Timberwolves in talks with Nuggets’ Tim Connelly about president role

The Timberwolves are in serious talks with Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly about the franchise’s vacant President of Basketball Operations role, sources tell The Athletic. The Timberwolves recently requested permission from the Nuggets to speak with Connelly, and the sides have moved beyond exploratory conversations, sources said.

There have been no agreements reached yet, and nothing appears imminent, sources said. 

Connelly has emerged as a serious target for the Timberwolves and marks the first known external candidate for the organization’s lead basketball department position. Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president, remains a significant part of the organization’s long-term vision and is a candidate to continue overseeing basketball operations, sources said. 

Connelly has established himself as one of the NBA’s top team executives, building the Nuggets into a perennial postseason contender that is expected to be among the championship threats in 2022-23. He has built a roster led by two-time league MVP Nikola Jokić, and with the anticipated return of a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. next season, the Nuggets are optimistic their window is just opening. Connelly has been the Nuggets’ lead basketball decision-maker for the past nine seasons, which has included playoff appearances in each of the past four years and runs to the Western Conference finals in 2020 and two conference semifinals. 

The Timberwolves are coming off a renaissance season in which they doubled their win total from 2020-21, finishing with a 46-36 record, a victory over the LA Clippers in the Play-In Tournament and their first playoff appearance in four seasons. They lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games, and now Wolves ownership is potentially looking to make moves in an effort to build on that success. 

Gupta led the Wolves front office this season, stepping into the top role after Gersson Rosas was fired just days before the start of training camp in September. Gupta’s ability to calm what was a tense front office environment in the days leading to Rosas’ firing drew praise from within, and his partnership with coach Chris Finch was a big part of the team’s success. 

Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor said Gupta would be evaluated after the season to determine if they would go forward with him or look elsewhere. The Wolves have not ruled out the possibility that Gupta will remain in charge, sources said. But the talks with Connelly represent a real consideration of hiring someone above Gupta.

Factoring prominently in the decision-making process are minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who joined the organization last summer with the intent of succeeding Taylor as Wolves majority owners by the end of 2023. 

Lore and Rodriguez have injected some enthusiasm and aggressiveness into the organization since their arrival. One of Lore’s core philosophies in the businesses he has run has been to hire the best possible people, no matter the cost. 

Any decision of this magnitude ultimately will be made by Taylor, who has built a strong relationship with Gupta over the last year, But he also wants to work with Lore and Rodriguez to ensure a smooth transition when the time comes. 

Connelly is well thought of across the league for his role in building a Nuggets roster that is rich in talent at the top and boasts depth as well, with finds like Monte Morris and Bones Hyland who have become strong rotation players. The Nuggets started the season as one of the favorites in the West, but injuries to Murray and Porter contributed to a season that ended with a first-round loss to the Golden State Warriors. 

Under Connelly’s watch, the Nuggets brought in coach Michael Malone and assembled a respected front office staff that included Arturas Karnisovas, who rose to the general manager role within his Nuggets front office and left to take the Chicago Bulls’ executive vice president job in 2020. That led to Denver promoting assistant GM Calvin Booth to general manager.

Leaving the two-time MVP for upstart Minnesota would be a bold move. But the Timberwolves do have a pair of building blocks in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, promising young talent in Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt, a coach who is revered throughout the organization and an ownership group that appears to be motivated to invest in the organization. 

Gupta said at the end of his season-ending news conference that he would continue leading the way until told otherwise. He made the decision not to exercise the option on assistant GM Gianluca Pascucci’s contract and also hired Steve Senior away from the Memphis Grizzlies to start a newly created assistant GM position in charge of player development. 

Taylor, Lore and Rodriguez empowered Gupta to make those decisions while they mulled their options. 

(Photo: Garrett W. Ellwood / NBAE via Getty Images)

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