Tim Connelly has yet to make public comment since being named the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations on Monday. His opening press conference is expected this week.
It will provide the first real insight into Connelly’s views on the roster and basketball operations structure on which he now lives.
They will face many questions about key players from Anthony Edwards, Carl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and beyond, head coach Chris Finch, executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta and others.
All are relevant, all will have a major impact on the direction of the Timberwolves in the years to come. Because when Minnesota made the jump this past season, maintaining this level of success would only be seen as a failure. Growth should be expected. The level to which he is achieved will be largely determined by Connelly, starting with this off-season move.
Here’s a look at what should be on top Connelly’s agenda as she gets started in Minnesota:
Sachin Gupta: Sachin Gupta, by many accounts, would have been a pretty good hire for the job Connelly had just taken. He is credited with deftly handling a rocky and abrupt leadership change in September, deftly handling Patrick Beverly’s contract extension talks and struggling to insist on a move on the business deadline, which he thought that was best for them. The team’s future, even if making a splash is more likely to please an ownership group, will determine its future just a few months later.
At the end of the day, the owner of the team went with the bigger name than the stronger one.
Still, it’s clear that the Timberwolves designed Gupta to retain an integral role in the team’s front office, even as the press release announcing him hiring Connelly is included.
Connelly has a scouting background, while Gupta, who is currently the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, is best known for his work in analytics.
If the two are able to coexist, Minnesota could have one of the NBA’s most formidable front office tandems.
Something strange will definitely happen at the beginning of the relationship, with Connelly coming to offer Gupta the job for all intents and purposes held over the past eight months and of course wishing to keep it on a permanent basis.
It is on Connelly to ensure that the partnership gets off to a smooth start, benefiting himself and the organization. Because as the man driving things, Gupta is best equipped to ensure a smooth turnaround in Connelly’s tenure, which in turn will set the Timberwolves up for a successful offseason.
Chris Finch: The relationship between the bench boss and the basketball boss is important within the NBA organization. The synergy between the two situations leads to stability and often success.
Finch and Gupta seemed to be setting it up in short order last season. It is now up to Connelly and Finch to proceed in similar lockstep, beginning this off-season.
Connelly is running into a position in which he is likely to have opinions about Wolves’ players, but Finch has worked with many of these people for almost a season and a half, and their specific strengths, weaknesses, and how they fit in. happens, has a good idea of - or doesn’t fit – what he wants to do.
Finch and Connelly have a long-standing relationship, with Finch serving as an assistant coach for one season in Denver during Connelly’s tenure. The two also spoke during Connelly’s hiring process.
Building a relationship of trust and cooperation early on should help Connelly drive this off-season.
D’Angelo Russell: D’Angelo Russell certainly had his moments this season – chief among them was his heroic game-play against the Clippers that helped take the Timberwolves to the playoffs.
But the ups and downs were as prevalent as the ups and downs.
When Russell, Anthony Edwards and Towns shared the floor, the offense did not always flow, and Russell has a lower boundary on the defensive end.
How does it balance his timely clutch shot-making and ability to stretch the floor, pass the ball, and hit hard buckets at mid-range? Perhaps not enough to justify Russell’s strong salary.
But it’s up to Connelly & Co. to determine whether it’s best to keep the point guard playing in the final year of his contract to try to negotiate an extension that gives Russell more long-term security at a team-friendly salary. Or tries to trade it.
Whatever the decision, it will be the biggest dominoes of this season.
Karl-Anthony Towns: Karl-Anthony Towns’ well-deserved third team All-NBA recognition means the center is eligible to sign a four-year, $210.9 million extension, which will be added to the remaining two years of his current deal.
It seems like a no-brainer to keep an All-Star in Minnesota for as long as possible, no matter the cost. It could very well be how Connelly feels.
But Townes will have to pay $58 million toward the cap in the final year of that expansion. Does Connelly believe the Town is a championship-caliber building block? If not, it may be difficult for him to hold on to such a huge expansion, which will disrupt management’s roster maneuvers two years from now.
Things could get awkward between the team and Star Center if the Wolves expand in front of Town for less money than that maximum number. But it may be worth taking the risk if, after assessing the big man, Connelly determines that Towns will need a lot of help to propel Minnesota to the heights.
Malik Beasley: Connelly has already traded two players on the current Timberwolves roster. He introduced Malik Beasley and Jared Vanderbilt to Minnesota in 2019 as part of a three-team deal that sent Robert Covington to Houston.
In retrospect, this was not one of Connelly’s more prosperous moves. Denver didn’t get much in return for trading the money of its role players. He is very happy to have Vanderbilt back on his roster. The young forward has proved to be a valuable piece of play on the team’s friendly deal.
But what about Beasley? The guard seems to be largely the same player he was in Denver, and Connelly decides to transfer him rather than pay him back. Well, Beasley has since been paid. Does Connelly think a player of Beasley’s caliber — along with any off-court issues — is worth $15.5 million this season?
If not, the sharpshooter is another trade chip on a potentially expiring deal – there is a team option for the 2023-24 season – the Timberwolves can use this summer to continue trying to improve and grow their roster .