Timberwolves rumors have been coming out in little drips over the last few weeks. Some are potentially more credible than others. Some are probably smoke screens. Others might just be wishful thinking.
But in some way shape or form — either directly or indirectly — Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas touched on five of them in his predraft media availability on Tuesday. Let’s take a spin through all of them:
Rumor 1: The Wolves promised power forward Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga that they will select him at No. 11 if available.
This seems to stem from a month-old tweet from Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who said there was “buzz at the Combine” that the Hachimura had secured such a promise from a team in the lottery and that Minnesota was the team.
Rosas definitively shot it down Tuesday. “We don’t promise players. Throughout the league, every organization has different strategies, different approaches. That’s not something we do,” Rosas said, adding later: “We want to be able to take advantage of the opportunities. There are other organizations that can’t do that. They either lock in – to your earlier question – and promise a guy. We want the fluidity to make the best deal for us.”
The only way we’ll know for sure is if the Wolves keep the No. 11 pick, Hachimura is available and they don’t choose him, but it seems to run contrary to everything Rosas believes in to promise a player he will be picked.
Rumor 2: The Wolves are trying to trade Andrew Wiggins.
A tweet this week from a non-verified account (not to say it isn’t accurate or true, but it wasn’t exactly Woj or anyone local) picked up steam after suggesting, per a league source, that the Wolves are “aggressively” shopping Wiggins.
In the course of answering a question about whether he talks to Wiggins about trade rumors, Rosas didn’t exactly tip his hand either way, though he did want us to be very clear about what the reality is.
“I take that very personal because the reality is there’s always going to be rumors, there’s always going to be stories. Unfortunately, even the more specific (rumor) that you’re referencing, the reality is just because it’s on social media doesn’t make it real,” Rosas said. “Just because there’s a rumor doesn’t mean it’s something that’s happening. The reality is my job is to do everything possible to make this team the best team possible.”
It is interesting, though, how Rosas has been carefully changing the narrative around the Wolves’ young core. Whereas the talk used to center around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in lockstep, Rosas makes a clear distinction between Towns and everyone else. “We’re fortunate that we have a high-end player,” Rosas said, referencing Towns. “We have the potential for other players on our roster to be high-end players.”
Rumor 3: The Wolves are hoping to make a run at restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell.
This comes via a report from The Athletic, indicating the Wolves are one of several teams interested in Russell. The logic: If Kyrie Irving signs with the Nets, which is a good bet, then Brooklyn won’t retain Russell. Plus, Karl-Anthony Towns is buddies with Russell and is being not too subtle about wanting the Wolves to get him. “He’s getting more of a yell from a microphone,” Towns recently told Dime Magazine regarding Russell. “This is a big free agency period for us as an organization, so we’re taking every step and exploring every avenue.”
Rosas didn’t address this rumor specifically, but he did say this: “You want high-level superstar talent and a lot of times you have to try and make it work. Our history in Houston in how we formed different talents together and try to maximize it, that’s what we have to do. In reality, it’s players that are available either through trades or free agency that you have a good chance of acquiring, you have to lock in on those opportunities.”
I take that to mean this: It might not make sense financially (more on that in a minute) for the Wolves to pursue someone like Russell, but in situations like this — where they have a unique “in” with him because of Towns — they need to see if they can leverage that to add another All-Star player (which Russell was last season).
Rumor 4: The Wolves would trade the No. 11 pick in a salary dump if it meant shedding an unwanted contract.
This is less of a specific rumor and more of a general sentiment. To acquire Russell in anything but a sign-and-trade deal, for instance, the cap-strapped Wolves would need to clear more than $20 million in space. That would mean trading an asset (like the No. 11 pick) plus an expiring contract (like maybe Jeff Teague’s $19 million) and possibly a future asset as well to a rebuilding team with cap space for very little in return.
Rosas painted a picture Tuesday of anything being in play as long as the conclusion is that it’s a smart move.
“We have to examine every opportunity — moving forward, moving back, moving out,” Rosas said. “But we’ve reached out to every team in this league to see what our options are, and we’ll be prepared here on Thursday to make the right decisions for the organization.”
It is interesting to note that as Rosas prepares to preside over his first draft as the one making the final decision, he came from an organization in Houston that hasn’t made a first-round pick since 2015 because of various trades, but they’ve unearthed good value in the second round (Montrezl Harrell, 2015), late in the first round (Clint Capela, No. 25 overall in 2014) and undrafted free agency (Robert Covington, for example).
The Rockets were certainly in a different place in their building process than the Wolves, but it’s probably good not to fixate too much on the first round or keeping picks with Rosas in charge.
Rumor 5: The Wolves are trying to trade up to get the No. 4 pick that New Orleans just acquired from the Lakers in order to draft guard Darius Garland — who played just five college games at Vanderbilt.
That one comes via Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, and it’s interesting. My gut tells me that if it’s true it’s a reflection of Rosas getting in on another market opportunity — New Orleans shopping the pick and wanting to add multiple pieces in exchange for an asset from the Anthony Davis trade — that wasn’t available as of a few days ago. But it’s not easy, which Rosas made clear on Tuesday.
“History will tell you, it’s hard to trade up into the top three of the draft, even top five in the lottery. It’s very difficult. We know, because we’re tried, and will continue to try,” Rosas said. “But that price, the premium that teams charge for that is at a high level in any draft in any year.”
Conclusion: If Rosas’ objective is to portray himself as someone who isn’t locked into any one decision, he has succeeded. It’s a smart way to operate, but I imagine it can also be paralyzing at times when mulling scenarios built on a philosophy with so many layers.
At the end of the day, he’ll be defined less by his process and more by his decisions. And some big ones are coming soon.
“There’s a lot that’s intriguing,” Rosas said. “We’ll see if it becomes a reality. All talk is cheap at this stage until action gets done.”