How Gersson Rosas is setting up the Minnesota Timberwolves’ future

ST. PAUL, MN - JULY 18: President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas, Jarrett Culver #23, Jaylen Nowell #4, Naz Reid #11, and Head Coach Ryan Saunders pose for a photo. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - JULY 18: President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas, Jarrett Culver #23, Jaylen Nowell #4, Naz Reid #11, and Head Coach Ryan Saunders pose for a photo. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Keita Bates-Diop
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 15: Keita Bates-Diop #31 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

An affordable rotation and maximum flexibility

Rosas was essentially handed a team that was in cap hell. With margins of the salary cap to work with, Rosas found a way to sign valuable players to this Timberwolves team. The four one-year deals that were signed were a smart way to approach this free agency.

It was unclear as to how these players would fit in the system being implemented in Minnesota. Rosas was highly aware of this and did not offer long-term contracts that could crowd the payroll for years to come. Instead, he pinpointed individuals that could provide talents to this team, and offered them short term contracts. Some view these contracts as stepping stones for players to sign more lucrative deals after this season with some impressive play.

Rosas may look at re-signing some of these players for next season or he may let them walk and sign a few similar contracts this summer to compliment the identity of the team. That will depend on where this team stands in their hunt for a star come June.

Layman should prove to be a solid rotation piece throughout his contract. This move by the front office was one that improves the team, without significantly affected the cap situation. Having a player of Layman’s caliber for that amount of money is important when it comes to adding supplemental pieces around Towns. Don’t be surprised if we see more moves like this coming up.

Keita Bates-Diop, Minnesota’s 2018 second-round pick, signed a similarly structured deal to Reid and Nowell. KBD’s deal is a three-year, $4 million contract with the first two years fully guaranteed and the final year is non-guaranteed.

Again, what’s the big deal with these contracts? Flexibility. These are very-low risk, team friendly contracts. Nowell and Reid are locked up for up to three years after this season, but the Timberwolves are not tied to them if their performance is poor. Minnesota would easily be able cut ties with these players if need be.

Of course, no high-level player is going to accept a contract like this. The key part of making this successful is by finding players that have an NBA ready skill (e.g. shooting, passing, defense, etc.) and/or are raw prospects that have high potential to become solid NBA players. Once these players are found, they must be signed to a three or four year contract, with only one or two seasons of guaranteed salary or be signed to three or four-year contracts with team options for the final two years.

This is essentially what Rosas has done with Reid and Nowell. Reid has great size, coupled with his athleticism and smooth shooting stroke as a big. Nowell shows great potential as a true threat from deep along with scoring at all levels.

Kelan Martin is currently on a two-way contract and is close to using up his 45 days in the NBA. If Minnesota stands pat from now through the trade deadline, which would not be to the fault of ultra-aggressive Gersson Rosas, don’t be surprised in Martin receives a contract structured similarly to Reid or Nowell’s. He has his NBA ready skill in his three point shot.

Zone Coverage’s Dane Moore talked about the contracts of Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell, Keita Bates-Diop, and a potentially similar deal for Kelan Martin in a conversation with the Athletic’s Britt Robson on the Dane Moore NBA Podcast:

"“If you can turn those players into rotation pieces on those deals, that is a path out of salary cap hell. Because they’re going to need that.” “If we look big picture, if we step out of the game to game zone. Like, wow maybe there is something here with Naz Reid. Is that a backup big that this team has for no money going forward. If Keita (Bates-Diop) is a rotation player, even like a ninth man for no money, that’s meaningful. If Kelan Martin is a rotation player for no money, that’s meaningful. If Jaylen Nowell can actually start hitting some threes or translate some of what he’s done in the G League. I mean, that stuff matters.” “I put Jake Layman in that bin too. Three years on just above no money.”"

The Miami Heat have given similar contracts to Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. Both of whom fit the identity as someone who has an NBA ready skill or has high potential. Robinson is an efficient 3-point shooter while Nunn is a high potential guy that went undrafted in 2018. Both players have produced on the court and solidified themselves as key pieces for a solid Miami Heat squad.

Devonte’ Graham, Brandon Clarke, Nassir Little, Keldon Johnson, Jordan Poole, and Terence Davis are all players on similarly structured contracts that have an NBA-ready skill or high potential in the league.

The best way to find players like this is to look for players who were highly recruited out of high school and either underperformed, got injured, or stayed more than one year during their college careers. Many of the players mentioned above fits into one of these categories.

When a front office in the NBA can surround their stars with players like this, the ceiling of an NBA team is raised significantly. Rosas has found two of these players in Reid and Nowell and was gifted one from Tom Thibodeau in Bates-Diop.

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Keep an eye out for Rosas pulling diamonds out of the rough in the coming years.