The Timberwolves are pursuing Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly for their own president vacancy, sources tell Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who report that the Wolves recently requested and were granted permission to speak with Connelly, and the two sides “have moved beyond exploratory” discussions.
Although the Wolves are in “serious talks” with Connelly, nothing has been agreed to yet and “nothing appears imminent,” write Charania and Krawcyznski.
Connelly is widely-respected around the NBA for his work with Denver, having drafted back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Bones Hyland, and Monte Morris, among other current and former Nuggets players. He has been the head of Denver’s basketball operations since 2013, when he was named vice president of basketball operations and general manager. He was promoted to president in 2017.
The Nuggets have made the playoffs four straight seasons under Connelly, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2019/20. He has also hired and promoted several important coaches and executives, including head coach Michael Malone and former GM Arturas Karnisovas, who now leads the Bulls’ front office.
Connelly is the first external candidate to be officially linked to the lead basketball job in Minnesota’s front office. Executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, who has been serving as the head of the basketball operations department on an interim basis following the dismissal of Gersson Rosas in September, remains a candidate to land the job permanently and is considered a “significant part of the organization’s long-term vision,” according to Charania and Krawcyznski.
Gupta was empowered by ownership to make some key front office decisions recently. He declined to pick up the option on the final year of former assistant GM Gianluca Pascucci‘s contract, replacing him with newly-hired Steve Senior, who was poached from Memphis. Senior will be in charge of the team’s player development.
Minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who will become majority owners at the end of 2023, have pushed for a prominent figure to lead Minnesota’s basketball operations. In Lore’s other business ventures, he’s employed a philosophy centered on hiring “the best possible people, no matter the cost,” per The Athletic’s duo.
However, current majority owner Glen Taylor would be the primary decision-maker for a significant hire like Connelly. Taylor has been impressed with Gupta’s work, but also wants the transition to Lore and Rodriguez taking over as majority partners to go smoothly, so it’s a delicate balance.
A person “very close” to Connelly tells Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) that Connelly would be looking for a significant payday in addition to a stake in the franchise in order to leave Denver for Minnesota, saying, “I don’t see it unless they give him $10M per (year) and equity.”
Mike Singer of The Denver Post reports that Connelly is among a list of big-name executives that the Wolves have circled for the vacancy, and he’s apparently considered the most “gettable,” assuming the compensation is right. A source tells Singer that Sam Presti of the Thunder, Masai Ujiri of the Raptors, and Bob Myers of the Warriors are the other executives the Wolves are interested in. The upcoming season is an option year for Connelly’s contract with the Nuggets, according to Singer.
As Chris Hine of the Star Tribune observes, hiring Connelly might be more complicated than just giving him a significant payday. Gupta negotiated a multiyear contract extension with head coach Chris Finch (and all of his assistants), and the two have a good working relationship.
New presidents typically want to hire the people they deem most suitable to work with — would Connelly want to retain Gupta and Finch? Would Gupta and Finch want to work with Connelly? There are lots of factors to consider in a very important offseason for the Wolves, says Hine.