Injured Wolves' second-rounder nearing return to the hardwood

California v UCLA
California v UCLA / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

The Minnesota Timberwolves have officially reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Despite the loss of franchise centerpiece Karl-Anthony Towns to injury, the Wolves have persevered to go 7-3 in the past 10 contests sans Towns.

While the Minnesota big man is out for the foreseeable future, another Timberwolf's return feels imminent. In last offseason's draft, Minnesota used their second of two selections to swipe UCLA's Jaylen Clark with the 53rd overall pick.

The Wolves selected Clark knowing it'd take at least a year before he would hit the hardwood. While playing for the Bruins, the junior forward suffered a ruptured achilles in UCLA's final game of the 2023 regular season.

The injury was a crushing blow to the Bruins, and especially Clark. The 22-year-old had just been named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Finalist and later won the award, three weeks after the injury diagnosis.

In his junior season, Clark averaged 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 2.6 steals per game. Clark's numbers improved significantly throughout his collegiate career. As a freshman, he averaged a mere 2.5 points in 9.0 minutes per contest.

The former UCLA star looked like a completely different player by his junior season. After several subpar seasons on the offensive end, Clark blossomed into a serviceable offensive player with a second-to-none defensive ability.

It's all but likely Clark would've been a first-rounder if not for the devastating injury. His athleticism combined with playmaking and technique on the defensive end make him ready to contribute right away. And it appears as if he'll get back to action soon.

Clark posted a video of himself competing in a scrimmage on his Instagram. The video shows Clark coming off a screen and driving downhill to score at the rim in the Timberwolves' training facility. This comes after no updates for months.

The last time injury news was released about Clark the new year had just begun. On January 1, it was reported that Clark remained "out indefinitely." At that time, Clark had yet to compete in any sort of basketball activities.

Now, the reigning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year is back doing what he does best. It's unlikely Clark will contribute this season as the Wolves' rotation is set and only 10 games remain. However, a healthy Clark bodes well for next season.

Watching the former second-rounder compete in the Summer League will surely be a compelling storyline. Adding another star defender to the best defense in the NBA is a boon for the contending Wolves.

Stay tuned as we'll have you covered on Clark's road to recovery and all things Timberwolves.