The Minnesota Timberwolves held on to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in their Las Vegas Summer League opener.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a pair of members of their rotation from last year as the focal point of their Summer League entry. Both Jaden McDaniels and Jaylen Nowell played well, but the biggest takeaway from the opener is just how good the Wolves’ two young point guards played on the defensive end of the floor.
McKinley Wright IV stood out to Wolves brass a the draft combine in Chicago earlier in the Summer because of his defense. It was his calling years over four years a the University of Colorado, and he came to play against his former high school rival and fellow Minnesota native Tre Jones on Monday night.
Exhibit 10 contract signee Isaiah Miller brought an edge on defense as well, with active hands and feet and a desire to fight through traffic and stick to his man.
It’s the exact defensive effort that the Wolves have too often been missing, and both Wright and Miller brought it against the Spurs.
As for the game itself, the Wolves built a double-digit lead prior to halftime but the Spurs came all the way back, taking a few one-possession leads in the fourth quarter. But two-way player Nathan Knight grabbed a critical offensive rebound and scored the go-ahead bucket on the Wolves’ final possession.
After a San Antonio timeout, Knight disrupted the Spurs’ action by deflecting a pass, and Wright forced Jones into an impossible, contested 3-pointer that clanged off the rim at the buzzer as the Wolves held on to win.
Minnesota Timberwolves Player Grades
Jaylen Nowell played a team-high 31 minutes and led the team in scoring with 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-8 from outside the arc. He pitched in six rebounds and four assists while committing four turnovers. Nowell ran a fair amount of offense, looking uncomfortable for a stretch in the first half. But when he came back on the court for his second stint, he immediately scored at the rim in pick-and-roll action and then had a perfect assist on the next time down the court. Nowell was also active defensively. Overall, this was a solid Summer League debut for the third-year guard.
Jaden McDaniels was to be the “focal point” of the Summer Wolves, according to Chris Finch. He was certainly aggressive, shooting 7-of-13 from the field in 28 minutes. McDaniels totaled 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists while committing four turnovers. There was an equal number of difficult, uncomfortable-looking shot attempts and passes as there were “wow” plays, but the best-of-the-best were phenomenal. McDaniels used his length to get the rim and score a few times, and here was one between-the-legs crossover and fadeaway jumper from the baseline that drew a gasp from the Vegas crowd. He was his typical fantastic self defensively, as well.
MCKINLEY WRIGHT IV
Point Guard,Minnesota Timberwolves
Wolves two-way player McKinley Wright IV was exactly as advertised: fantastic defensively and solid on offense. Wright nabbed a whopping five steals in 24 minutes and easily could have had a couple more. He made Jones’ life miserable, essentially playing from inside his jersey the entire time they were on the court together. Most of his offensive reads were solid, too, and Wright finished with eight points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting.
Two-way player Nathan Knight was also exactly as advertised: bouncy, athletic, high-motor, and a solid pick-and-roll big man. He was arguably the star of the game, dropping 19 points (7-12 FG, 1-4 3P, 4-5 F) and grabbing nine rebounds in 26 minutes. Knight added a pair of assists, a steal, and a block — but also committed seven fouls. (Players can commit up to 10 personal fouls in Summer League.) He was extremely active and made the right reads on both ends of the floor. An impressive unofficial Wolves debut for the former Atlanta Hawk.
Point Guard,Minnesota Timberwolves
Isaiah Miller is on an Exhibit 10 contract with he Wolves, which basically means hat he’ll be in training camp and will almost certainly be a major part of the Iowa Wolves team in the G League this year. But if he plays defense like he did agains the Spurs on Monday in Las Vegas, someone will give him a chance in The League. Miller was fantastic defensively and even showed some offensive ability with a quick first step and touch in the paint. He finished with eight points, five rebounds, two steals, and an assist in 13 minutes.