The Minnesota Timberwolves are embracing the modern NBA

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 23: President of Basketball Operations, Gersson Rosas, of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 23: President of Basketball Operations, Gersson Rosas, of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves are (finally) on their way to truly embracing the modern NBA in any number of ways, thanks to Gersson Rosas.

During the introduction of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ newest player acquisitions, President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas spoke of creating a team identity which fit the modern NBA.

Developing a modern identity gives the current roster its best opportunity for success now and shapes even more potential for the future.

Traditional basketball has five positions. Point guards handle the ball on offense and set the offense in motion. Shooting guards look to cut to the basket or shoot from the wing when open. Small forwards play the same way as shooting guards in a balanced offense. Power forwards look to score inside and capture rebounds. Centers set picks and look for inside scores from quick passes and put-back rebounds.

That is how basketball was played for decades. Defensively, shorter and quicker players pressured the ball while taller and stronger players protected the basket and rebounded. That style still works.

However, the game is changing quickly.

The modern game, from high school to the professional ranks is shifting from plays to playmaking and from positions to possessions. Teams today want to make the most of every possession offensively, fluidly moving the ball looking for the best available play.

This means that players must be able to move without the ball, pass efficiently, space the floor and make open shots. Isolation basketball and set plays are not the present reality of the modern game.

Today’s defensive game begins with stopping transition, aggressively pressuring the ball and switching to create defensive mismatches to create turnovers.

Offensively, watch a team like the Golden State Warriors. Yes, they have an incredible point guard in Steph Curry. However, players like Draymond Green, a power forward, actually run most of the offense. The scheme the Warriors run is intended to find the best play available through quick passes and unselfish play. Basketball offense no longer focuses on am individual playmaker to direct the team, but on playmaking that always looks for the best shot available on any given possession.

Defensively, Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics run an incredible scheme where every single possession the team is quickly adapting to their opponent by switching and rotating every single pass. This style is challenging for opponents because of the unique mismatches that play out each rotation. If the offense misses a switch, the mismatches play strongly into the defense’s benefit.

Modern game play developments provide this year’s Timberwolves better competitive opportunity. This is not intended to over-hype the results. Based on the initial Las Vegas projections put out by Caeser’s, the Timberwolves will probably find themselves watching the playoffs rather than competing in the playoffs next spring.

However, during that press conference Tuesday, Rosas made it clear that team identity is changing and has a clear direction.

Rosas spoke of building a new identity through versatile and hungry young players who have experienced success in other organizations. He affirmed establishing a team that will be able to compete in the modern NBA. Rosas never lamented losing out on a point guard. Rather he established a clear direction for the Timberwolves to play aggressive and fluid.

If Rosas and Saunders are committed to building a competitive modern identity with this team, they sure seem to be off to a better start than many fans might expect.

Defensively, there’s established veteran Jeff Teague, plus wing players Jarrett Culver, Robert Covington and Andrew Wiggins who all provide incredible length across the top. Karl-Anthony Towns, Keita Bates-Diop, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, and Jake Layman can switch into the corners and still protect the basket.

ffensively, Layman had his best year shooting last season, making 51 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. Towns is an excellent stretch big who shot an even 40 percent from 3-point territory. Culver and Covington both can hit from deep.

This kind of spacing, in theory, when added to the fluid ball movement of the modern game opens lanes for easier uncontested baskets.

Rosas said in the press conference that this year’s team, from the front office to the players, has something to prove. Fans agree. Rosas stated that the young players recently acquired come from winning programs and are hungry to compete. That is all good.

Even still, for the Timberwolves to find success in Saunders’ and Rosas’ new system each player will have to bring intense effort and the team play must increase efficiency on both ends of the floor.

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Hopefully, the modern NBA game will translate to more wins for the Timberwolves!