MINNEAPOLIS – The biggest move the Minnesota Timberwolves made on draft night was the selection of Jarrett Culver at No. 6 overall. He’s supposed to make an immediate impact on the team and potentially change the trajectory of the franchise. Later that night they came to terms with Naz Reid, an undrafted big man out of LSU.
While the move to sign Reid didn’t garner nearly as much chatter – and it shouldn’t have – as the trade for Culver, it’s one that could have a big impact on the team’s future.
Coming out of high school, Reid was a prized recruit for college coaches. He was a consensus 5-star prospect coming out of New Jersey before spending a single season at LSU. Prior to his arrival at LSU, Reid was thought of as a sure-fire lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Once he left LSU, he didn’t hear his name called on draft night.
Reid originally agreed to a two-way contract with the Wolves, meaning he would be able to spend 45 days with the NBA team while spending the rest of his time in Iowa with the G League Wolves. After an impressive showing in the Las Vegas Summer League, the team inked him to a full-time NBA contract. Even with that, his role on the Wolves is still unclear and will need to be earned. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if he does spend some time in Iowa working on his game, but he has been impressive throughout camp thus far.
“He’s a young talent. I watch him in practice every day, go up against him and I just always ask myself how’d this kid not go in the lottery?” fellow big man Noah Vonleh said. “He should’ve been a lottery pick. But for whatever reason, it didn’t happen, and that’s just in the past. He’s just got to keep working and he could be a good player in this league. He’s just got to continue to work.”
There might not be a spot in the rotation for Reid right away, but it would make sense for him to fit into the team’s long-term plans. Whether that’s as a starter or bench piece, he has a skillset that’s unique across the league, even if it isn’t all that unique to the Wolves.
“The unique thing about Naz is that he’s got a similar skillset — and I hope you guys take this the right way — to KAT,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “In the sense of him being able to shoot the ball and step out on the perimeter, as well as play inside, a little bit.”
Make no mistake, Saunders wasn’t comparing an undrafted rookie to an All-NBA player. He’s comparing their skillsets, not their abilities. But it is an encouraging thing for the Wolves that Reid possesses some of the same skills as Karl-Anthony Towns. Not only because Towns is a rare breed in the NBA, but because it’s something that could make Reid’s transition to the NBA easier.
“That helps speed his learning curve up a little bit too,” Saunders added. “We don’t have to adjust every option of a play just because Naz is just a roller or Naz is just a popper. He can kind of watch KAT as well, so that helps him a little bit too.”
Even with that in his favor, Reid still has a long way to go. The adjustment from playing high school basketball to the NBA in a 24-month span is a tough one for anyone. But the situation that he’s been placed in could be perfect for what he needs to succeed.
“I’m with Karl all the time. We’re in the gym all the time. I’m trying to get as much of a learning experience as I can,” Reid said. “The NBA is already really fast. Put that into your system, it’s crazy. But you just gotta be able to do it and just stay calm and poised and everything you will be all right.”
One of the more interesting subplots to the preseason and the beginning of the season for the Wolves will be what the role of Towns looks like in the new-look offense for the Wolves. Watching how Reid handles that role on a bench unit during the preseason could be a telling sign as to how his adjustment is going into the NBA.
“It is a lot. But at the same time, I’m comfortable with it. The vets are keeping all the rookies calm. Just try to be ourselves and try not to get too far out of our comfort zone,” Reid said. “With being able to shoot the three-ball, handle the ball, pass the ball, it just helps a whole lot. Inside, doing damage in there, helps a lot too.”
Reid might not be ready for the NBA stage right away, but if he can be at some point it will only put the Wolves in a better place moving forward.
“The way he approaches the game with toughness, he just wants to battle all the time,” Reid said of Towns. “It’s something that coming from New Jersey, I have the same thing.”