Breaking down Jordan Bell’s role with the Minnesota Timberwolves

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 05: Jordan Bell #2 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 05: Jordan Bell #2 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jordan Bell
PORTLAND, OR – MAY 18: Jordan Bell #2 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. Jordan Bell’s strengths make him a very low-risk, high-reward signing

Entering the offseason, the Wolves came in with four key weaknesses: perimeter shooting, athleticism, interior defense, and rebounding on both backboards.

The Wolves’ front office addressed the final three aforementioned shortcomings by signing Bell for just $1.6 million.

Jordan Bell is a freakish athlete and it quickly stands out no matter which end of the floor he’s playing on. Consequently, his athletic ability provides an excellent foundation for offensive coordinator Pablo Prigioni and defensive coordinator David Vanterpool to build on.

To give you a taste of his athleticism and rebounding instincts, take a look at this perfectly timed putback jam.

Bell watches the legend Swaggy P chuck up an on-brand 3 and immediately crashes the glass, because he understands the potential for a long rebound.

The Wolves simply haven’t had players crash the glass like this in a long time and an athlete like Bell would put pressure on the defense even after the shot goes up.

JB does a terrific job of staying with the play while he’s out on the floor.

Instead of standing in the short corner and watching the play (this is definitely not, in any way, shape or form, a subtweet about a certain player we all know that may or may not have a tendency to watch the game like a fan while he plays), he aggressively follows the play and makes the Kings pay for failing to block out.

He’s a 225-pound Energizer Bunny that is ready to give his team a power surge whenever it’s needed. For a fun young team like the Wolves, he’s going to be the catalyst of a ton of runs this upcoming season.

In addition to having a nose for the ball when it’s in the air, Bell is very good at beating closeouts. Last season, Bell grabbed an offensive rebound on 7.9 percent of the Warriors’ possessions while on the floor.

Per the NBA’s Advanced Analytics Portal, He scored 1.20 points per possession on such possessions, and converted 60.0 percent of his putback attempts for the Dubs, which ranked him in the 74th percentile among all NBA players. Bell will look to continue that effectiveness for a Minnesota squad looking to build off a strong year on the offensive boards.

In wins last season, the Wolves tied for third in the NBA with 11.9 offensive rebounds per game, and tied for second with 15.9 second-chance points per game. Those numbers dipped to 10.8 offensive rebounds and 14.4 second change points per contest in losses, good for 11th (tie) and fourth, respectively.

If Ryan Saunders can get plays like these out of Bell next season on a nightly basis, there’s no reason Minnesota can’t be near the top of the league in the 2019-20 campaign.

These are the types of winning plays that can be a deciding factor down the stretch of games., especially during the playoff push from February through the second week of April.

On the defensive glass, Bell averaged 9.2 boards per 36 minutes, which would’ve placed him fourth on the Wolves last season. Along with Noah Vonleh, who I’ll preview next week, I’m very confident the Wolves can become a very good defensive rebounding team.

The former Oregon Duck was often used as a small-ball 5 in Golden State and at 6-foot-9, held his own on the boards against opposing traditional 5s. Bell corralled 23.2 percent of his team’s defensive rebounds as a small center, which is an excellent clip for a guy his size – it ranks 45th in the league among all players shorter than 6-foot-10.

Bell will likely play the 4 in Minnesota alongside Karl-Anthony Towns or Noah Vonleh, so the Wolves will have a much stronger presence on the glass next season.

Jordan’s athleticism will be most utilized on defense in Minnesota this upcoming season, for good reason.

Here, Patty McCaw plays terrible defense in a handoff play and Bell leaves his man and skies for a crazy block on Dwight Powell. Instead of searching for the ball, he just takes off and trusts his teammates to collect the board and outlet to him on the break.

Oh, and the alley-oop and-1 to top it off? Amazing.

He and Summer League legend Mitch Creek could co-teach a seminar how to be an irritating glue guy that you love having on your team and hate playing against. I’d love every second of it.

The main reason that Bell was brought in is because he’s a versatile jackknife on defense that can switch onto all five positions and guard them each effectively.

Last season, Bell gave up just 0.77 points per possession and a bucket 34.0 percent of the time when he was defending an isolation attempt. That ranks him in 76th percentile among all NBA players, which is extremely impressive for a second-year, 6-foot-9 power forward defending mostly guards in these situations.

He also held defenders to just 32.0 percent shooting and fouled on just 9.0 percent of defensive isolation attempts.

Here, in the first clip, Bell stays home on a screen and roll and welcomes D.J. Augustin to try and score on him, which didn’t work out so well for Augustin. Bell slides his feet, maintains good spacing between himself and the ball-handler, and makes a nice block.

In the second play, he strips Lonzo Ball and takes it himself all the way to the cup, displaying a capable fastbreak handle and creative finishing ability at the rim to avoid Lonzo and Brandon Ingram.

However, Jordan’s switchability isn’t his only high-level skill on defense. Bell is a terrifying help defender for opposing offenses and more than earns his “Swatterboy” nickname in doing so.

He routinely makes terrific reads in the help position, and help-the-helper situations, that result in either emphatic rejections or excellent contests that alter the outcomes of shots.

Bell accounted for 42.5 percent of his team’s blocks while on the floor and it’s not hard to see why. He averaged 1.4 blocks per 20 minutes last season and over 2.3 per 36 minutes, which he’d see in games he starts. The latter was good for 13th in the entire NBA last season.

For reference, notorious shot-blocker Rudy Gobert averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes last season.

In transition, Bell can blow up a fastbreak all by himself. See for yourself.

In the first clip, JB chases down Denzel Valentine and makes him pay for not going 100 percent to the rim. In the second play, Bell puts on his ridiculous leaping display and jumps twice to make a crazy block on Quincy Pondexter.

Athletes like Bell and Jake Layman will help the Wolves be a much better transition team on both ends of the floor next season.

Jordan Bell’s strengths will be a huge asset for Minnesota next season, in large part because he brings an element of defensive fear, scrappiness, and versatility that has seldom taken the floor at Target Center.