Minnesota Timberwolves: Grading Naz Reid’s 2019-20 season

Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves invested in undrafted big man Naz Reid last summer by giving him a partially-guaranteed contract. Did the rookie earn a spot on the roster moving forward?

Last June, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded up too select guard Jarrett Culver at No. 6 in the draft. Then, they picked reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, Jaylen Nowell, in the second round.

But they weren’t done adding young talent with plenty of upside. They were able to land former consensus top-15 high school player and four-star recruit Naz Reid for their entry into Las Vegas Summer League. His play during the week-plus of practices and games in Vegas led them to offer Reid a two-way contract for the upcoming season.

But Reid played so well that the Wolves shifted gears and offered him a multi-year, partially-guaranteed deal. It’s relatively rare for teams to offer that much security to an undrafted rookie, but the Wolves had the roster space and clearly were encouraged by Reid’s unique skill set.

In his lone season at LSU, Reid put up 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for a surprising Tigers squad that reached the Sweet 16. However, his lack of all-around dominance and some athletic and defensive limitations led him to go undrafted.

Despite his draft status, Reid still has decent athleticism to pair with his NBA-caliber above-average size and length, and his scoring touch both from the perimeter and in the paint is exactly what the Timberwolves are looking for out of their center.

Reid started his rookie season with the Iowa Wolves of the G League and averaged 18.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range and 50.2 percent overall. He started 16 games there, playing just north of 30 minutes per contest.

Reid’s steal rate (2.2 percent) and block rate (4.8 percent) were both encouraging and would be signs of a strong defender at the NBA level. His turnovers were a bit high and it would have been nice to see him dominate the glass as opposed to just getting by with average numbers in the G League.

Overall, however, the rookie big man did pretty much exactly what the Wolves expected him to do against professional competition at the age of 20.

As the season went on, Reid received more opportunities with the big club, even becoming the regular starting center once Karl-Anthony Towns went down with a fractured wrist in February. After shooting the ball well early on, Reid went into a terrible slump from deep and his shooting (41.2 percent on field goal attempts and 33 percent on 3-point tries) was nothing to write home about.

Reid was generally passable on offense in his 30 appearances with the Timberwolves but struggled defensively. He was often in early foul trouble, using his hands to defend and not moving his feet or rotating crisply. There were also significant issues in pick-and-roll coverage.

2019-20 Season Grade: B-

Yours truly recently made the case for Naz Reid to at least have the opportunity to stick as a rotation player for the Timberwolves. Check out that article for a deeper dive on his play on both ends of the floor as a rookie.

The quick argument is that Reid’s skill set is a poor man’s version of Towns’ abilities, and while it isn’t anywhere near on par with the two-time All-Star’s results as of yet, there is still upside remaining. Playing Reid as the backup 5 allows the Wolves to run many similar sets with him on the floor as they would with Towns in the lineup.

Ultimately, Reid’s all-around play was solid and made clear why the Wolves chose to invest guaranteed money in a player who was passed on 60 times in last June’s draft. While the shooting numbers and defense wasn’t quite where it will need to be long term, the talent and physical profile is absolutely there.

Next. Grading Malik Beasley's 2019-20 season. dark

Reid should have the chance to compete for a backup big man spot on this young Wolves roster moving forward. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, he’ll need to stop getting into foul trouble and start knocking down open 3-point attempts with more regularity.