Gersson Rosas was on a call with Golden State general manager Bob Myers for a project last week when Myers asked the question to which everyone wants to know the answer.
“Are we getting the pick or not?” Myers asked.
“Nah, I think we’ll keep the pick this year, and you guys will get it next year,” Rosas joked.
Ahead of Tuesday’s NBA Draft lottery, most everyone knows the deal by now — if Minnesota lands outside of the top three picks, the Timberwolves give their first-round choice in the 2021 draft to Golden State as part of the 2020 D’Angelo Russell trade. If the pick lands in the top three, the Wolves keep the pick and give their 2022 first-round selection to Golden State.
While the lottery has been top of mind for everyone in and around the Timberwolves’ organization for months, it is also something to joke about.
“None of us have any control over it,” Rosas said. “It worked last year (getting the No. 1 pick), but we didn’t do anything. You see how things play out.”
That, indeed, worked out well. With the top pick, Minnesota nabbed athletic guard Anthony Edwards, who appears to be a budding superstar. Edwards will virtually represent the Timberwolves for Tuesday’s draft lottery.
Of course, the Timberwolves are hoping they keep the pick. This is a draft with a few high-end, potentially franchise-changing prospects ranging from Cade Cunningham to Jalen Suggs to Evan Mobley. Keeping the pick would give Minnesota another chance to acquire a high-level young talent or use the pick as a valuable trade asset.
But Rosas noted it’s not all doom and gloom if the lottery doesn’t break the Timberwolves’ way, either.
“Because of the stage we’re in, it’s enticing to know if we don’t get the pick, we have some financial flexibility that we can go into free agency or trades with to maybe add a guy that’s more ready to help us now as we try to compete and win,” Rosas said. “It is what it is. We’re all hoping that the numbers line up and we end up with the pick, but if not, it’s the cost of doing business.”
Rosas certainly doesn’t regret the deal he made with Golden State in 2020. Russell played well down the stretch of the 2020-21 season. There were flashes when Russell, Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns displayed just how dangerous of a nucleus they can be moving forward.
“The core is coming together, even with Jaden (McDaniels) and (Malik) Beasley and that whole group,” Rosas said. “For us, it’s good. We’re at a point where we’re prepared to take a step forward, and it wouldn’t have happened without that trade. We’ll see what happens.”
The odds for Minnesota aren’t good. The Timberwolves have just a 27.6 percent chance of landing a top-three pick. Those odds were in the 40-percent range at one point earlier in the season, when Minnesota sported one of the NBA’s worst records. But the Timberwolves were relatively healthy down the stretch of the season, and played to win under new head coach Chris Finch.
Minnesota (23-49) was a .500 team (13-13) over the final third of the season, which generated positive vibes around the franchise but did cost the Timberwolves a few lottery combinations. Again, Rosas has no regrets.
“I’ve learned a long time ago … you do the right things for the right reasons, and good things happen,” he said. “The moment you don’t want to win, everybody in the organization knows — let alone the players and the staff. And you say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to win these next 20 games, but next year, we’re really going to be competitive and committed and we’re going to turn the light on.’ You lose so much credibility.”
That’s a dangerous thing to do with a young team.
“You lose their focus and connection with what we’re trying to do. We’re at a stage where it’s happened too often. We can’t do that. We can’t be that. We have to be a team that’s aggressively and 100 percent committed on winning in everything we do,” Rosas said. “For a guy like Ant, for a guy like Jaden, they’re evaluating everything we do and how we respond to things. … They want to know, are you invested in them, or the next guy you’re drafting? The next guy you’re trading for? The next guy that’s coming in? And that plays a big impact in our future.”
Instead, the Timberwolves chose the path of competitiveness. With that, they saw Edwards’ progression. They got a larger sample size to see how the pieces of their core fit together. And, perhaps most importantly, they generated excitement among their players. Towns again announced his commitment to the organization at the end of the season. A number of players already have been working out in market.
There is palpable momentum in downtown Minneapolis, and Rosas is convinced that trade made 16 months ago helped get the balling rolling.
“You’ve got to move forward,” he said. “If you look back, where we were at, the team that we had, it didn’t have upside and it didn’t have a future. We’re in a different place now.”