Timberwolves free agent focus: Jaylen Nowell

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a number of decisions to be made regarding the future of seven Timberwolves free agents. Unfortunately for the fans, some of the factors that will be considered will not be performance related. This brings us to the next Minnesota Timberwolves free agent to consider this off-season: Shooting guard Jaylen Nowell.

The greatest challenge to trying to decide what Nowell’s future is with the Minnesota Timberwolves, whichever path you choose will need to accept that there are just as many compelling reasons to choose the other path. The Timberwolves have been the only NBA team that Jaylen Nowell has ever played for, and yet at this critical fork in the road, has he delivered enough to extend the relationship?

Why Timberwolves may not re-sign

There are roles that are set for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately, Jaylen Nowell is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. While that worked for a young and versatile Timberwolves roster, we have seen in the 2022-23 NBA season that it was not nearly as effective. How do I know? Let’s compare stats for the past two seasons:

21-22: 15.7 MPG |  8.5 PPG | .475 FG% | .394 3P% | 2.0 RPG | 2.1 APG | 0.4 SPG | 0.2 BPG
22-23: 19.3 MPG | 10.8 PPG | .448 FG% | .289 3P% | 2.6 RPG | 2.0 APG | 0.6 SPG | 0.1 BPG

As you can see, an increase in minutes of 23 percent did translate into an increase in points and rebounds, but his shooting accuracy divebombed as well.

And then there is the matter of all of the young wings who need playing time. With the likes of Wendell Moore Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, both of whom need playing time and have a far better defensive presence on the basketball court, is there even a role for Jaylen Nowell any longer? It may simply be time for a changing of the guard, literally.

Why Timberwolves should re-sign

There is something to be said about a player who has developed exclusively for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ style of play. After all, if the Timberwolves roster will be a series of moves that changes players frequently, then there is a great advantage to having someone who has been with the team through thick and thin. Over time, Nowell could become that venerable sage veteran who helps to onboard future players.

But what about that regression? Yes, that does pose a problem. If Nowell were gifted on defense, it could work. But he is not a defensive-type player. That relegates him to score from long range, a quality that seems to be dissipating quickly. If he comes back, perhaps on a one-year prove-it deal, and shows the ability to score at or near his career best, then he certainly has a solid future with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But that is a huge IF.

Recommendation: Do not re-sign

As much as it pains me to say it, I do not expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to re-up another round of Jaylen Nowell. He may be worth another year or two, but the Timberwolves will have younger options with greater odds and/or a higher ceiling.

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I think Jaylen Nowell could be a fine addition, particularly to a young roster like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, or San Antonio Spurs. Those teams have time to be patient. The Minnesota Timberwolves invested four seasons in Jaylen Nowell. Now that the team is ready to take it to the next level, Nowell has simply not demonstrated that he can do so as well.