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Player Preview: Jordan Bell

Examining how the Wolves new big man fits with the roster.

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

As the season inches closer, the Canis Hoopus Player Profiles are ramping up. Today we run the microscope over another newcomer: Jordan Bell.

It’s a rare occasion that a rookie enters the NBA and immediately assumes a rotational position on a championship team. It’s even more uncommon for that rookie to be a second-rounder, but that’s the benefit of beginning your career in the prime years of the Golden State Warriors dynasty.

Now, after plateauing in year two, the 24-year-old arrives in Minnesota with a minimum contract and a point to prove. He spent last season in an inconsistent and underwhelming role which, unsurprisingly, yielded some pretty disappointing results.

In just 11.6 minutes per game, Bell experienced drop-offs in almost every category. For the season, he averaged 3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game, shooting 51.6 percent from the field and failing to make his first career 3-pointer for the second year running.

Offensively, Bell makes his living at the rim. He is blessed with elite speed and girth for a player who stands at 6-foot-9, allowing him to play the power forward or center position and hold his own. That athletic prowess is the key to his game, he makes fast and direct rim-runs in transition, bounces out of pick-and-rolls, and catches lobs with the best of them.

He isn’t going to post-up or shoot from anywhere outside of his comfort zone regularly. He knows his limitations and plays within himself. Over his first two seasons, Bell has converted a competent 69.5 percent of his shots from within three feet. Minnesota finished 17th in field goal percentage (62.9%) from within the restricted area, so there was plenty of room for improvement around the rim — Bell should help in that regard.

Of course, there has been the odd summer clip of him nailing triples and running the point, but those videos are often a trap and never a way to judge a player. He did shoot just 48.4 percent of his field goals attempts from inside three feet, compared to 70.3 percent in his rookie season. However, It’s much more likely that Bell will stick to his guns and provide a similar offensive output that he has in his first two seasons.

While his offensive return is a fairly easy read, the former Warriors’ big man is much more diverse on the defensive end. With his size and agility, he is able to seamlessly switch onto multiple match-ups, both big and small, as well as protect the rim and provide an interior presence. With coach Ryan Saunders preaching a switch-heavy scheme, Bell should fit in well with his defensive skill set.

In his first two seasons thus far, Bell has provided a fairly significant contrast in terms of defensive statistics. In his rookie season, only four power forwards and 16 total bigs had a higher defensive real plus/minus (DRPM) than Bell’s. And only four other players alongside Bell registered over 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes. Although, he struggled to make the same impact in year two, he ranked 68th in DRPM among power forwards. This led to him often being benched at the slightest defensive mistake, which couldn’t have done his confidence any favors.

There is plenty of competition around him for playing time with the Wolves, but he should still be given a longer leash to play through and learn from his mistakes under Ryan Saunders.

His ability to time up blocks and intimidate drivers should also provide some joy for Wolves fans. He is an exciting weak-side force and will help reinforce a defense’s back line that has struggled for many years. Especially with Karl-Anthony Towns still learning how to quarterback an effective defense.

As aforementioned, Bell isn’t going to stroll into big minutes with his new team. It seems Robert Covington might be the team’s starting power forward alongside Towns to open the season, leaving Bell to fight for minutes with other newcomers in Noah Vonleh, Naz Reid and Jake Layman, as well as the veteran presence of Gorgui Dieng.

After signing a minimum deal while entering the prime of his career, Bell told the Bay Area News Group that his decision was just down to one thing.

“An opportunity just to play ... Money wasn’t really the issue.” he said.

The rotation in the Bay Area was often volatile and, outside of the stars, hard to pinpoint on any given night. Although the talent is less desirable in Minnesota, it could become a similar rotational situation for a fringe player like Bell.

Even if it does, Bell can bring plenty of intangibles to the locker room.

“I can bring a championship mentality and I know the stuff you go through with the ups and downs of a long season like that.” He told the Mercury News. “I take what I learned from that team and try to share that experience.”

It’s still unclear how Bell will fit with his new team or whether he can shine outside of the Warriors dynasty, but you can sure bet we will find out this season.