After four years of ups and downs, summer league stardom, G-League assignments and playoff minutes, Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Naz Reid has set himself up for a payday that rewards his unique NBA journey.
Reid’s completely transformed his body since arriving in the Twin Cities — losing roughly 30 pounds while improving his conditioning and general athleticism drastically — making him a better fit as an agile, floor-spacing center that is so coveted in today’s NBA.
In a year the Timberwolves’ offense has lacked ball movement and juice, Reid’s playstyle has been exactly what the doctor (Dr. Finch) has ordered.
“Big Jelly” has a skillset that’s much different from three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, with Reid excelling in general quickness. His tight handle, agile nature and quick decision-making have become possibly his greatest strengths, as he’s made it a tall order for traditional centers to keep up with him.
After a generally unexciting 30 games to start the season, Reid’s increased minutes alone have contributed to the Wolves being fun to watch again. The front-court rotation sorted itself out to start the year, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert manning the 5 spot for essentially the entire game. This left the New Jersey native with an inconsistent — sometimes nonexistent — spot in the rotation, not necessarily because of poor play but simply because there wasn’t enough front-court minutes to go around.
After Towns suffered a right calf strain in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Nov. 28, Reid got his shot. Since then, he’s lit it up by periodically being the best player on the floor for the Wolves, slipping screens into tough layups, exploding to the rim after setting screens, spacing the floor from 3 at a 48% clip (in December) and rebounding at a rate that’s better than his 4.2 per game career average.
Naz Reid delivered the best game of his young career— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 17, 2022
✅ 28 points
✅ 8/13 2PT | 3/5 3PT | 3/7 FT
✅ 9 rebounds
✅ 3 assists
✅ 2 steals
✅ 1 block
✅ Game-high +21 in 37 min
Going forward, there’s no excuse for Reid to get a DNP. Center is his more comfortable position, but with his outstanding play during Towns and Gobert’s absence — and his legit floor spacing ability — there’s no reason for him to be out of the rotation.
It’s not the only reason that Anthony Edwards’ play has elevated recently, but it’s clear that Edwards thrives off the fast-paced energy that Reid brings to the floor. Getting an engaged Ant each and every night is crucial, and it seems anything that can be done to achieve that should be done.
We went through the numbers today on how the Wolves have fared when Anthony Edwards only has one center next to him...— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 21, 2022
Ant + Naz Reid: Elite offense, elite defense
Ant + Rudy Gobert: Average offense, above-average defense
Ant + Karl-Anthony Towns: Elite offense, terrible defense https://t.co/3HEryFRxUs pic.twitter.com/QCdVcHpDBs
With nearly $360 million wrapped up in their starting front-court, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and Minnesota’s front office has an interesting task on its hands with Reid’s next contract.
A veteran extension for Reid — same goes for Jaylen Nowell — would have a maximum value of roughly $58 million (8% raise from year-to-year) over four years, paying him 120% of the average NBA salary in the first year of his new deal.
If he were to sign that contract, the Timberwolves would pay him $12,950,400 in 2023-24. With Towns’ $36 million and Gobert’s $41 million, that would total to roughly $90 million in salary for those three front-court players.
Just a few months ago it seemed a certainty that Reid wouldn’t be a candidate for a maximum extension, but his play in the month of December has given his representation some new material.
It won’t be easy for them to secure a max extension, though. Between a potential extension for D’Angelo Russell, Nowell, and rounding out the bench (Austin Rivers and Bryn Forbes are both unrestricted free agents after this season), the Wolves don’t have much money to throw around, unless they are comfortable paying the luxury tax next season and beyond.
He’s certainly had flashes over the years, but his role as starting center during Towns and Gobert’s absence has proved that he’s more than deserving of a consistent role on just about every team in the league.
The possibility of Reid wanting a consistently larger role on another team seems likely as well, especially if he doesn’t get much playing time after the return of Towns and Gobert. Being locked into a secondary role in his early-mid 20s is understandably unappealing. If Reid is to take another step forward in his career, it will include proving that he’s capable of bringing his December-level play on a nightly basis.
Similarly for Nowell, accepting an extension for anything less than the desired amount seems foolish. There will be a multiple rebuilding teams that have no problem paying a 23-year-old player with flashes of tremendous upside. For that reason, hitting unrestricted free agency seems like a wise idea for both Reid and Nowell as he potential to both earn more money and have a larger role is surely enticing.
For the Wolves, an extension somewhere in the ballpark of $7-8 million annually is likely their best offer for Reid. The biggest determinant of them offering Reid an extension of that value will undoubtedly be how he plays alongside another big throughout the rest of this season, as going forward there won’t be a role for him in Minnesota as the lone big on floor.
If Reid and the front office can’t agree on an extension, there will be teams in a semi-rebuilding stage that would be interested in trading for him. If the Wolves can recoup some draft capital after their colossal Fourth of July war chest-emptying, they’d happily do so in exchange for Reid. With a similar ability for off-the-bench juice, Nathan Knight could absorb Reid’s role in the scenario he gets dealt. Knight’s had similar success as Reid in the pick-and-roll recently, getting minutes while the Wolves were down Towns and Gobert. Knight doesn’t provide the spacing that Reid does, but could adequately fill in as the third center for the rest of this year and into next season ($1.9 million club option for Knight next season).
The Reid situation is truly a win-win for Timberwolves fans, as they’ll be able to continue watching Reid play for their team or see him get a contract that rewards all of the work he’s put in during his four years in the league.