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March Mania

Timberwolves’ roster didn’t fit Gersson Rosas’ vision, so he changed it. Now, it just may work

Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) reacts to a call against him during a Jan. 22 game in Chicago. Dieng was one of many Timberwolves traded on Thursday. Kamil Krzaczynski / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Okogie’s Instagram is now flush with goodbyes to his now former teammates. One after another, Okogie’s teammates — many of whom were friends — were traded away from Minnesota, first in a massive, four-team, 12-player deal late Tuesday night, then in two separate trades leading up to Thursday’s deadline.

“What a week,” Okogie tweeted Thursday afternoon, Feb. 6.

Indeed. After Andrew Wiggins was traded to Golden State and Gorgui Dieng was dealt to Memphis on Thursday, the second-year guard is now Minnesota’s second longest-tenured Timberwolf. Okogie and center Karl-Anthony Towns are the only two players still on the roster Gersson Rosas inherited when he took the team over in April.

The knock on this team — from Rosas to coach Ryan Saunders on down — was that its roster didn’t fit the systems. The fix was to change the roster.

Against the Clippers on Saturday at Target Center, Minnesota potentially could trot out a starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver, Juancho Hernangomez and Towns. The team has the option to keep all five players under its control for the foreseeable future.

That’s a lineup that fits the up-tempo style and analytically-driven offensive approach on which Minnesota wants to build its team. It is, at the very least, a much better fit than what the Wolves had before.

Wiggins and Dieng entered Thursday as Minnesota’s longest-tenured players. They had done plenty of good for the franchise in various ways and are thought of as good people who were well-liked in the locker room. Dieng is about as giving as they come.

But neither player had a contract that was team friendly, and the reality is Dieng and Wiggins were part of a losing core that didn’t fit in this new-age system. Any doubts of that were erased by Minnesota’s two extended losing streaks, including a 13-gamer that’s ongoing.

Wiggins’ entire career has been filled with ups and downs, and he hasn’t sniffed an all-star game or played near a level that would justify his max contract. Dieng has simply been buried on the bench behind Towns, a situation that left him wanting more opportunity, even if that meant going elsewhere.

Wiggins is on his way to a championship-caliber franchise. Surrounded by two of the game’s best shooters and one of its fiercest competitors, all on a team that knows how to win, maybe Wiggins will find his way and develop into the dominant force his measurables suggest he should become.

Dieng joins Tyus Jones on one of the true up-and-coming franchises that is unexpectedly in the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Both might be in better situations to personally succeed going forward, as are the Wolves.

At the start of the week, Minnesota possessed a bad roster that just didn’t work together, with no sign of that changing any time soon. Now, after a series of aggressive moves, there’s again potential.

The Wolves are armed with a slew of young talent — including guys like Beasley and Hernangomez, who could take major steps given bigger roles — with potential to create cap space this summer if desired and a heavy arsenal of three desirable picks heading into the June draft.

The previous version of the roster didn’t work. This one might. It’s no guarantee — fits never are, and Towns’ development into a two-way player is still the biggest piece in Minnesota getting where it wants to go — but at least a clear path forward has now been charted.

What a week, indeed.