Jarrett Culver should be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ backup point guard

FORT WORTH, TX - MARCH 02: Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jarrett Culver (#23). (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - MARCH 02: Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jarrett Culver (#23). (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Jarrett Culver is regarded as a wing, but he just might be the best backup point guard option for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

During the first part of the offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled to find something resembling consistent production and depth at the point guard position.

This summer hasn’t produced intended results for the Wolves as they failed to draft a point guard after trading up, struck-out in the free agent and trade market, and let the god of efficiency, Tyus Jones, walk.

Despite all of this, the Timberwolves may have found their backup point guard in Jarrett Culver.

The Wolves have plenty of guys that can create their own shot, but they are lacking playmaking depth. Even though Culver played mostly shooting guard and small forward at Texas Tech, he frequently initiated the offense.

He showed a high level of comfort with the ball in his hands and displayed exceptional passing vision. Culver’s fit on the Timberwolves may have seemed redundant with Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, and Josh Okogie already in the fold, but Culver brings a sense of playmaking that none of those guys possess.

The Timberwolves roster currently has Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier under contract at the point guard position. None of these names jump off the page as guys who can adequately lead this team, unless Teague stays healthy and has somewhat of a resurgence next year.

However, the frustrations and inefficiencies of Teague’s fit have been on full display over the last few seasons and Napier is a deep rotation guy on a good day.

Culver makes a ton of sense to slot in as the backup point guard for the Wolves. He is an unselfish player and having his physical profile in the point guard position should create numerous possibilities on both ends of the floor.

By using Culver as a point guard, the Timberwolves would be able to optimize both Culver’s skillset along with the other wings on the roster. Last season, Culver scored only .908 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations (34th percentile), per Synergy.

Conversely, he was much more efficient when he had the ball in his hands as he scored .95 points per possession in isolation (77th percentile), 1.0 point per possession on jumpers off the dribble (74th percentile), and 1.289 points per possession when he drove to the rim.

While Culver is a more efficient scorer with the ball in his hand, the real reason he should be playing more point guard is his playmaking ability. Last season, Texas Tech scored 1.909 points per possession when Culver would pass to cutters (best in the country) and 1.0 point per possession when he would drive-and-kick.

When Culver attacks, he always keeps his head up looking for the open cutter. Below we see Culver manipulate two defenders with the threat of his drive and change of pace attack. Once the second defender commits, Culver knows that he has an open teammate and just needs to buy some time for him to cut towards the hoop.

As Culver gets to the baseline, he uses a shot fake to fully engage the help defender and then pivots back to deliver a perfect pass for an easy dunk.

Here’s another example of how Culver manipulates defenders and invites the double team to create space for his teammates.

The play starts with Culver dribbling into the pick and his teammate slipping it. Culver recognizes that the screener’s defender shades over to initiate the double team leaving the screener unguarded. As Culver comes off the screen his defender stays with him and the screener’s defender begins to retreat to his man.

To keep the double team engaged, Culver dispatches his defender with a quick behind the back dribble. This forces the screener’s defender to stay with Culver and leaving the lane wide open which is all Culver needs to deliver a perfect pass to the cutting screener.

Culver is equally as talented as finding spot-up shooters out of his drives. In the below clip we see Culver make the right pass to an open shooter instead of forcing a contested shot. Culver’s drive is cut off, so he tries to spin back towards the middle of the paint. The defender does a nice job of staying with him and not giving Culver any space to shoot. Instead of forcing a bad shot, Culver has the vision to find the open shooter rotating to the corner for an easy three.

Culver’s size and basketball IQ make him a unique playmaker. He would be able to add a lot of versatility to the Timberwolves lineup if he is inserted into the point guard role.

Running the pick-and-roll with Karl-Anthony Towns would create numerous possibilities as Towns may be the most offensively versatile big man in the game. When Towns rolled out of the pick-and-roll he scored 1.19 points per possession (70.8th percentile), per NBA Stats.

By having Culver at point guard, the Timberwolves would be able to surround him with Covington, Wiggins, and Okogie — all better offensive players when they are working off-ball. This would also create a unique defense that could easily switch everything.

We established how Culver easily finds cutters and being surrounded by Covington, Wiggins, and Okogie would create a wealth of opportunities. While cutting last season, Covington scored 1.57 points per possession (95.4th percentile), Wiggins scored 1.34 points per possession (62.7th percentile), and Okogie scored 1.3 points per possession (52.1st percentile), per NBA Stats.

While none of those three are considered elite shooters, they are more effective when they are shooting off the catch instead of off the dribble. Last season with the Timberwolves, Covington shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range in these situations while Wiggins shot 36.3 percent and Okogie shot 29.4 percent, per NBA Stats.

By using Jarrett Culver in the point guard role, the Timberwolves will be able to add a lot of versatility to their lineups. Offensively, the Timberwolves will immediately become more efficient. Their wings will be able to work off-ball more which will also open up the floor for Towns. Defensively, they will be able to switch everything and not have a glaring hole.

Next. Identity matters, and the Wolves are starting to find it. dark

Jarrett Culver wouldn’t be a traditional choice at point guard, but with his size, vision, and basketball IQ, the Minnesota Timberwolves should absolutely use him in that role.