Vision for Wolves takes shape at NBA Draft

Gersson Rosas has been in charge of the Minnesota Timberwolves front office for about six weeks.

He didn’t waste any time when it came to making his first big move as the team’s President of Basketball Operations. His vision for the Timberwolves became more clear as Thursday’s NBA Draft unfolded: The game is becoming position-less, with multiple players who can play in multiple spots.

The Wolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick, looking for versatile players who can defend and hit shots from the perimeter. Rosas made his move before the draft, sending the No. 11 overall pick and Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 pick.

The trade can’t become official until July 6, but the Wolves got Jarrett Culver with the pick. Rosas can't publicly comment on Culver until then. He’s a Texas Tech guard who was recently in Minneapolis as the Red Raiders lost to Virginia in the national championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Culver said Thursday night he thought the Wolves might come calling. They visited him at the NBA Combine, and came to his training facility in Arizona during the pre-draft process. The Wolves were looking for a difference-maker who can make plays and defend for a franchise that’s made the Western Conference Playoffs once in the last 15 years.

“They’re on the verge of being a great team. I feel like I could like the GM and the coaching staff. They’re going to get the right people in and I feel like they’re going to be a winning program for sure,” Culver said Thursday night.

Culver joins the roster as one of several guard/forward combinations the Wolves have. The list includes Andrew Wiggins, Josh Okogie, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, C.J. Williams, Jared Terrell, Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington and Cameron Reynolds.

There could be plenty of roster shakeup before the season starts in October. Rosas said Thursday night the Wolves are shifting to what’s becoming the norm in the NBA: “One point guard, three forwards and a big.” He also made it very clear the Wolves roster will be centered around star Karl-Anthony Towns.

“That’s who we’re going to be, it’s a position-less game. We’re going to thrive and we want to develop players that can play in multiple spots,” Rosas said. “I know that’s how coach Saunders wants to play, and that’s how our offense and defense is going to be based out of.”

Rosas wants a roster filled with versatility and position flexibility. It became even clearer after the Wolves picked Washington guard Jaylen Nowell with the No. 43 pick in the second round.

Nowell was the Pac-12 Player of the Year last season, and could give Minnesota perimeter shooting help. He shot 44 percent from behind the three-point line last season. He said Friday morning he had “no idea” he would end up in Minnesota. He didn’t work out with the Wolves.

“I was at a loss for words. I really didn’t know what else to say but thank you,” Nowell said.

Nowell is a combo guard, but returned to Washington after his freshman year to be known as more than a scorer. He wants to become a more complete guard. Minnesota fans might remember Nowell. He scored 22 points against the Gophers, in a game Minnesota won, in the Vancouver Showcase.

If what Rosas said Thursday night is any indication, the Wolves’ roster shakeup is just getting started. Rose is a free agent, Jones is a restricted free agent and the Wolves could move Teague if a team is willing to take on his contract. It’s also still conceivable the Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng could be moved if the right situation presents itself this summer.

The only untouchable player going into draft night was the face of the franchise: Towns.

It’s why Rosas opted for the best players available when they were up at No. 6 and No. 43, instead of trying to fill a need. The front office leaders are actively choosing to build their roster around Towns, the All-Star center who was also the Wolves’ top three-point shooter last season at 40 percent.

But he can’t do it by himself, nor should he.

“It’s just the game is played differently now. To be able to put a group of wings that we’re going to be able to put on the floor at certain points this year gives us a lot of versatility, gives us some shooting, gives us play-making and that’s how we want to play,” Rosas said. “For us to be able to execute that vision, we have to be built differently.”

Rosas called Thursday a “special night” where they executed in a scenario where there were multiple opportunities.

Murphy joins Timberwolves summer league team

Almost immediately after the NBA Draft ended, undrafted players started to join teams in hopes of landing a roster spot later this summer. Jordan Murphy, who graduated as Minnesota’s all-time leading rebounder and in the top five in scoring, reportedly plans to play for the Wolves NBA Summer League team. The Wolves have also reportedly signed Tyus Battle of Syracuse and Naz Reid of LSU.

Former Gophers star Amir Coffey was not drafted Thursday night. As of Friday afternoon, he hasn’t signed with a team. He went through the pre-draft process with several teams and is hoping for a two-way contract.