I can already hear the, “it’s just the preseason!” comments. Respectfully, let’s live a little.
Yes, it is just the preseason, but Naz Reid genuinely looks like a player who spent the majority of his summer in Minneapolis, working hard with the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff to improve. I’m sure Naz knew he had to level-up to find a rotation spot after the addition of Rudy Gobert, and it really looks like he has.
Chris Finch on Naz Reid: "Naz has gotten better and better every step along the way since I’ve arrived. ... He’s a worker. He had a great summer. ... (He's) making himself into a heck of a player."— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) October 13, 2022
Through four preseason games, Reid is averaging 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game. Many of those minutes have come against the likes of Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis.
Yes, it’s the preseason. We all also have eyes, though, and your eyes tell you this is a better version of Reid than we’ve seen in the past. His work on his body is paying off, and it is partnering with a unique skill level to make a strong case for minutes once the regular season starts.
Naz Reid from deep pic.twitter.com/QVkaTLGkWB— Timberwolves Nation (@TWolvesNationCP) October 13, 2022
Reid’s improvements help the team in the obvious sense that having better players makes your team better, but they also work with a light early schedule to afford Minnesota time with a front court that needs it right now.
Eventually, Minnesota would ideally stagger the minutes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert to cover all 48 minutes in the game at the center position. Getting All-NBA play at an important position is a massive advantage, and one that Chris Finch will surely take advantage of as the season goes on.
It’s also really important that the two big fellas know how to play together, though. They might spend most of the second and third quarters apart, but they will still close 99% of games together. It’s going to be important that, once the competition picks up, the Wolves have that combination up to speed and firing on all cylinders.
While many teams would normally use the preseason to test that out and iron out the kinks, the Wolves haven’t been that lucky. Towns battled an illness which caused him to lose quite a bit of weight, and Gobert is a bit worn down after a deep run at Eurobasket. It’s been smart of the Wolves to be cautious with each of them, and to let them get their rest, and they can do so without needing to worry about starting the season too slowly in part because of how good Reid has looked.
Naz Reid on how he's playing this preseason:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 13, 2022
"It's a statement. I've put the work in this summer. Big, big time work. Day in and day out. Extra reps in the gym. Just going hard. And it's showing, it's paying off. And it's just the beginning... I promise you, I'm gonna show it."
Instead of needing those preseason reps, the Wolves can bank on the talents of Reid to pummel bench bigs in the early part of the regular season. That’s going to allow Chris Finch to force feed Gobert and Towns minutes together to start the season and learn how to play together right away.
They’ll eventually stagger, but they can play the two of them together more often early on (if they so choose) and know that Reid is more than capable of handling the bench minutes. That’s a luxury that not many teams in the league have, and it’s all due to the work that Naz has put in since he entered the league. Good for Naz.