Photo / Cody Sharrett

Joe Branch Brings Agency Experience To Wolves Front Office

by Cody Sharrett

Joe Branch didn’t take the typical route to becoming an NBA front office executive.

Prior to joining the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Assistant General Manager spent much of his entire 20-plus year career in basketball on the league operations and player representation side. After a collegiate playing career at Northwestern, Branch got his first taste of the industry in roles with Nike and the NBA league office before moving into the agent world. After starting with Landmark Sports Group, Branch joined RocNation Sports where he represented NBA players such as Justise Winslow, Danny Green, and Caris LeVert.

“Joe makes the team better with his ability to connect the dots and whether that's relationships within basketball operations or with players,” says President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. “His experience and having different perspectives, having been at the league office as an agent, and now with a team, it gives us a perspective to not only evaluate players, not only to develop players, but to connect a bond with our players, that other organizations don't have.”

In his role with the Wolves, Branch is charged with coordinating draft efforts while leading player program initiatives and assisting in all personnel matters. With his experience in on the agent side of the basketball world, part of Branch’s role is to help recruit free agents to Minnesota in an effort to build sustainable on-court success.

“I come from an agent background, so I talk to a lot of agents, I schedule interviews, add perspective from a free agent standpoint --- but more than anything I offer perspective of what an agent is thinking.” Branch explains. “We're looking at various things, who is in the makeup of a team, what situations are right? We’re always scouting and looking at guys in the process, whether its college or pro. From a player development standpoint, I look at what kind of mentorship and off-the-court components can we give to our players to enhance their lives from a player development or player program standpoint. This perspective allows a differing point of view, but also a different level of support for our guys.

The 2020 NBA Draft will be Branch’s first while working on team side. The prospect and challenge of having the No. 1, 17, and 33 selections on November 18 has Branch thrilled to collaborate with the rest of the Wolves front office in continuing to build a winning roster.

“The difference in the draft this year, again, it's my first one, is vast” Branch says. “I was an agent for the last six to eight years, so [it’s] very different that I'm on the team side. You're trying to put your player in the best position as an agent, but on this side, you're trying to find the best fit. What's going to really work to help us have more wins, get to that championship status that we're looking for. You're working with three or four people here. We have 20 to 25 people that are really looking to make this process work for our organization.”

While drafting the best players available is always a priority, Branch takes special focus in finding the right fit for Head Coach Ryan Saunders and the Wolves’ style of play.

“I think we want somebody that can add great value to our locker room,” Branch says of the potential picks. “There is no perfect player. There's no perfect person as Gersson says, but someone who's coming in willing to learn, be a sponge, learn from Coach Saunders and just fit how we play.”

With an abundance of information on draft prospects and other teams’ rosters, analysis and evaluation can be daunting. But Branch is certain the collaboration and diverse skillsets of the Wolves basketball operations staff will have the team prepared to improve the roster on Draft Night.

“It's been a great experience because we're looking at everything top to bottom, the entire First Round, the entire Second Round,” Branch says. “We have No. 1, 17, and 33 currently in the Draft, we're evaluating other rosters and what's out there. Again, [we’re] just being aggressive. That's one of the things that Gersson talks about, so that's what we're doing.

“Everyone's opinion is valued and ultimately we will be ready for Draft Night.”

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