Timberwolves rookie wing Jarrett Culver had an uneven first season in Minnesota, but flashed exciting athletic promise, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Trading up from the No. 11 pick to the No. 6 pick in the 2019 NBA draft to select Culver was the first big move Wolves president of basketball operations Gerson Rossas made in his new role.
Culver averaged 9.2 PPG and 3.4 RPG while connecting on 40.4% of his field goals and just 46.2% of his free throw attempts. He began to produce more robustly as the calendar turned to 2020. The Wolves sport a 19-45 record for the suspended 2019/20 season, which places them far from playoff contention at the No. 14 seed in the West.
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nuggets forward Jerami Grant seemed destined to opt out of the final season of his three-year, $27MM contract, per The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider. With the NBA’s 2020/21 salary cap now in question, Grant will probably stay in Denver, whether or not he picks up that option. Grant averaged an encouraging 11.6 PPG on 47.1% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from deep to go along with 3.5 RPG in just 26.2 MPG for the 43-22 Nuggets. Grant’s performance left much to be desired from an advanced statistics perspective, per Kosmider, who appraises Grant’s long-term fit with the squad.
- On the cusp of turning 35, Thunder point guard Chris Paul turned back the clock with his play in 2019/20, according to Erik Horne of The Athletic. He made his first All-Star appearance since 2016 in his first season in OKC. Paul is averaging 17.7 PPG, 6.8 APG and 4.9 RPG and has played in 63 of the Thunder’s 64 games. The team is currently 40-24, good for the No. 5 seed in the West.
- A year removed from a Western Conference Finals berth, a reconfigured Trail Blazers roster struggled to stay afloat at the bottom of the West’s playoff picture in 2019/20. Though Portland’s front office is confident in key players Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood, The Athletic’s Jason Quick and John Hollinger examine where the team can improve moving forward. Portland’s 29-37 record positioned the team 3.5 games behind the West’s No. 8 seed, the 32-33 Grizzlies, when league play paused in March.