In some ways, the Timberwolves present Gupta’s biggest challenge yet. They have a franchise player in Karl-Anthony Towns, but a capsheet that is stuffed with bloated salaries that make finding a path back to relevance in the loaded Western Conference anything but easy. Constructing a winner in Minnesota has proven to be a daunting, complicated endeavor. On the scale of difficulty, it probably lies somewhere between pulling a calf into a ring in the middle of a football stadium and constructing an online trading tool from scratch.
Like he always does, Gupta will look at the problem and try to simplify it as much as possible. In Rosas, he has a leader he trusts and admires. In Ryan Saunders, he has found a coach open to collaboration, so much so that Saunders has a member of the analytics staff behind the bench this season. In Towns, he has a perennial All-Star who hasn’t yet reached his prime. It doesn’t guarantee success. But it’s a start. “Every place I’ve worked, I’ve loved it and it’s been great people,” Gupta said. “But the alignment here is pretty special in a way that I haven’t seen before. I’m really excited about the integration we’re going to have with the coaching staff. It’s been special.”
Storyline: Timberwolves Front Office
The Wolves are making a concerted effort to shoot more three-pointers this season, and they are on track to do that after taking 39 of their 93 shots from beyond the arc Tuesday in the first look at their revamped offense. They averaged 28.7 attempts last season, fifth fewest in the NBA. If they had averaged 39 per game last season, they would have been second in the NBA in three-point attempts. Only the high-volume Rockets, who launched 45.4 per game, would have had more — and it’s no coincidence new Wolves President Gersson Rosas was hired away from Houston.
That was also evident Tuesday. Towns operated all over the floor, though he had the ball in his hands near the top of the key greasing the gears of the offense. He looked in midseason form, compiling 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in only 19 minutes. “That’s my naturalist state,” Towns said of his role as facilitator of the offense. “Thirteen shots, even for me, I felt I didn’t shoot a lot of time when I should have and got someone open. I still want to do what I love to do, which is get people involved in the game and try to make everyone better, but at the same time for me, for us to win, I have to be aggressive and I have to shoot the ball.”