It’s time for Jaylen Nowell to shine for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Jaylen Nowell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Jaylen Nowell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been predictably bad on defense this season. But that isn’t a shock; it was widely expected to be the case. The offense, on the other hand, has been equally as bad. And that’s a problem.

Without Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor for 13 of the Wolves’ 17 games, Minnesota has been one of the league’s worst offensive teams. Along with a struggling defense, it’s a destructive combination. Unsurprisingly, the Wolves’ record sits at just 4-13 with the No. 29 offensive rating and the No. 27 defensive mark.

Outside shooting has been a major issue, but there is a potential answer on the roster.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a 3-point shooting problem

With Towns and D’Angelo Russell available, it’s easy to see how this version of the Wolves could be a top-10 offense. Instead, Towns has played in just four games, Russell has missed the past three, and that means that the Wolves have been even worse on the offensive end of the floor than they have been on defense.

One of their biggest problems continues to be a lack of outside shooting, as evidenced by the duel clank-fests that the Wolves put together at Golden State this week. For the season, the Wolves are No. 26 in 3-point shooting percentage and No. 19 in attempts per game.

Yes, those numbers will bounce back a bit when Towns returns, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Wolves have a serious lack of floor-spreading ability on the wing.

However, the good news is that Minnesota has at least part of the potential answer on their roster. The bad news is that he hasn’t been able to crack head coach Ryan Saunders’ rotation.

It’s time for Jaylen Nowell to crack the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rotation

Jaylen Nowell shot 44.2 percent on 3-point attempts in his final season at the University of Washington and 39.6 percent in his collegiate career. In 26 games with the G League’s Iowa Wolves last season, Nowell made 44.1 percent of long-range tries in 6.9 attempts per contest.

Seems like a pretty good track record, no?

Sure, Nowell was just 3-of-26 from deep with the Timberwolves last year, but that’s a 15-game sample size largely derived from garbage-time minutes on a bad team. The 406 combined attempts over the previous three years split between college and the G League certainly outweigh last year’s blip on the radar for Nowell.

Nowell’s preseason performance this year was tantalizing, scoring 13 points on six shots in one game and 22 points on 11 shots in only 13 minutes in another. Overall, he shot 5-for-10 on 3-point attempts across three preseason games.

It’s safe to say that Jaylen Nowell is an above-average perimeter shooter. He’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, which is adequate for the two-guard spot and passable on the wing in general. Nowell’s rebound rate wasn’t great in the G League but projected as a solid rebounder coming out of Washington, and there’s reason to believe that he can rebound his position at a reasonable level.

He’s a bit of an unknown defensively, as Washington primarily played zone while Nowell was there. While his size isn’t ideal to guard multiple positions, Nowell should be a good enough athlete and have enough length to hold his own at the 2.

The natural next question is, whose spot does Nowell take in the rotation?

That’s easy: it doesn’t really matter. Beasley is the Wolves’ only above-average shooter on the wing, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, and Ricky Rubio are all below-average shooters who have seen minutes at either the 2 or the 3. Jake Layman is an average long-range shooter, and while the jury is still out on both Jordan McLaughlin and Anthony Edwards in terms of their 3-point shooting capabilities, it’s unlikely that either turns into a sharpshooter.

The Wolves’ best shooters are Beasley, Towns, and Russell. Put simply, there are zero bench contributors in the rotation that bring plus shooting to the table.

So, let’s find some minutes for Nowell.

We know that Okogie and Culver are good defenders and bad shooters. In other words, they have largely duplicating skill sets at this point in their careers. For his part, Layman has been bad in both areas so far this year. When Russell returns, Rubio and/or McLaughlin will receive less playing time, and we’ll see if the Wolves try to give regular minutes to all three of the point guards on the roster.

Culver is sidelined for the moment with a sprained ankle, and it’s unclear how long he’ll remain out. That makes things easier; the preference here would be to remove Layman from the rotation and allow Nowell to play 15 to 20 minutes per night in Culver’s absence.

If he plays well, then the Wolves need to take a hard look at leaving Culver out of the rotation moving forward or giving him a shot to eat into Okogie’s playing time.

Turns out, shooting is an important skill, and an offense with only one above-average shooter won’t win any games. Even with a healthy Towns and a healthy Russell, this team is still short on players who can change a game from the outside, and that’s a problem.

Next. How the Wolves could trade for Ben Simmons. dark

It’s time to give Jaylen Nowell a shot.