The Wolves selected Jaylen Nowell with the No. 43 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft out of the University of Washington. Nowell was named the 2018-19 Pac-12 Player of the Year for his efforts as a member of the Huskies.
Nowell then missed all of the Las Vegas Summer League with a quad injury keeping him out of action. He then agreed to a four-year contract with the Wolves after a lengthy negotiation period with the team. Nowell’s deal is very similar to that of Naz Reid. The first year is fully-guaranteed at $1.4 million, with the next three years all non-guaranteed, meaning the Wolves essentially have three team options on their second-round draft pick.
It’s often difficult to figure out what transfers over well from college to the NBA in terms of shooting and other skills, but if Nowell has one NBA-ready skill, it’s likely scoring. In his collegiate career at Washington he averaged 16.1 points in 70 career games on 47.6% shooting. His biggest area of improvement from his freshman season to his sophomore campaign was his 3-point shooting. He improved from a 35% shooter from deep as a freshman to a 44% shooter behind the arc as a sophomore.
There might be some minutes for Nowell as the team’s third point guard, but they could potentially go to Andrew Wiggins at first. Just like Naz Reid, it’s likely that Nowell spends a portion of the early season in Iowa with Minnesota’s G League affiliate. Practice time will certainly be beneficial to Nowell, but the ability to grab minutes at the G League level will be even more so.
If Nowell spends time in Iowa acclimating himself to professional basketball and doing well, it’s certainly possible that he finds real minutes with the Wolves as their third point guard. Last year, the team employed Jeff Teague, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, and Jerryd Bayless at that spot. Now, only Teague remains from that group, and Shabazz Napier is a new addition. Finding out where the minutes for a third point guard go will be one of the more interesting things this season.
The way President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas has talked about using the G League to develop talent, it should surprise no one if Nowell spends time there. It should also come as no surprise if by the end of the year he finds himself in the rotation.
In most scenarios, Nowell is spending some sort of time at the G League level, but if it doesn’t go well in Iowa, the Wolves may be forced with deciding whether they think he’s an NBA player in the future. They’ll have to decide whether or not they want to keep him around once this season ends.
If they don’t, they essentially are writing off a player that the selected 43rd overall relatively early on. Most second-round picks need time to develop and aren’t quite NBA-ready from the day they arrive. Giving up on Nowell would mean that the Wolves just missed an opportunity in the draft, and risk seeing another franchise grab him and develop him.
Nowell spends a good chunk of the season in the G League honing his craft and becoming more NBA-ready than he is entering training camp. He’s the type of player that certainly can have an NBA future, but it might take some time for it to be figured out exactly what that is. Nowell’s future is up in the air due to his contract being non-guaranteed the next three years, but he shows enough at both the G League and NBA levels to make the Wolves keeping him on an easy one.