What Nowell and McDaniels have done with increased offensive roles for the Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been asked to step up for his short-handed squad. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been asked to step up for his short-handed squad. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaylen Nowell
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is a strong scorer. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Jaylen Nowell is a much-needed versatile threat for the Timberwolves

For a team made up of top athletes at the height of their profession, the Timberwolves sure are devoid of players who can shoot, dribble and pass at a high level. That Nowell has shown even the potential to perform all these skills at an above-average level puts him in a group that only Towns, Edwards and Russell definitively fit into on this team.

Nowell didn’t play double-digit minutes in any of the team’s first 25 games, but has averaged nine points and 1.7 assists in 16.2 minutes per game since coming on to provide an offensive spark against the Cavaliers on Dec. 10 per NBA.com. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but his 55.7 effective field goal percentage and 50 percent mark from three show that he’s doing damage in the short time he has.

He’s not just shooting threes on wide open spot-up looks, either. He’s perfectly capable of relocating off-ball to lose his defender or pulling off one dribble.

The former Pac-12 Player of the Year has a strong handle that he uses to get by defenders despite lacking explosive athleticism. He’s good at getting that shoulder low and past his man, but he can finish over the contests of fellow guards, as well.

The Wolves sorely miss players who present the threat of pulling up for a shot at any time in their move. Russell and Edwards are the only regulars who average more than 2.5 points per game on pull-up shots, and they’re among the least efficient high-volume pull-up shooters.

Nowell’s ugly 33.3 effective field goal percentage shows he isn’t efficient in the shot either, but he’s at least capable of getting shots off the dribble, so that holds defenders somewhat accountable. Plus, this is another area that has received a slight boost in efficiency in the last seven games — he’s up to 38.1 in that stretch.

Nowell plays like more of a scoring guard, but he’s really a talented passer. He takes great care of the ball — his 4.0 assist to turnover ratio in the last seven games would rank just below Chris Paul, Patrick Beverley and T.J. McConnell for the season.

He’s ambidextrous and creative, plus he uses his ball handling ability to open up passing lanes.

Nowell’s passing prowess makes him an option as a pick-and-roll ball handler if head coach Chris Finch decides he wants to use that play type more. So far Nowell has only really been able to show his skill in this department alongside Nathan Knight in garbage time, but the two have a clear chemistry.

Although he is streaky, Nowell’s multifaceted skill set make him playable even when Edwards, Russell and Towns return. He can join them as a spot-up and movement shooter and then show off his more ball-dominant capabilities when two of them hit the bench.

If Nowell continues to provide what few other Wolves can — offensive creativity — he should get a prominent role as Minnesota’s offensive burst off the bench.