Tim Connelly’s first big move as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves came last week with the addition of Matt Lloyd as senior vice president of basketball operations.
It can be difficult in the early days of a new regime to predict how all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together, so this is the perfect time to reach out to someone who has followed Lloyd closely to get a sense of what it will bring. at the table in Minnesota.
Lloyd comes to Minnesota from the Orlando Magic, where he has been an executive since 2012. Josh Robbins just finished his first season covering the Washington Wizards for The Athletic. Before that, he covered the Magic for more than a decade to the athletic and the Orlando Sentinel.
Few know the structure of the Magic and Lloyd’s role in Orlando better than Robbins, so we’ll talk about the persona, the fit and anything else that comes to mind as Lloyd transitions to the Timberwolves.
Jon Krawczynski: Thanks for taking the time, Jose. First off, for those unfamiliar with his work in Orlando and elsewhere, what do you think the Timberwolves are getting from Matt Lloyd?
Josh Robbins: Lloyd is a smart, friendly and humble person who has paid his dues to earn this opportunity with the Timberwolves. He has a great origin story: He and his sister were raised by a single mother in suburban Chicago., with the help of both sets of grandparents and her mother’s sister and two brothers. He worked his way through college at the University of Illinois-Chicago, even shooting video on game nights for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls signed him full-time in 1999, and he spent the last five years there as the team’s director of college scouting. In 2012, he joined the Magic as assistant general manager and last year he was named the Magic’s vice president of basketball operations.
Immediately after the 2016-17 season, the Magic fired general manager Rob Hennigan and assistant general manager Scott Perry, and the team’s CEO appointed Lloyd as the team’s interim general manager, where he remained for more than two months until the Magic hired Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations and John Hammond as general manager. I think his experience as interim GM was one of Lloyd’s formative experiences, and he handled a difficult situation as gracefully as he could have handled it.
One thing that should help you is that you’ve seen a wide range of scouting approaches and management styles. One of his mentors was Jerry Krause. He has worked with executives John Paxson, Gar Forman, Hennigan, Perry, Weltman, and Hammond. He has worked in basketball operations departments that employed coaches with disparate styles.
Krawczynski: Some Timberwolves fans may say, wait a second, Connelly’s first big hire is a guy who oversaw the Magic scouting? Why should he be excited about that? Can you provide some context as to what he accomplished there and why Connelly might have been so interested in bringing him on board?
Robbins: Lloyd is a well-regarded talent evaluator and a great information manager. He communicates well. I assume that Connelly has known Lloyd for a long time and trusts Lloyd completely. Having that confidence is crucial. However, citing the Magic’s lack of success since 2012 is an understandable criticism. After all, that franchise has posted a winning record just once in Lloyd’s 10 seasons with the team.
The team made some solid (but not great) draft picks: Victor Oladipo (No. 2 in 2013) and Aaron Gordon (No. 4 in 2014). He dramatically overrated other players he recruited: Mario Hezonja (No. 5 in 2015) and Mo Bamba (No. 6 in 2018). I should point out that Franz Wagner, the eighth pick last year, could turn out to be one of the best picks in that draft.
But, and it’s a significant “but,” Lloyd never made the final call on any of those picks. Throughout his tenure, he was always third in the pecking order of Orlando’s basketball operations department, whether under the Hennigan/Perry tandem or the Weltman/Hammond tandem. In other words, the responsibility stopped with either Hennigan or Weltman, since they were the ones who made the final decision on the draft.
However, it was telling that Lloyd always publicly and privately backed all Magic picks, even if the picks were busts. He never, ever hinted at anything like “Oh, if I had been in charge, I would have picked So-and-so over So-and-so.” To Lloyd’s credit, it was impossible to know if his opinion ever differed from Hennigan’s or Weltman’s; In other words, he remained loyal to his bosses. I think that says a lot about his character.
What I do know through Magic sources is that Lloyd saw potential stardom in Donovan Mitchell when Lloyd was interim GM in 2017. Mitchell was ranked 13th that year, while the Magic went with Jonathan Isaac in the #6 I wonder if Lloyd would have selected Mitchell over Isaac if Lloyd had stayed in charge.
Also worth noting: The Bulls drafted Jimmy Butler 30th overall in 2011, when Lloyd was the Bulls’ director of college scouting. Once again, the responsibility rests with the person who was in charge of the Bulls at the time, and not with Lloyd. But if Minnesota fans are going to blame Lloyd for the Magic’s draft record, then they should be consistent and cite the positives of the Bulls’ draft record during his tenure there.
Krawczynski: One of the unique things about this situation is that Connelly and Lloyd join a team that already has a lot of infrastructure. Coach Chris Finch is under a long-term contract. Ownership has made it clear that they really value executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta. How do you think Lloyd will fare in relating to existing personalities and finding common ground with a great staff that remains here?
Robbins: Let me be clear: I don’t know Gupta or Connelly at all, and I have no inside knowledge of the dynamics within the Timberwolves’ front office. (the athleticReaders of are lucky to have you, one of the best in the business, to rely on that.) However, from afar, it looks like it could turn into a sticky situation. Connelly will have to set a tone in which he values teamwork. I don’t think Lloyd will have a problem relating to the group.
Krawczynski: Let me at least bring something to the table so that the value of this conversation is not so one-sided. I can tell that Lloyd was proactive in communicating with staff and people in the organization from the beginning, when it became clear that he was going to come on board just to touch base and try to establish an early understanding that he was coming here to work. . with to them. I think it was a gesture that was appreciated by several and will help you get started.
What the Wolves need most right now, with three weeks to go until the draft, is help on that front. Before Connelly came on board, the Wolves parted ways with Gianluca Pascucci, the assistant general manager who quarterbacked their draft prep. They brought in Steve Senior from Memphis, but his role is more involved in player development than traditional draft scouting, though I’m sure he’ll have input there. I know you mentioned it earlier, but Lloyd’s bread and butter seems to be talent scouting and evaluation, correct? He seems well suited to play a role that Connelly needs there.
Robbins: That’s right: Lloyd has deep roots in scouting, as I noted earlier, Krause was one of his mentors, but he’s also run a scouting department, which also involves managing information and managing professional, university, and international scouts.
In Chicago more than 20 years ago, Paxson asked Lloyd to create the first computerized database of Bulls scouting information. Obviously the Wolves are past that point, but it indicates some of Lloyd’s strengths.
Krawczynski: There you have it guys. Information from the reporter who covered the Magic more closely than anyone over the past decade.
After Connelly returned to Denver for a few days last week following his news conference, the Timberwolves switched to full prep mode for the June 23 draft. Connelly is back in town to meet face to face with the rest of the team. staff and continue to analyze other possible movements. Lloyd is transitioning to Minnesota. There is little time to waste.
Just a guess, but there may be some renewed energy from both Connelly and Lloyd in the early days here. Connelly was in Denver for nine years. Lloyd was in Orlando for 10 years. That’s a LOT of time to be anywhere in NBA years.
Both are making fresh starts in Minnesota, a place he hopes to build on the modest success the Wolves had last season. They come to an organization eager to invest, a staff eager to improve, and a coaching staff that understands how much work remains to be done. Success is far from guaranteed, but the breadth of experience both men have is unlike the signings the Wolves have traditionally made near the top of the front office. Gersson Rosas, Tom Thibodeau, Flip Saunders, David Kahn and Kevin McHale were general managers for the first time when they were cast in the lead roles. Connelly has been in that position and has done some great things in Denver. That has owners optimistic that his experience and the way he, Lloyd and Gupta complement each other nicely set things up for the road ahead.
(Photo by John Paxson and Matt Lloyd of the Bulls: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)