Minnesota Timberwolves: Naz Reid can stick as a rotation player

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 03: Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 03: Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Naz Reid
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 23: Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves kept a few undrafted rookies on their roster this season. Naz Reid was one, and he certainly looks like a legit rotation player.

We’re not even a full year into Gersson Rosas’ tenure as Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, and it’s easy to identify his overarching philosophy.

And yes, it has Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets written all over it. Despite Rosas’ refusal that the Wolves would simply be “Houston North”, the team-building plan is eerily similar.

First, keep or acquire top-flight offensive talent. The Wolves went hard after D’Angelo Russell last summer to pair with existing star Karl-Anthony Towns. When they failed, they didn’t give up, and it was only seven months later that Russell was in the fold.

Along the way, the Wolves were cautious to fill out their roster with the sort of middling contracts that weigh down the payroll, understanding that those pieces were only ever necessary if a team was on the brink of contention. (The Rockets have had issues with this lately. See: Eric Gordon, and, to a lesser extent, PJ Tucker.)

Instead, Minnesota was strategic with their roster spots and guaranteed money, doling out one-year, veteran minimum contracts for Jordan Bell and Noah Vonleh while acquiring Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham on expiring deals.

Then, as part of a third phase, Rosas crafted creative deals for undrafted free agent Naz Reid and second-round draft pick Jaylen Nowell. In addition to two-way players Jordan McLaughlin and Kelan Martin — both undrafted rookies who spent last season playing professionally outside the NBA — and No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver, the Wolves have had five rookies play significant minutes this year.

(Side note: this strategy will be tested this summer with a pair of valuable restricted free agents in Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez. The Wolves may be willing to pay Beasley like their “third star”, but what about Juancho?)

The way Reid was acquired and the thought process behind it is important, for this reason: the Wolves aren’t trying to find the next superstar in Naz Reid. They already have a superstar center, after all.

Instead, they’re trying to find both a playable option next to Karl-Anthony Towns at power forward, as well as a backup big man who can replicate some of his offense talents, allowing the playbook to look largely the same for the reserves as it does for the starting lineup.

Reid was a top high school recruit but had a modest freshman season for a surprising LSU team that finished 28-7 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. But his combination of size (6-foot-9-plus with a 7-foot-3-plus wingspan), decent athleticism and above-average shooting touch and range for a big man was about as intriguing as it gets for a guy who fails to get drafted.

The Wolves first intended to sign Reid to a two-way contract, but after a strong showing in Las Vegas Summer League chose to sign him to a four-year deal that is only partially-guaranteed after the 2019-20 season.

Let’s take a look at what he’s done so far this year and what his upside might be as a member of the rotation for the Wolves.