Tim Connelly's early priorities as Wolves boss? Futures of KAT, Russell

The Minnesota Timberwolves ownership group took the stage at Mayo Clinic Square Tuesday afternoon and introduced Tim Connelly as the next president of basketball operations.

They said all the right things in welcoming on the most respected NBA executives to Minnesota. They want to take the Timberwolves to the next level, a championship-caliber organization. Connelly spoke of the excitement in trying to meet those expectations, and do so collaboratively.

The Timberwolves won 46 regular season games in 2021-22, the second-most since 2004. Their season ended in a first round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Now, the goal is making the playoffs the standard moving forward.

Connelly will have plenty of roster decisions to make as the new front office head for the Timberwolves. Two of the biggest involve the futures of Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Towns earned Third-Team All-NBA honors this year, averaging 24.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He’s now eligible for a supermax extension when his current contract expires after next season.

On the surface, it’s a no-brainer to keep Towns in Minnesota. He will, however, have to address foul trouble and struggling in some of the biggest games of the season.

"KAT is one of the most talented guys in the NBA. He’s got a relentless work ethic, he’s probably the best shooting big in the NBA. Talking to everyone in this building, they speak so highly of his work ethic, how he treats people," Connelly said Tuesday. "His productivity speaks for itself, I think the best thing we can give KAT is stability. He’s a guy that’s seen a lot of different faces on the sidelines, a lot of different faces in the front office. I think with stability, he’ll see a better version of himself."

The future picture for Russell is a little less clear. He played 65 regular season games, averaging 18.1 points, 7.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He shot 41 percent from the field in more than 31 minutes per game.

Russell scored 29 points, shooting 10-of-18 from the field, in the Timberwolves' play-in victory over the L.A. Clippers. Then with the season on the line in Game 6 against the Grizzlies, Chris Finch had to bench Russell for Jordan McLaughlin. That’s not ideal for a player making north of $30 million.

The Timberwolves acquired Russell from Golden State in the trade that sent Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors. He’s now in the NBA Finals. Russell has one year left on his current contract, leaving Connelly with a decision to make. Work a trade and try to get value while you can? Or see if he plays his way into a future with Minnesota.

"D-Lo had a wonderful year. His big-shot making ability allowed this team to win 46 games. He’s a guy that can streak score with the best of them," Connelly said. "I don’t know what our roster is going to look like on draft night or into free agency, but certainly this team doesn’t win 46 games without the contributions of both, and it will be fun to get to know both guys."