Jaylen Nowell

Timberwolves Notes: Outside Shooting, Nowell, Prince

Having traded away solid three-point shooters like Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley in the blockbuster Rudy Gobert deal, the Timberwolves have seen their outside shooting take a step back in the early part of this season, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

In 2021/22, Minnesota ranked first in the NBA in three-point attempts per game and 12th in three-point percentage. So far in ’22/23, those marks have slipped to 12th and 24th, respectively, even after a solid showing vs. Houston on Saturday, when the team made 15-of-33 (45.5%) tries from beyond the arc.

While the personnel changes are one reason why the Wolves aren’t attempting or making as many three-pointers, several players on the roster are shooting below their previous rates, so some positive regression could be coming. Still, head coach Chris Finch said last week that he doesn’t necessarily expect this year’s team to shoot as much from outside as last year’s, stressing that good ball movement and quick decisions are more important for unlocking the offense.

“Too much thinking, I think, as a group, including myself,” D’Angelo Russell said of the offensive issues. “It’s part of the process. Everybody’s in positions that they’ve never been before.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Having lost tone-setters like Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt, the Timberwolves need to commit to playing with the edge and intensity that championship-caliber teams do on a night-to-night basis, according to Karl-Anthony Towns. “I think just more for us to have a mindset that I think when I watch those teams play, they play as if everything is Game 7 of the Finals,” Towns said, per Krawczynski. “They treat everything with that kind of level of execution and discipline and seriousness. I just think that’s something we gotta reach, and it’s not going to come overnight.”
  • Jaylen Nowell, who is extension-eligible and can be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, has a new agency, though he hasn’t technically changed representatives. As Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News relays (via Twitter), Nowell’s agent Ryan Davis has moved to LIFT Sports Management, which was founded by former NBA forward Mike Miller.
  • After signing a two-year extension with the Timberwolves over the summer, Taurean Prince is off to a hot start (.542/.459/.857 shooting) on the court, and his presence off the court has been just as impactful. Prince’s teammates refer to him as “the leader in the film room,” according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.“He’s just calling everybody out,” Nowell said. “Whoever it is, whether it’s the No. 1 guy or the No. 15 guy. He’s calling everybody out, and that’s where you get the respect from everybody.” Naz Reid also had praise for Prince: “He’s a great teammate, great vet. Nobody like him.”
  • In case you missed it, center Rudy Gobert entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Saturday.

Timberwolves Notes: Beverley, Nowell, Reid, Edwards

Patrick Beverley‘s appearance in Minnesota Friday as a member of the Lakers was a reminder that the Timberwolves miss their vocal leader from last season, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Wolves coach Chris Finch called Beverley a “tone setter” who held teammates accountable and brought a winning attitude to a franchise with little history of playoff success.

Beverley, who was traded to Utah and then L.A. during the offseason, hasn’t been able to transfer those qualities to his new team, which already has a hierarchy in place. The Lakers remain winless and Beverley is averaging 5.4 PPG while shooting a miserable 26.1% from the field and 17.6% from three-point range.

“We had a blast this past year,” Beverley said of his time in Minnesota. “A lot of good memories. Coming in from a halfway empty house at the beginning of the season and full crowd every time we step on the floor. The fans have been great. It’s a second home for me, for sure.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • The Wolves’ trade for Rudy Gobert created an opportunity for Jaylen Nowell, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Nowell has taken over the backup shooting guard role formerly occupied by Malik Beasley and is averaging 14.5 PPG through the team’s first six games. “[There was] doubt, frustration, irritation,” Nowell said of his first three NBA seasons. “All type of things. But when you stick with it, and you just continue to work, good things will happen to those who work and continue to stay positive-minded.”
  • The Wolves aren’t close to signing Nowell to an extension, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirmed on his latest podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). A report this week indicated that the team had extension talks with Nowell and Naz Reid, but Wolfson believes Reid is more likely to receive an extension at this point. Both players will be extension-eligible through the end of June.
  • Anthony Edwards should concentrate more on driving to the basket in late-game situations than firing up three-pointers, contends Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune. Edwards is shooting 35.3% from long distance, but Reusse notes that his success rate with the game on the line hasn’t been good.

