Draft night was nearly a month ago. But finally, at Conway Community Center in St. Paul, the Timberwolves were able to formally introduce their 2019 draft class Thursday morning. Surprise: In president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas’ estimation, that class is a trio, not a duo.
First-round pick Jarrett Culver was there, as was second-rounder Jaylen Nowell, flanked on the stage by Rosas and Wolves coach Ryan Saunders.
But Naz Reid was there, too. A month ago, as both Culver and Nowell were celebrating with their friends and families, Reid was coming to grips with the reality of not being drafted at all. But Thursday morning he signed a multiyear deal with the Wolves.
“It’s almost like getting an extra pick in the draft,” Rosas said.
Regarding the full group, the words most often used Thursday were work and ethic. Rosas mentioned early on that, in his nearly 20 years in the league, he had just experienced a first. He was on the way into Wolves headquarters at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, walking in with a team scout.
“As I’m coming in, someone opens the door for me,” Rosas said. “And it’s Jarrett coming out of the building after having finished his workout. That speaks to who he is and what he’s about. When you want to build a sustainable program, that’s what you want.”
In Culver, the Wolves have a talented wing who will be given every chance in training camp to prove he deserves significant minutes as a rookie. In Nowell, the Wolves have a talented shooter. The fact both are facile ballhandlers and playmakers was the big reason both were drafted.
In Reid, the Wolves got a 6-10 center who went from not being drafted, to signing a two-way deal with the Wolves that would have meant spending most of the year in the developmental G League, to playing so well in the Las Vegas Summer League that the team decided they had to do more: a four-year, $6.1 million deal, with the first year guaranteed and a team option for the final three, per a source.
So Reid joins the Wolves on a full-scale deal. He has size, a shooting range that allows him to stretch defenses and a whole lot of motivation.
“Not being drafted humbled me a lot more,” he said. “I mean, it put a bigger chip on my shoulder.”
On a day usually reserved for platitudes, Reid was refreshingly honest. The big man who played for a season at Louisiana State admitted he may have taken some plays off in high school and at college. His freshman year at LSU was, by most accounts, an up-and-down affair. But with that self-awareness came conviction: “Now, every night, my effort will be displayed on the court,” he said.
Said Saunders: “I was going to lean over and tell him, ‘You know, you’re right. You’re not going to take plays off because you’re a professional.’ ”
Culver didn’t take part in summer league because the deal that ultimately brought him here wasn’t completed until July 6. Nowell missed summer league because of a quad injury; he said having to watch was one of the toughest things he’s done.
But Reid, playing through a foot injury, averaged 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.7 blocks in Vegas, where the Wolves advanced to the championship game.
“I just tried to play to the best of my abilities,” he said. “Do all the things I could do. I’m blessed to have this opportunity so soon. I’m ready to get to work.”
Rosas credited his staff for identifying Reid and lauded the coaches who worked with him in Vegas. “What he showed in summer league just scratched the surface,” Rosas said. “Offensively, he can do just about everything.”
His ability to stretch an offense but also score in the post is important, Rosas said, even if the 19-year-old Reid will have to work on strength and conditioning. Rosas said Reid was the team’s top priority after the draft ended, and that the team had to fend off other teams to sign him to the initial two-way deal.
For Reid, it’s an opportunity he plans on grabbing.
“I wasn’t in the best [place] on draft night,” he said. “But, because of my efforts, the things I’ve done on the court, I was blessed to be in this position. I want to put my best foot forward this time. New start. Just do the things the best way I can.”