The Minnesota Timberwolves have a secret weapon, and his name is Naz Reid

Dec 29, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) scores a basket against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) scores a basket against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a dismal opening to an already shortened season, starting the year just 4-11. This marks the team’s worst start since the 2014-15 season when the Timberwolves went 4-16 over the first quarter of the season. It also matches the tenth worst start the team has seen since their first season in 1989-90. Just two teams in the league currently have a lower win percentage than Minnesota: the Washington Wizards and the Detroit Pistons.

There are a lot of reasons for the poor start. The biggest one being Karl-Anthony Town’s absence. Between injury and illness, Towns has only played four games, and missing the centerpiece which this team is built around has really hurt Minnesota.

In a time where the team has experienced a lot of turmoil, one thing the Wolves can always rely on, for better or worse, is moral victories. Seeing the young core develop and watching as the team builds chemistry, while it may not immediately equate to wins, will strengthen the team in the long run.

The Minnesota Timberwolves found a diamond in the rough in Naz Reid

One player who has really stepped up for the Minnesota Timberwolves has been Naz Reid. He was signed after the 2019 NBA Summer League, came to the Wolves as an undrafted free agent from a rookie class that contained superstars like Ja Morant and Zion Williamson.

When Reid signed with Minnesota, the one phrase many GMs and analysts used to describe him was, “diamond in the rough” (Athletic paywall). Despite the potential that Reid displayed in bunches, NBA executives were concerned about his apparent lack of work ethic.

Well, since then, Reid has worked tirelessly to prove them all wrong.

This season, Minnesota is relying on Reid more than ever. His minutes per game average has seen a dramatic spike, going from 16.5 to 21.7, and he’s being used as a replacement for Towns in the lineup.

Related Story. MVP Race Rankings: LeBron rising in the ranks. light

With that increase in minutes, Reid has seen an increase in production as well. This season, Reid is averaging 12.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range. All of these numbers are improvements over the same categories from last year. In fact, the only two categories that Reid has not seen improvements in are personal fouls (he averaged 2.8 last year and is averaging 3.1 this year) and turnovers, which is to be expected with a longer playing time.

These bumps in his stats are incredibly important, and they’re going to be crucial once Towns returns. When fully healthy, Minnesota’s bench five are Ricky Rubio, Jarrett Culver, Anthony Edwards, and it will likely be Jared Vanderbilt with Reid at the post. Among that bunch, Edwards is the most natural scorer, with Culver being a reliable second option. However, both of those players could struggle against bigger opponents. This is where Reid comes in. He would be able to provide a little lift off the bench and keep Minnesota’s post scoring intact until Towns returns.

In their first game against the Golden State Warriors, Reid recorded 11 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and one assist in 24 minutes.

Then, last night in their second matchup with Golden State, Reid had a spectacular showing. He recorded 19 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, three steals, and one assist. This state, while possibly being the best indicator of what Reid can become, also made Reid only the fourth player in team history to record at least 15 points/7 rebound/5 blocks. And, just as a little icing on the cake, he shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.

Now, this isn’t to say that Reid is already a finished product. Despite a fairly high 3-point shooting percentage, Reid definitely struggles to hit from that range on occasion, as displayed Monday night when he went 1-6 from 3-point range against the Warriors.

Reid also struggles with his hustle at times. He occasionally looks almost lethargic, and this could be a cropping up of that work ethic issue that scouts were concerned about.

Still, despite the struggles and concerns that Reid has displayed, it’s hard to refute this idea that he could be an incredibly important part of the Wolves later on in his career.

Reid’s defensive ability is already proving to be valuable for the team, and if he can continue that he could be a nice fir next to Towns in the starting five. If Minnesota opts to keep a small ball lineup going forward, Reid could be a nice second/third option off the bench when paired with Edwards and Culver.

No matter what role Minnesota will find for him, if Reid can continue to improve at the rate that he’s shown early in the season, he could be the true diamond in the rough that the Minnesota Timberwolves were looking for.

Next. NBA Power Rankings Week 5: How good are the Jazz?. dark