2023 NBA Draft: 53rd overall pick – UCLA SG Jaylen Clark
The Minnesota Timberwolves have to love the defense provided by rookie shooting guard Jaylen Clark. So much so that the Timberwolves are more than happy to wait for his injury to heal up. You see, UCLA shooting guard Jaylen Clark suffered an injury to his Achilles Tendon, and even the most optimistic timeframes suggest that he will not be medically cleared to play basketball until 2024.
The Minnesota Timberwolves want to boast one of the best NBA defenses, and with Jaylen Clark joining a team that already boasts elite defenders like Rudy Gobert, Jaden McDaniels, and Anthony Edwards, the team is well on its way. Before he fell to injury, Clark was arguably the best defender available in the 2023 NBA Draft. Emphasizing that fact is the projection that Jaylen Clark was a lottery-pick rookie before he fell to injury.
The Timberwolves are willing to gamble that the 21-year-old 6-foot-5 205-pound shooting guard can reclaim his elite defensive form if given the time and coaching to recover at his own speed. So far, it appears that the Timberwolves intend to do exactly that.
A slow and methodical timeline to Clark’s recovery can also allow the Timberwolves coaching staff to assess and attempt cross-training Clark into a point guard role as well. With Anthony Edwards anchoring a starting shooting guard role for the foreseeable future, Clark’s path to playing time with the Timberwolves may have better chances if he can offer to play some minutes at the PG role.
There is always a risk of any NBA player coming off a serious injury. That risk increases with a rookie who, in addition to rehabbing, must also elevate his game to the level of the NBA in the process. While the Timberwolves have managed the risk by selecting Clark with the 53rd overall pick of the draft, he may or may not pan out for the team.
Still, that can be said about any rookie. And the reward of Clark overwhelmingly overshadows the risks.
I think that the Minnesota Timberwolves have the right idea by signing Jaylen Clark to a Two-Way contract. That not only allows the team an opportunity to manage his time, but affords them an easier assignment to the Iowa Wolves to improve his minutes and ramp him up to an NBA level.
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