Minnesota Timberwolves: Could Jarrett Culver win Rookie of the Year?

MADISON, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 11: Jarrett Culver of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
MADISON, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 11: Jarrett Culver of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves traded up in June’s draft to pick Jarrett Culver. Does the former Texas Tech Red Raider have a shot at winning Rookie of the Year?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a unique position this season.

The Wolves are only a season removed from making the playoffs and won 36 games last year, so they certainly aren’t a bottom-feeder. Plus, they’re best player is not yet 24 years old and is a two-time All-Star nearing his prime.

Yet they also traded up in the draft and picked Jarrett Culver at No. 6, meaning that they have a high lottery pick who will expect to be part of the rotation early in the season.

The rest of the rotation, however, is largely veterans. Second-year wing Josh Okogie is the only other relatively inexperienced member of the expected rotation.

So, will Culver have a shot at winning the Rookie of the Year award this season?

We can start by acknowledging that the favorite for the award is New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, and it isn’t close. Williamson is one of the most highly-regarded rookies in quite a few years, and he will have every opportunity to make an immediate impact.

It’s also important to note that a huge part of winning this award — and any award, for that matter — is opportunity. Many of the other likely candidates for the award will have plenty of opportunity, as they largely play for teams without realistic playoff aspirations.

But Culver just might have the perfect blend of opportunity and a talented-enough team to make some noise.

Take, for example, the 2016-17 season. Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon won the award for a 42-40 Bucks squad that only managed to grab the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Brogdon only averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.8 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game for a mediocre team.

Granted, it was a weak rookie class, and the likes of Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett will have something to say about this year’s voting.

Culver, however, should be on a team that is better than most of the other potential candidates. He should also have a real opportunity to earn playing time on a team that has quite a few wings able to play multiple positions. There’s even an outside chance that he could earn a starting spot in relatively short order, depending on Ryan Saunders’ willingness to play Robert Covington at the power forward spot.

Culver could see some time running at point forward as he did at Texas Tech with the Wolves a bit thin at point guard, too. Brogdon split time between both guard spots as a rookie and that helped boost his assist total and overall profile to a national audience.

All that to say, Williamson is certainly the favorite. But a recent ESPN poll did see Culver land at No. 6 in the voting, so at the very least, he’s on the radar for the award.

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It will all boil down to how much opportunity Culver sees and how quickly he can adjust to the pro game. But it isn’t crazy to think that the Wolves’ rookie has a chance to win the team’s third Rookie of the Year award in six seasons.