Northwest Notes: Nowell, Reid, MPJ, Billups, Jazz

After Shams Charania of The Athletic reported earlier this week that the Timberwolves have engaged in talks with center Naz Reid and guard Jaylen Nowell about possible contract extensions, Keith Smith of Spotrac decided to examine what extensions for the two 23-year-olds might look like.

As our Luke Adams wrote on Monday, veteran extensions for players on minimum-salary contracts like Reid and Nowell can begin at 120% of this season’s estimated average salary of $10,792,000, so 120% of that amount is $12,950,400. Therefore, a maximum four-year extension that includes 8% raises would be worth about $58MM.

It would behoove Nowell to wait until unrestricted free agency next summer rather than sign an extension, according to Smith, who believes Nowell could receive $15-20MM in annual average salary on a new contract if he has a breakout fourth season, as several teams are expected to have a significant amount of cap room in 2023 (it’s worth noting that Charania reported that Nowell was likely to opt for unrestricted free agency). Smith compares Nowell’s situation to Jalen Brunson‘s, who wound up signing a four-year, $104MM contract with the Knicks in free agency after a big season with Dallas in ’21/22.

As for Reid, Smith thinks a three-year, $22MM descending contract makes sense for the Wolves and Reid, comparing it to the three-year, $18.5MM extension Dean Wade received from the Cavaliers. Since Minnesota will be over the salary cap for the next handful of years, Smith says the Wolves should aggressively pursue extensions for both Nowell and Reid.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. explained what happened when he suffered a back spasm during Monday’s game vs. Portland, which caused him to miss Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). “I couldn’t really move the same as I wanted to in the second half, so that’s when we were just like, ‘Let’s just calm it down for a couple of days,’” Porter said on Friday. “But it was just a little tweak in a muscle. It wasn’t anything related to a prior injury.” Despite the minor setback, Porter says he still expects to play the “vast majority” of Denver’s games in ’22/23 after appearing in just nine contests last season after undergoing a third back surgery.
  • Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups says that Damian Lillard missing most of last season after undergoing core muscle surgery forced Portland to acknowledge that the team around the star guard wasn’t good enough. The Blazers revamped their roster over the past year, adding Josh Hart, Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Justise Winslow and No. 7 overall pick Shaedon Sharpe, among others. “He’s the guy,” Billups told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “He’s our guy. We’re always gonna play through him. But we want to be good enough that when he goes 5-for-18 (from the field), that we can win a game. They’ve never been able to do that, you know what I’m saying? So it gives him confidence to know that (he doesn’t) have to be the best player in the league every night.” Lillard is currently sidelined with a right calf strain and will be reevaluated in one-to-two weeks, though he said he didn’t think the injury was serious.
  • The Jazz have gotten off to a surprising 4-1 start, but the “general consensus around the league” is that opposing teams will take them more seriously going forward, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Head coach Will Hardy is telling his players to keep proving people wrong. “He’s tired of looking at media or even his friends telling him, ‘Wow, you guys are winning, this is crazy,’” Malik Beasley said of Hardy’s message. “It’s not crazy. We’re not even playing well and we’re still winning.”

Wolves Have Discussed Extensions With Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell

The Timberwolves have engaged in talks with big man Naz Reid and swingman Jaylen Nowell about possible contract extensions, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Reid has been a regular part of the Timberwolves’ frontcourt rotation since 2019, averaging 9.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.0 BPG on .490/.344/.720 shooting in 179 career contests (17.2 MPG) since making his debut in 2019. Nowell, who joined the team at the same time, has been a fixture on the wing, averaging 8.3 PPG in 122 career appearances (16.0 MPG), including 15.0 PPG through three games this season.

Reid and Nowell are both in the final season of four-year contracts they signed back in 2019. Because they’re on expiring deals, they’ll remain eligible to sign extensions all the way up until June 30, 2023, the day before they become unrestricted free agents.

