The NBA draft is five weeks away and the Timberwolves have four picks, including no. 19 jumpsuit. Just after that is the start of free agency, when the Wolves will need to upgrade their frontcourt and decide how they are going to handle potential big-money extension offers for guard D’Angelo Russell and center Karl-Anthony Towns.
But despite firing Gersson Rosas back in September, the Wolves still have not named a permanent head of their basketball operations. Executive Vice President Sachin Gupta has been running that side of the operation but has not received a permanent bump in title.
Where does the process stand in naming a new president? It’s complicated.
Wolves ownership has been looking to potentially reel in a big name to run the basketball operations, and the organization was in talks with Denver’s Tim Connelly, multiple sources confirmed Wednesday. Connelly, who has been with Denver as general manager and then president since 2013, helped build Denver into a perennial playoff team around two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Controlling owner Glen Taylor would have to sign off on any move but Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who are set to become controlling owners in 2023, have a large influence over any potential hire. When Lore became part of the ownership group, he stressed this market can potentially bring in some of the top-tier talent in the league, whether that’s in management, coaching or on-court talent.
Hiring a top-tier executive is not an easy feat in the NBA, and it’s also complicated by the dynamics of the Wolves situation. To lure a top target, the Wolves have to throw around a lot of money, which could include an ownership stake, sources said.
Talks in such a situation can be complicated, and it appears nothing was imminent in the discussions with Connelly. There would be a lot for him or any other candidate to ponder about the Wolves.
When a president takes over, he usually wants total autonomy to remake everything about the department — to hire his own front office and coaching staff.
The Wolves would like Gupta to remain with the team. Would a new president accept such an arrangement? Would Gupta?
Would a new president work well with the coach that will be forced upon them in Chris Finch, who just signed a new four-year deal in April? Finch has worked with Connelly as an assistant for one season in Denver in 2016-17.
Presidents take over and largely want to remake their staff with who they want, not people they are talked into keeping around. They don’t want to be merely a high-priced figurehead.
What if a new president accepts those conditions, but then doesn’t see eye to eye with Gupta and Finch? There is a good relationship between the front office and the coaching staff under Gupta and Finch, who have said they work well together. That sort of symbiosis doesn’t happen with every NBA team, and new leadership could potentially disrupt that.
Ownership has empowered Gupta to keep running the show as he has throughout the season when he signed Patrick Beverley to a one-year extension and negotiated the Finch extension. He has made moves in the front office, hiring Steve Senior from Memphis as an assistant GM as Gianluca Pascucci exited that role.
Ownership wants to get the top talent it can at all levels of the organization, and it wants to take the time to get the right people in the right chairs for the team’s long-term health.
But one offseason of draft picks, free agency signings and trades can form waves that ripple out for many years across a team’s timeline.
The sooner the Wolves decide what they want to do with this position, the better. Wednesday’s news indicates they finally might be moving toward a resolution.