The evolution of Minnesota Timberwolves’ big man Naz Reid

Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Naz Reid
Robin Lopez of the Washington Wizards defends against Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

On Naz Reid’s improvements this season for the Timberwolves

A huge part of Reid’s improvement is that he’s simply received more consistent opportunities due to the numerous injuries and missed games from other players on the roster.

Reid has played the fifth-most minutes on the team to this point and has definitely received more opportunity than he would have if others, and Towns in particular, hadn’t missed so much time.

But Reid has shown significant improvement in areas that needed it coming out of his rookie year.

Let’s start at the offensive end, where Reid has received the most attention.

In Reid’s rookie year he shot 35.3 percent on 3-point attempts at the NBA level. This year, he is up to 38.8 percent, which is closer to what he shot in Summer League and the G League over his rookie season.

His 3-point percentage is right around league average for his position and teams have started to respect his shot. Last year, 31.3 percent of Reid’s long-range attempts were wide-open (6+ feet away) but it’s gone down to 26 percent this season, according to

His free throw shooting has also jumped from a mediocre 67.4 percent to an above-average 76.5 percent, once again closer to his percentages in college and Summer League.

The more significant improvement, however, has come inside the 3-point line.

Last year, Reid shot an abysmal 22.2 percent on shots on 45 attempts inside the paint but outside of the restricted area. This year, Reid has jumped up to 52.1 percent on those shots across his 48 attempts.

Not only is Reid being put in better positions around the basket, but he also looks infinitely more confident and sure of himself this season when attacking defenders.

Here’s a clip from Naz in his rookie season.

Reid rushes way too quickly to get the shot off, doesn’t really get set, and misses short. This is something that happened a lot early on for Reid where he would rush his process and go too quickly.

Now, Reid has become more confident in his game, more comfortable with his role and we’re seeing the results.

Instead of rushing his shot and thinking he needed to make an impact, Reid takes the pass and attacks Al Horford. Reid has over 20 pounds on the veteran Horford, uses it to his advantage to get closer to the basket, and is ultimately patient in his approach.

He’s also being put in better positions around the rim; of his 14 made hook shots this season, four of them have come when he was switched onto a smaller defender. Reid didn’t always attack the smaller man last year and a lot of that has to do with his comfortability in his role.

Speaking of that hook shot, while the Wolves don’t always want to have Reid post up, it’s become more of a go-to option now that he’s upped his percentages from 38.5 on those shots to 53.8 percent.

As a little bonus clip, I loved this and it’s probably my favorite play of his.

What is there not to love? The pump fake on Kristaps Porzingis — which he has to respect because of Reid’s improved 3-point numbers — using his ability to put the ball on the floor, and finishing with a soft touch floater all while avoiding getting called for an offensive foul? This is the evolution of Naz Reid in a nutshell.

Another aspect of his game that has seen a big improvement and is a big reason why Reid has been able to play as much as he has is his defense.

In his rookie year, Reid had the tools to be a good defender but was sometimes too slow to get to his spots or couldn’t move his feet enough to stay with his man. In order to encapsulate his improvement from Year One to Year Two in the league, let’s compare his matchup numbers against Nikola Vucevic from last year to this year.

In two meetings last season, Vucevic shot 11-for-18 (61.1 percent) for 26 points and Reid had three fouls. The Magic got pretty much whatever they wanted against Reid when he was in.

This year, Reid got the better of Vucevic in their individual matchup, holding Vucevic to a 1-for-11 shooting inside the 3-point line and didn’t commit a single foul against the Magic center.

He looked a lot quicker and did a much better job sliding his feet and using his body.

This might be my second -favorite play from Reid this year (obviously his floater against the Mavs has to be my favorite). Last year, he would have got stuck on the screen and Vucevic would have had an easy jumper. But not only does he not get stuck on the screen, but he also stays with Vucevic the entire way and gets the block to finish it off.

His overall defensive catch-all numbers might not shot a significant improvement, watching how much quicker Reid moves on the floor is noticeable.