Veteran extensions for players on minimum-salary contracts like Reid and Nowell can begin at 120% of this season’s estimated average salary. As we noted when the NBA set its salary cap for 2022/23, this season’s estimated average salary is $10,792,000, so 120% of that amount is $12,950,400. Therefore, a maximum four-year extension that includes 8% raises would be worth about $58MM.

It’s unlikely that either Reid or Nowell will get a four-year, $58MM offer from the Timberwolves, but it’s possible they’ll be able to reach a compromise somewhere below that maximum.

It sounds as if Reid is a more likely extension candidate than Nowell, who is expected to opt for unrestricted free agency next summer, sources tell Charania.

Western Notes: Nowell, KAT, Dinwiddie, Jazz

Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is hoping to take advantage of a more consistent role in 2022/23 after the Rudy Gobert trade created the potential for additional playing time off the bench, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

With the trade that happened, it definitely opened up a lot of opportunity for me,” Nowell said. “It’s my job to make sure I don’t take that for granted, I continue to get better as a player, and whenever I get on that court just be the best version of myself.”

Nowell, 23, averaged 8.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 2.1 APG on .475/.394/.783 shooting in 62 games (15.7 MPG) in ’21/22. He’s entering the final season of his non-guaranteed contract, which will pay him $1,930,681. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2023, but he says he’s not focused on that.

I definitely just try to keep that to the side,” Nowell said, per Hine. “Because I think if I’m focusing on that, I’m not doing my part as a teammate. So, you know, obviously it’s coming up. It’s just part of this business, but at the end of the day I’m focused on this year and how good we can be this year. I just want to be the best teammate and be the best player I can be so we can all succeed.”

Here are a few more notes from the Western Conference:

  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch is hopeful Karl-Anthony Towns will be able to start “low-level” basketball activities early next week after missing training camp practices with a non-COVID illness, Hine relays in the same story. The three-time All-Star will slide down to power forward this season with Gobert’s addition, though he’ll almost certainly play some center when Gobert rests. Minnesota will feature one of the biggest starting lineups in the NBA in ’22/23.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie says he’s no longer worried about his ACL injury, which he suffered in late December 2020, per Dwain Price of Mavs.com. “It’s a normal offseason, full training mode, not worried about swelling or taking a break, or two days on and one day off,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s let’s get to it.” After starting seven of his 23 games with the Mavericks last season, the 29-year-old will replace Jalen Brunson as a full-time starter in ’22/23, Price notes. “I don’t really see myself filling Jalen’s role per se,” Dinwiddie said. “There were a lot of games (last season) I finished games, there were games I played without Luka (Doncic) and without JB, and where I started games as well. But in terms of the mentality, green means go. Go make plays and try to win the game.”
  • Fourth-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and a trio of rookies — Ochai Agbaji, Walker Kessler and Simone Fontecchio — are impressing the Jazz during training camp, writes Sarah Todd of The Desert News. “Nickeil is a very, very skilled, diverse offensive player,” head coach Will Hardy said. “He has good size, is a very good passer, he can put the ball in the basket. When he’s open and he shoots, I think it’s going in. He’s just really shown a confidence throughout open gym and training camp that I think has been really, really great for our group. His presence when he has the ball, sort of settles everybody down and he has been awesome.”

Wolves Notes: Finch, K. Anderson, McDaniels, Nowell

After a competitive playoff performance and a major offseason trade that brought in Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves appear to be legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Minnesota won 46 games and reached the postseason for the first time in four years, but coach Chris Finch plans to emphasize to his team that the next step won’t come easily, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“I’m thinking a lot about the tone I want to set when we start,” Finch said. “We’re not going to be good because we expect to be good. We’re not going to be good because we had a good season last year. We’re going to be good because of the foundation that we lay from Day 1 and continue to build on that.”

