The Timberwolves’ Summer League entrant is 6-0 and will face Memphis on Monday night in Las Vegas for the championship.
Results-wise, this is about as important as dominating college football spring practices or winning the fourth preseason game in the NFL. The results don’t carry over to the real thing, and the majority of players on the Wolves’ summer league roster won’t see the light of day on an NBA court next season.
That said, as long as we keep things in perspective, there has been a lot to like about what the Wolves have done in Summer League. It’s not a perfect snapshot of how they want to play going forward, but it is at least a glimpse of some of the things they will prioritize under new President Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders. Here are some of those things:
*Offensive efficiency. Per Alan Horton from Wolves radio, Minnesota has all but eliminated long two-point attempts from its arsenal. He tweeted that through four games, the Wolves had attempted just 17 midrange shots in summer league play after averaging 17 attempts per game last season. And a full 81 percent of their field goal attempts through four games were either at the rim or from three-point range.
Last year the Rockets led the NBA with 78 percent of their attempts from one of those two spots, followed by the Bucks at 76 percent. Both were among the NBA’s best teams. The Wolves were at a dismal 60 percent, so even the small sample size of four Summer League games is a welcome change.
*Naz Reid. It’s silly to fall in love with a player after a handful of loose games against similar competition, but it looks like the Wolves at least have something with two-way contract player Naz Reid, the 19-year-old undrafted free agent from LSU.
He’s averaging a team-high 12.5 points in six Summer League games while playing just 18.3 minutes per game. He’s good from three-point range. He’s good at the rim. He makes smart passes and smart rotations.
For a highlight that encapsulates Reid’s more subtle skills, the Wolves’ overall ball movement and the efficiency of a wide-open three, here you go (via Kyle Ratke, who you has been putting in a heavy Vegas shift and taking one for the team. Reid is No. 11. He starts with the ball, hands it off, sets a screen, dives to the hoop and then passes to the corner, where one more swing creates a great look. That sort of action will play anywhere):
Again, Reid is on a two-way contract — meaning he is slated to spend most of next season in the G League. But these are the types of players the Wolves should be getting long looks at and developing. Ex-Gopher Jordan Murphy (pictured above) is another. He’s averaging a tidy 8 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Summer Wolves.
As Dane Moore notes, the Wolves have 11 players under some sort of contract next season who are under the age of 26.
*The Wolves have done this without some of their best young players in the mix. Because of the unfortunate timing that didn’t allow first-round pick Jarrett Culver to officially join the team until after Summer League started — and the Wolves’ decision not to force him into action at the risk of injury — they’ve gone 6-0 without a minute from Culver.
Second-round pick Jaylen Nowell hasn’t played, either, because of a quad injury. Meanwhile, 2018 first-round pick Josh Okogie missed Sunday’s win over Brooklyn with a minor injury and it would be surprising if he suited up in the championship game.
Long story short: If this year is about developing players and establishing a style of play, the jump-start from Summer League is a nice introduction.