Minnesota Timberwolves: Jarrett Culver’s improved shooting is not a fluke

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 18: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots over Royce O'Neale #23 of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 18: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots over Royce O'Neale #23 of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Jarrett Culver’s rookie season was less than ideal for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but over his last 12 games, he showed real signs of improvement.

On the season, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Jarrett Culver averaged 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.

While these are lackluster numbers, the biggest concern is Culver’s pitiful shooting numbers. Culver made just 40.4 percent of his attempts from the field, 29.9 percent from beyond the arc, and a despicable 46.2 percent from the line fourth-worst in the league.

There were flashes of promise earlier in the season from Culver, but his play tended to present more questions than answers. Not all of this can be attributed to Culver as a player, however. To say the Timberwolves had a tumultuous season not ideal for a rookie is putting it lightly.

Despite all of this, though, there were signs of life in Culver’s game in his final 12 games. His counting stats remained essentially the same, but the biggest improvement came in his shooting numbers. During that span, Culver shot 50 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range, but still just 44.4 percent from the line.

You’re probably thinking that this is just a fluke stretch of shooting cemented by his struggles from the line. While it’s unlikely Culver will be a 40 percent 3-point shooter going forward, there may be reason to buy into his improvement.

His improved numbers weren’t the result of him overhauling his form or completely changing his shot selection. Instead, it was because he stopped overthinking, made a subtle change to his shot, and was becoming more comfortable.

Coming into the league, Culver’s shooting form was his biggest question mark. He had inconsistent footwork, dipped the ball below his waist to begin his shot, and had inconsistent release points.

In the below clip from early in the season, we can see all the issues with Culver’s shot at one time. Culver does a nice job of hopping into his shot, but his feet are pointing towards the baseline. This skews his entire body in that direction and affects his accuracy. Culver then receives a great pass in his shooting pocket.

Instead of going straight up with it, he dips the ball below his waist, prolonging his form and creates more room for error. Finally, Culver releases his shot out in front of his face with a pushing action. The result is a bad miss.

The most glaring improvement was Culver’s ability to just make open shots. On the season, Culver shot just 30.5 percent on open threes (closest defender not within four feet). In the last 12 games, however, this number skyrocketed to 39.4 percent, per stats.NBA.com.

While the earlier clip showed everything wrong with Culver’s shot, the below one shows the subtle improvements he’s made, making him more effective. His form still isn’t perfect here, but it shows that he is working hard on it and making legitimate strides.

Again, Culver does a nice job of stepping into his shot, but this time his feet and body are more squared towards the rim. Once he receives the ball, Culver still dips it slightly, but it isn’t as drastic as it was earlier in the season. This helps keep him more upright and quickens his release to negate the defender’s closeout.

Finally, Culver’s release is much improved as well. Instead of pushing out in front of his face, he has a smooth high release point, despite still having a little too much elbow flare.

Culver’s shot off the dribble also vastly improved over his last twelve games. Previously, Culver shot just 40.2 percent on all shots off the dribble. In his last 12 games, this number jumped to 52.9 percent.

Due to his shooting struggles, defenses started going under screens more frequently, resulting in Culver having more open opportunities. As we can see in the below clip, Culver also looks more comfortable on the court. He doesn’t hesitate and confidently dribbles into the open shot.

The subtle improvements to his form are also on display. His lead foot is still pointed at an angle, but his hips and shoulders are squared up. He does a nice job of staying in his shot and has the same high release point.

Jarrett Culver was never projected as a scorer, and he likely will never be relied upon as one. We can scream about sample size and it being a fluke stretch of the season, but to blatantly ignore tangible improvements to a shooting form in the middle of the season is foolish.

Jarrett Culver’s role this season has fluctuated from being a bench-warmer to an off-ball scorer to a lead guard. Despite this uncertainty and indecisiveness, Culver has continued to work extremely hard to improve his game.

Jarrett Culver’s last 12 games are likely not a true example of what type of shooter he will immediately be going forward. However, they are a great sign of the improvements a player with his work ethic can make. In the middle of his rookie season, Culver displayed subtle, yet important adjustments to his shooting form.

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If he can continue to make improvements like these and pair it with his solid defense, however, it wouldn’t be crazy to think he could be a strong contributor going forward.