Minnesota sent five players and a hefty package of draft assets to Utah to acquire Gobert, but the front office views him as a difference maker and doesn’t believe it overpaid, Krawczynski adds. Now it’s up to Finch and the rest of the coaching staff to figure out the best way to use Gobert alongside fellow big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

“I’m trying not to overthink that right now,” Finch said. “I don’t want to solve a problem before we have a problem. But we have to have some ideas ready to go.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • The addition of Kyle Anderson in free agency was an underrated offseason move, Krawczynski adds in a mailbag column. The 28-year-old forward doesn’t put up flashy stat lines, but he’s a versatile defender who can make up for the losses of Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt and he can handle the ball and help run the offense. He also brings playoff experience, appearing in nine series during his time with the Spurs and Grizzlies.
  • Jaden McDaniels has a chance to become a starter this season, and team officials are very happy with what they’ve seen from him during the summer, Krawczynski states in the same piece. McDaniels has been training at the team facility along with Naz Reid, Nathan Knight and several other players. He’s been focused on becoming stronger and quicker and has been working with player development coach Joe Boylan to improve as a transition scorer.
  • With Beverley and Malik Beasley shipped out in the Gobert trade, Jaylen Nowell will likely be the first guard off the Wolves’ bench, Krawczynski adds. The team talked to Nowell about an extension after the end of last season, according to Krawczynski, but didn’t offer enough for him to commit without knowing whether he would have a role in the rotation.

Wolves Pick Up Team Options On Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell

The Timberwolves are picking up the 2022/23 team options on Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Both players will earn $1,930,681 next season, and both deals are non-guaranteed. Reid’s contract will become guaranteed on July 20, while Nowell’s guarantee date is in January.

As Krawczynski notes (via Twitter), both reserves were productive last season, but were essentially depth pieces in the postseason, so neither player has a clear-cut standing on Minnesota’s roster going forward. However, head coach Chris Finch recently praised Nowell, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

We saw in short stints out there what he’s able to do,” Finch said of Nowell. “He’s an x-factor, he’s a game-changer. I think everybody needs that. He has the ability to create his own basket, he has the ability to attack switching. He’s actually an underrated play-maker.”

Finch added that the Wolves wants to find regular minutes for him going forward.

“… But now we’re trying to figure out how to get a role, a more consistent role, for him, and we want him to feel as a part of our young core as anybody else that’s here,” he said as part of a larger quote.

Both Reid, a center, and Nowell, a guard, will turn 23 this summer. In 77 games (15.6 MPG) last season, Reid averaged 8.3 PPG and 3.9 RPG on .484/.343/.765 shooting, with his minutes, points and rebounds all declining from ’20/21.

Nowell averaged 8.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 2.1 APG on .475/.394/.783 shooting in 62 games (15.7 MPG) in ’21/22. Both players are entering their fourth seasons and have spent their entire careers with Minnesota.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nuggets, Thunder, Nowell

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum saw his first on-court action in over six weeks on Monday, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Having recovered from a collapsed lung suffered on December 4, McCollum chipped in 16 points during 28 minutes of action in his first game back with Portland, helping the team secure a 98-88 victory over the Magic.

“I think this is probably the most happy and at peace I’ve ever been in my life,” the 30-year-old McCollum said, noting that his outlook has shifted following the birth of his first child earlier this month. “I’ve always had a purpose before, but now I really, truly have a real purpose in my life, which is to be a good man and try to raise my son to the best of my abilities.”

In 25 games this season, McCollum is averaging 20.4 PPG, 4.4 APG and 4.0 RPG. His return to the court for the Trail Blazers arrives at a crucial time, as his backcourt mate Damian Lillard underwent surgery to address an abdominal strain last week and is scheduled to miss at least five or six weeks of action.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone discussed the recent right foot surgery of forward Bol Bol and the team’s plans for the NBA trade deadline, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Malone revealed that Bol ultimately opted for the surgery after his trade to the Pistons was scuttled due to medical concerns. “Bol, his representation, once that trade was rescinded because of the failed physical, they felt that it was in his best interest to have the surgery and to address why that physical was failed,” Malone said. The Nuggets’ head coach also acknowledged that the team’s issues with injuries and COVID-19 have impacted the front office’s ability to discern exactly where to make upgrades via trade.
  • The Thunder front office hopes to be install a culture of winning habits despite the team’s less-than-stellar record, writes Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman“You can’t put players in bubble wrap and not expose them to the tough stuff,” said Oklahoma City team president Sam Presti.
  • Timberwolves third-year shooting guard Jaylen Nowell points to his time logged learning from game tape with his improvement on the floor, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “I’m putting more work in off the court as far as watching film damn near every single game, for real,” Nowell said. “I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh this is fun.’ I’m looking more at how guys are getting open, our defensive schemes. I’m watching every team way harder.” Nowell is averaging 7.9 PPG, 2.0 APG and 1.9 RPG with Minnesota this season.

