President Gersson Rosas promised a three-point revolution when he came to the Timberwolves a season ago, and he delivered on that as the season went on. The Wolves were the third-most frequent three-point chucking team in the NBA with 39.7 attempts per game.
The problem was that only 33.6% of those attempts went in, the third-worst mark in the league.
So as the Wolves set out deciding what they are going to do with the first, 17th and 33rd picks of the Nov. 18 NBA draft, they would like to find someone who is going to help improve that mark.
It’s not always easy to find shooting, even early in a draft. Consider the Wolves’ past two first-round picks. Josh Okogie, who was the final first-round pick of the Tom Thibodeau regime, has shot only 27% from deep in his two seasons. Jarrett Culver, the sixth overall pick from last season, shot 30% from deep in his rookie campaign.
In speaking with the media Wednesday via Zoom, Rosas said looking at a player’s history shooting the three goes beyond just looking at their percentages when trying to project how good a player might translate to shooting threes in the NBA.
“History is really important. Not only how many they’ve shot, but for how long have they shot them,” Rosas said. “How many years in their career have they been coached and have confidence in shooting threes. Free-throw percentage is an important part of that as well.”
Looking around at the potential pool of top draft prospects, which the Wolves are still sorting through with less than a month left until they pick, there aren’t a lot of encouraging initial signs when you look at their raw numbers.
LaMelo Ball shot 25% on threes last season in Australia, Anthony Edwards shot 29% at Georgia and James Wiseman attempted exactly one three-pointer in three games at Memphis — so the data on him are at best incomplete.
Extending that pool out a bit, Isaac Okuru was a 29% three-point shooter at Auburn, Deni Avdija shot 27% in Israel last season. The Wolves dive deep into just how these players are coming across their attempts.
“How did you get those shots? Is it catch and shoot, which we perceive as easier shots, vs. off-the-dribble,” Rosas said. “What is your role on the team and your ability to create those shots?”
To Rosas’ point about free-throw shooting also being an indicator of how well a player might shoot, Ball and Edwards shot 72% and 77% from the line, respectively.
Also figuring into their evaluation is the mechanics of the shot, and Rosas said the Wolves have their performance evaluators analyzing the biomechanics of each prospect’s shot.
“I’ve always been of the school of thought, ‘There’s no perfect shot, perfect your shot,’ and for all the players we look at is the ability to translate that,” Rosas said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into that — the point of release, the speed of release, the body, where the shot is coming from, how the shot comes off, can it be changed, is it something you don’t want to change, is it something you want to leave alone, how will repetition and more specialization [improve it]?”
This much is known: Whoever the Wolves end up taking likely will be firing away, whether they are making or missing.