhaps most importantly, the addition of Gersson Rosas means bringing Minnesota to speed on the analytics revolution. Bringing aboard Sachin Gupta was a major step forward. Gupta, in addition to his time in Houston, is the creator of ESPN’s renowned NBA Trade Machine. He also was a critical piece of “The Process” in Philadelphia. Gupta is a master of the NBA’s cap rules and a creative mind.

The addition of Sachin Gupta could hint at trading on the horizon for Minnesota. At the same time, it also signals renewed interest in analytics. The NBA Draft is the first chance for the Wolves to bring the Morey descendants together. Attaching the 11th pick to the heavy contracts of Andrew Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng could make for a nice offload of salary.

If Minnesota stays in the lottery, analytics will play a major role in their draft strategy. One potential target could be Brandon Clarke, a high-energy forward from Gonzaga. Clarke doesn’t possess the measurables most look for in an impact big man. However, his college game tape shows elite bounce, effort and awareness. Clarke’s Player Efficiency Rating last season was a jaw-dropping 37.2, and he ranked second in the country with a box plus/minus of +18.9. Clarke even beat out Zion Williamson, along with every other college athlete, with 8.8 win shares.

Many draft experts salivate at Clarke’s defensive prowess complementing the struggles of Towns. On offense, their games will mesh nicely, as Towns’s range will open up space inside for Clarke. He may not be the easy choice at pick 11, but Rosas and Gupta could find the detailed characteristics ideal for Minnesota.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

For more high-quality NBA Draft content from TLSM, click here.

About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

Recommended for you

Powered by themekiller.com