Timberwolves Notes: Defense, Trade Season, Watts, Nowell

The Timberwolves have been encouraged by their play at the midway point of the season, but they know they still have a long way to go to achieve their goal of making the playoffs, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. The team generally gets along well, which is important because chemistry has been in short supply in Minnesota for many years, Krawczynski notes.

Another major change is the defense has improved dramatically to this point, ranking 11th in the league entering Thursday’s game against Memphis. The last time the Timberwolves had a defensive rating better than 21st was 2013/14, when they ranked 12th. A major contributor to the team’s aggressive defense has been forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

I think a couple of games we tried to change it up and go dropping, but we realized we’re just a better team when we’re aggressive and getting into the ball, being in the gaps, flying around and just making multiple efforts,” Vanderbilt said. “I think that was the biggest change for us.”

Minnesota is expected to be a buyer at the trade deadline, sources tell Krawczynski. The Wolves remain interested in Ben Simmons, but the Sixers haven’t shown any interest in Minnesota’s offers to this point. Myles Turner has been floated as a possibility, but Vanderbilt’s emergence has dampened that notion. Krawczynki believes the team should be targeting size off the bench and more three-point shooting.

Here’s more from Minnesota:

  • The Timberwolves have hired Marquise Watts to become their new chief experience officer, the team announced. Watts previously worked at Under Armour, Adidas, and Klutch Sports Group. Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic explore why Watt’s hiring is a significant move, noting that it’s the first major hire under new owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who are determined to change the perception of the franchise.
  • Aaron Gleeman and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore how good the Wolves can be this season and what trades they should target ahead of the deadline, among other topics. Hollinger believes Jerami Grant or Harrison Barnes could fit nicely in Minnesota if Simmons is unattainable.
  • Guard Jaylen Nowell recently suffered an ankle injury, but participated in shootaround Thursday. Coach Chris Finch said the injury doesn’t appear as serious as the Wolves originally thought, and while Nowell missed Thursday’s game against Memphis, Finch is hopeful he could return Sunday against Golden State, tweets Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

Western Notes: Adams, Zubac, LeBron, House, Nowell

Grizzlies starting center Steven Adams has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, the team’s PR tweets. Adams had been the only member of the team to play in every game this season, per Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link).

In other COVID-19 news, Clippers center Ivica Zubac has cleared the protocols and is listed as questionable (reconditioning) for Saturday’s game against Memphis, per the Clippers’ PR department (via Twitter).

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers have found success with LeBron James at center lineups, and Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews relays that it’s the next evolution of James’ lengthy career. Duncan writes that in 345 minutes with James as the lone big man, his per-36 averages are 32.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists (2.0 turnovers), 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks with a 61/41/83 shooting line. More importantly, L.A. has outscored opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions during those minutes.
  • Since the Jazz were only carrying 13 players on standard contracts, there was some uncertainty about whether Danuel House had received a traditional or hardship exception 10-day deal, but Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets that it used a hardship exception. House’s contract won’t count against the salary cap or luxury tax, but it’s still an opportunity for him to potentially earn a roster spot with Utah, as the team is only carrying 14 players on standard deals. He had 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes in his debut Friday, a 122-108 loss to Toronto.
  • With the Timberwolves shorthanded due to COVID-19 absences, Jaylen Nowell stepped up and earned his guaranteed contract, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Hine notes that Nowell was averaging 13.9 points over his last 10 games entering Friday, while shooting 50% from the field and 36% on three-pointers. Nowell concedes he may not be the most explosive player, but he’s still finding ways to be effective. “I watch a lot of older players and how they maneuver and got to the rim,” Nowell said. “I’m not the most explosive guy. I have a little bit of explosiveness, so I can use that to my advantage. … I’ve got to find certain ways to get to the spots I want.”