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2021-22 Minnesota Timberwolves Season Review: Naz Reid

Reid had a polarizing 2021-22 follow-up to a promising prior season that left some scratching their head about his long-term fit with the team.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Ok, maybe that lead-in to the article was a bit of a projection on my end. Spoiler alert, I know.

Since Naz Reid joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as a highly-touted, former McDonalds All-American recruit out of LSU, he has been an incredibly intriguing prospect. An undersized center that doesn’t move incredibly well, but has decent touch and can shoot the 3 ball. He has certainly improved in all three areas since his arrival in the league, though.

Personally, I’ve been on both sides of believing he can be a long-term player on this team. I especially spent 2020-21 on the good side, when he did a nice job spelling KAT during Towns’ extended absence. Reid put up decent numbers and made some nice plays when frankly, they didn’t really matter given the team’s collective performance in the win/loss column. He averaged 12.4 PPG, nearly six boards and 1.4 blocks during said stretch.

I spent time, albeit briefly, on the good side this season when he put together some of the best dunks of the year.

I mean seriously, that move was an electric factory. I have been working on it in pickup to absolutely no success.

But there is an elephant in the room with Naz Reid and it’s simply this; the Timberwolves can no longer continue moving forward with him as the primary backup center on this team. He’s far too inconsistent to be the understudy for an All-NBA center that gets in foul trouble. This was proven to be especially true in the postseason, where even Chris Finch called out his third-year center for his up-and-down play.

Reid can be a valuable floor spacer who has a few eye-catching scoring games a season, and has good recovery when he gets beat on defense that can lead him into a surprisingly decent number of chase-down blocks. He was excellent at shooting the three out of the corner this year (48.7%) as well and is surprisingly quick and crafty at the rim, having the ability to get a half step on conventional centers.

All of aforementioned things make for a clear cut role as an effective NBA player, and for an undrafted free agent, that’s a pretty nice find. He does have the ability to be a primary backup center.

On the other side of the coin, it’s clear that Reid does have some limitations (i.e the ability to rebound effectively, rim protect - things the Wolves desperately need) that do not make him cut out to take that role on for the Timberwolves if they want to be a championship team.

Naz will be a free agent next year, and has a $1.9 million-dollar club option for this coming season - incredibly team-friendly.

He’s clearly tremendous to have at that value, but we are fast-approaching decision time on his long-term future in Minnesota. I would think he asks for the $4-5 million/year range when his contract expires. Are the Wolves willing to pay that when the time comes, or is he used as an asset to acquire a more proven player, to a team more apt to pay him?

What could his working role be, should he stay a Timberwolf?

I think this scenario is more unlikely than likely, but I’ve always thought Reid could be an excellent swiss army knife, to give the Wolves height versatility in the lineups Finch wants to play and experiment with. He CAN play center in smaller lineups, or play as low as the three if the Wolves REALLY wanted to get weird.

What I’m getting at: can he be a PJ Tucker-adjacent that’s just a couple inches taller? He plays incredibly hard, is very competitive, has the ability to make shots, but the defense just needs a few more improvements.

He’s a liability defending on the perimeter, as he doesn’t move his feet very fast, and can’t protect the paint unless he’s chasing down a block that he has already been beaten to the lane on. If that CAN improve, is that possible? PJ Tucker was a name Gersson Rosas clearly pursued with the roster in the previous state that it was, and I think that’s still a need. If the Wolves bring in a rim protecting big to assume the backup role, are there still minutes on the table?

A question to be answered. But in many ways, Reid, along with Jaylen Nowell saved the reputation of the Jarrett Culver draft from being a complete disaster. And he’s an awesome meme. It would be nice to see Naz find a role in some way, but that now lies in the hands of Tim Connelly.