Minnesota Timberwolves: Can Jarrett Culver become an impact player?

Jarrett Culver of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Jarrett Culver of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Can the Minnesota Timberwolves’ most recent first-round pick, Jarrett Culver, become an impact player?

A year after the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for the No. 6 pick in the draft, Jarrett Culver has a lot of work to do to become a franchise building-block alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.

The Timberwolves are heading into the most unpredictable offseason in NBA history with a lot more questions than answers.

One of the biggest questions facing the team is, what exactly do they have in Jarrett Culver?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Can Jarrett Culver become an impact player?

Culver is coming off of an extremely up-and-down rookie season. The sixth-overall pick was expected to contribute right away to a Wolves team that was looking to possibly compete for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Instead, Culver scored 12 total points total in his first four games. He eventually found his footing in the league and became a somewhat inconsistent contributor. Culver finished his rookie campaign averaging 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game on 40.4 percent shooting.

Those are some pretty pedestrian numbers for a rookie season by any measure, and Culver has a lot to work on during the extended offseason — and especially when it comes to his abysmal shooting numbers across the board.

During the nine-month NBA hiatus, Culver will be the most interesting Timberwolves player to track. Culver is the make-or-break player that will decide if this Wolves core ascends to playoff contention, or if they continue to miss the postseason altogether.

Minnesota already knows how good Towns can be, and has shown his All-Star potential, even though he only played 12 games in Minnesota before the shutdown.

The scary thing is how closely Culver’s abbreviated rookie season resembles that of former Wolves lottery mistake Wesley Johnson. The fourth-overall pick in 2010 averaged nine points, three rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game on 39.7 percent shooting as a rookie. Wolves fans know how his career went.

Wes Johnson is not the comparison you want to see with a young player who will be asked to carry much of the load going forward. Both were all-around prospects who were supposed to contribute right away, especially on the defensive end.

The good news is that Culver did show some flashes in his first year in the NBA to give Wolves fans hope for the Texas Tech product to become a franchise cornerstone, or at least a solid piece that the team can build around.

Culver showed some improvements over the 63 games he played in a Wolves jersey this season. After a horrendous start, Culver’s all-around numbers began to rise as the season progressed. In six games in March Culver shot 52.9 percent from the field and even hit 42.1 percent of his threes (8-of-19). Granted six games is a small sample size but at least it’s better than shooting 36.5 percent from the field and 18.9 percent from three in December, which he also did.

Additionally, Culver showed he has the potential to be a plus defender as his career progresses. He had the third-best defensive rating on the Timberwolves, which is pretty unheard of for a rookie. Overall, the Wolves were one of the worst defensive teams in the league, but Culver’s presence could help keep Towns and Russell honest and more effective on that end of the court for years to come.

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Culver now has six months to refine his game and come back in December a new and improved player in his second season. After an uneven first year, he has shown the Wolves just enough to remind everyone that he can become the third piece of the puzzle for a Wolves team desperate for a playoff run.