Incoming Timberwolves owner Alex Rodriguez posted a photo to Instagram earlier today of himself at a desk. In the background, a computer screen displayed a press release headlined “Minnesota Timberwolves name Tim Connelly as President of Basketball Operations”:
Sure looks like Tim Connelly might be heading to the Timberwolves… pic.twitter.com/cJXyMAP8BN
— Trip (@NotDWolfson) May 23, 2022
Rodriguez deleted the post. But Minnesota has actually lured the Nuggets president.
The Timberwolves’ deal with Connelly will be a five-year, $40 million contract plus a kicker for equity, multiple sources told The Athletic.
The new contract more than doubles his salary with the Nuggets, sources said, and the equity component is a unique structure within the NBA that potentially makes the deal far more lucrative.
Sources: Denver Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth is now expected to assume lead basketball operations role for the franchise. There is significant belief in Booth inside the organization, and the former NBA veteran is well-respected as a rising executive across league.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 23, 2022
What a boon for the Timberwolves.
Rodriguez and Marc Lore undertook an ambitious plan to hire a top-five executive and actually landed someone who at least arguably fits the bill. Before even taking over for Glen Taylor, Rodriguez and Lore are earning a lot of confidence in them as owners. In a sport where there’s a salary cap on players, spending big on executives is a great way to gain an advantage.
Though some teams have paid big for executives with big names, Minnesota is more wisely poaching an executive with an excellent track record.
Connelly did a phenomenal job in Denver – most famously drafting Nikola Jokic in the second round, but also nabbing Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16 in 2014), Gary Harris (No. 19 in 2014), Jamal Murray (No. 7 in 2016), Malik Beasley (No. 19 in 2016), Monte Morris (No. 51 in 2017), Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 in 2018) and Bones Hyland (No. 26 in 2021). Connelly also lured a high-profile free agent to Denver (Paul Millsap in 2017) and made a trade last year (for Aaron Gordon) that made the Nuggets look like a championship contender until injuries hit. Under Connelly’s leadership, Denver has established a winning culture in its operations.
A long-floundering franchise, the Timberwolves could use everything Connelly brings. Minnesota had an opening after firing Gersson Rosas amid scandal shortly before the season. Sachin Gupta had been running the front office on an interim basis. With young stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns (who sounds likely to sign a contract extension), there’s a special opportunity in Minnesota.
However, the Nuggets are better than the Timberwolves right now – which only adds to questions about why Denver let Connelly get away.
The Nuggets already let Masai Ujiri leave for a bigger deal with the Raptors the same year he won Executive of the Year (2013). Perhaps, Denver’s experience with Connelly shows lead executives are fungible.
But – assuming Nikola Jokic still signs his super-max extension this summer – the Nuggets are reaching a critical point. (If Jokic changes his mind on the extension, Denver will have much bigger problems.) The luxury tax and a chance at a title hover over everything, amplifying the importance of each move. Even if willing to pay some luxury tax, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke has spending limitations – as Connelly’s departure shows.