Now that the dust has settled from what was a wild draft night, it’s time to start examining how the new pieces fit. Specifically, we’re interested in how Jarrett Culver, the 6th overall pick, is going to fit in Minnesota.
In case you need to get caught up, Gersson Rosas sent Dario Saric and the 11th overall pick (Cam Johnson) to Phoenix in exchange for the 6th overall pick (Jarrett Culver). Losing Saric hurts, leaving an obvious hole at the 4 on this roster, but the trade looks much better on Minnesota’s end than Phoenix’s given they reached for a guy who was projected to go towards the end of the first round and Saric was a season away from getting paid when perhaps they did not want to pay him.
Where do we go from here? Well, first and foremost, this pick seems to signal that Andrew Wiggins’ days in the Twin Cities are on thin ice and the front office is going to explore creative ways to move his massive contract. Now that’s certainly easier said than done. Yes, Rosas took the Best Player Available at #6, but with Culver, Wiggins, Josh Okogie, and Robert Covington on the roster, Wiggs feels like the odd man out.
Assuming Wiggins will eventually be moved, whether it be this offseason, the next one, or the one after that, the group of Okogie, RoCo, and Culver should form an unbelievable defensive trio on the wing.
That’s going to be the identity of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball moving forward. Culver may take some lumps initially, but he’s eventually going to give the Wolves three options against the opposing teams best wing scorer/playmaker.
Additionally, this opens up the possibility of letting Robert Covington roam a bit more off the ball defensively, where his other-worldly instincts can shine. Sign me up for a whole lot of Cov cheating off the oppositions worst shooter to jump the passing lanes.
It’s been noted by our own Joe Hulbert that Minnesota’s new defensive coordinator David Vanterpool’s defensive scheme does not involve much switching, but they certainly have the personnel to do it now, especially given that Gersson Rosas wants to see Covington play the 4 more often. A lineup consisting of Okogie/Culver/RoCo 2-4 can switch seamlessly and easily without losing much at any position. For what it’s worth, that lineup is long as hell, with wingspans of 7’0”, 6’10”, 7’2”.
The fit defensively is seamless. Offensively, it isn’t perfect, but there’s still a bit to like with adding Culver. Whether or not he will end up being an above average spot-up shooter remains to be seen, but at the very least, he should be able to provide some secondary creation as an elite driver with solid vision.
As far as that shot does go, you can really go either way. The free-throw shooting isn’t great (~70%), but you don’t have to work that hard to convince yourself that Culver can be a passable spot-up shooter. As a freshman at Texas Tech, in a spot-up role, shot 38% on roughly 4 3PA per game. That percentage plummeted to 30% as a sophomore when he was forced to take more off-the-dribble threes, but the spot-up numbers are still encouraging. In fact, in terms of Points Per Possession, all of his college numbers were pretty good.
Now, what does this mean for Minnesota in the big picture? They shouldn’t count on any of their wing players being primary initiators, especially in the halfcourt. It seems that D’Angelo Russell is likely to head to Phoenix on a max-or-near-max contract, so there isn’t a real, viable option to acquire the perimeter shot-creator they desperately need. The offense this year, barring some drastic move by Rosas, is going to be ugly whenever Karl-Anthony Towns has to sit.
The good news? Well, it’s never too early to look to the next draft, and the 2020 draft is, allegedly, loaded with point guards and primary initiators (Cole Anthony, Nico Mannion, Theo Maledon, etc.). With RoCo and KAT in the mix, and assuming health, the Wolves should be competitive in a wide open Western Conference. Whether that “competitiveness” will ultimately result in wins is a different question entirely.
That perimeter creator, the star initiator, is the hardest thing in the NBA to find. The Wolves still need to find one. With that being said, the Okogie/Culver/RoCo defensive trio supporting Towns’ superstar-level offense gives Minnesota an identity that they can build on for years to come. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that in the Twin Cities.