Minnesota Timberwolves: Does fitting Towns’ window trump winning now?

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 still on the hunt for a second star, but will they focus on winning immediately or playing the long game while building around Karl-Anthony Towns?

When Tom Thibodeau took over the Minnesota Timberwolves following the 2015-16 campaign, he took over a team that had won 29 games and boasted the past two Rookie of the Year award-winners.

He coaxed 31 wins out of what was essentially the same roster that had won 29 the year prior as Towns made incremental improvements and Zach LaVine showed promise in his second season as a pro.

But that offseason, Thibodeau chose to cash in his chips and take advantage of a rapidly deteriorating situation in Chicago. He traded LaVine, Kris Dunn, and moved down nine spots in the draft to land Jimmy Butler, immediately giving the Wolves a perennial All-Star alongside an emerging star in Towns.

Sure enough, Towns made his first All-Star team that next season while Butler was also named to the squad and the Wolves won 46 games en route to their first playoff berth in 14 years.

But Butler chose to blow things up in the offseason, and the messy exit, combined with poor cap management and a miserable environment led to Thibodeau’s firing in early January of 2019.

It’s hard to fault Thibodeau for wanting to be in win-now mode. After all, it still isn’t difficult to argue that the Butler trade wasn’t the correct move to make. LaVine is now an overpaid offensive-minded wing and Dunn has been oft-injured without showing much improvement. Butler was awesome in his one season in Minnesota, and things simply didn’t work out.

But we can also forgive new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas for not wanting to go done a potentially similar path in the first year of his tenure.

Yours truly has made the case for trading for a second star, most notably Chris Paul. There have been some rumblings surrounding Paul, who is rumored to not be all that enthralled with spending the season in Oklahoma City, but nothing appears to be imminent on the trade front.

According to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski on the Thunder Buddies podcast, the Wolves are apparently not interested in trading for Paul. He also mentions that Rosas is intent on matching Towns’ window with other young stars, not finding a star who might be past his prime or on the downhill side of his career.

It would be a bit surprising if this was a blanket policy from Rosas and his front office; if the opportunity cost is relatively low for acquiring the likes of Paul, why not? Unless there’s reason to believe that he could blow things up in a similar fashion as Butler, making a move to virtually guarantee a playoff spot would seem to be the prudent thing to do.

On the other hand, if Rosas fervently believes that his revamped front office and coaching staff, led by Wiggins confidant Ryan Saunders, can revive Wiggins’ career and get the most out of him, then it would make sense to not flip him for a 34-year-old potential malcontent making an average north of $40 million per season over the next few years.

The idea of matching windows only makes sense when it isn’t forced. The rumored interest in D’Angelo Russell this summer sure looked like it could have been a perfect match — and it might still be if and when Golden State chooses to move on. Russell and Towns are close in age, their playing styles would mesh perfectly, and they’re good friends. That one makes sense.

But there are other names out there of young players who could potentially be on the trade market and fit into Towns’ window. Devin Booker is one example of a player who has already signed that next extension but isn’t quite at the All-Star level that Russell and Towns have achieved. What would the Wolves be willing to give up in a deal for someone like Booker? Or Otto Porter? Or any other almost-star who fits into Towns’ window.

This will be a fascinating dance to watch, as Rosas toes the line between pulling the trigger on a borderline star that fits the window and could still improve, or if he simply chooses to acquire an overpaid and potentially declining established star to get the Wolves to the Promised Land faster.

dark. Next. Karl-Anthony Towns has become criminally underrated

Don’t expect anything to happen soon, as Rosas likely wants to see exactly what he has moving into his first season at the helm. But it’s also true that anything can happen, so don’t stray too far from NBA Twitter…