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Can Josh Minott Earn Enough Minutes to Bring Needed Energy to Wolves?

The second-round pick impressed at Summer League with his athleticism and constant effort. After the Rudy Gobert trade, that’s the exact kind of player Minnesota needs.

2022 NBA Summer League - Minnesota Timberwolves v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves have undergone massive changes in the 2022 offseason, and it’s worth wondering how exactly it will all come together for Minnesota in 2022-23 as they look to build on a promising year. Each week from now until the start of preseason in October, I will be writing about one specific thing for each potential rotation player that I am most intrigued to see in terms of how the team ultimately fits.

Somewhat missing among the hoopla of the package the Timberwolves gave up for Rudy Gobert and the center’s fit in Minnesota are the trade’s implications for this team’s identity moving forward.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards were, of course, the Wolves’ best players in last year’s resurgence, but it’s fair to argue that the biggest differentiator between last season’s success and previous failures was the culture of unrelenting energy and intensity. The two leaders of that ferocity, Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt, were sent to the Utah Jazz as part of the package that landed Gobert.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

So yes, the Timberwolves are more talented now and filled a major need with a rim-protecting, board-clearing big man. But the roster is missing players who spark those around them by the sheer power of their effort, and every successful team needs multiple guys who fill that role.

Who will step up to give them that edge? Towns, Edwards and D’Angelo Russell carry too much of an offensive load. Gobert gets the job done with his indomitable length, while Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson are as laid back personalities as you get in the NBA. Taurean Prince is more of a lead-by-example type, and Jaylen Nowell and Jordan McLaughlin are quiet as well.

There’s only one guy on the roster who could match the outward zeal of a Beverley or a Vanderbilt, and that is second-round rookie Josh Minott.

To be clear, it’s far too much to expect for a first-year guy to maintain an entire aspect of a team’s culture. Minott is exceedingly raw and could spend more time in the G League than with the top squad. What I am intrigued to see with Minott is if he can earn enough of a role to be a factor as an instant energizer off the bench.

We’ve already seen Minott have that effect in Summer League, especially defensively and on the boards, where it is most needed. It wasn’t just his outward displays of emotion, either; Minott flew around the court to make plays that infused life into his teammates.

He was an active rim-protector, averaging 1.6 blocks per game per RealGM, and defended the perimeter with abandon. His technique needs some work, but the motor he showcased is reminiscent of the early portion of last season when the Wolves’ X-out scheme sped opponents up and created opportunities off turnovers.

One of Minott’s biggest strengths coming out of Memphis is his rebounding, which often translates to the NBA and certainly translated to Summer League in his case. His 8.6 rebounds per game ranked 10th among those who played at least four games in Vegas, and he made particular hay with 3.6 offensive boards per game.

The multiple efforts and from-outta-nowhere put-backs are eerily reminiscent of Vanderbilt’s best highlights. Again, Minnesota just doesn’t have many guys who play like this.

Even more encouragingly, Minott’s intensity showed itself on the offensive end, most notably in his commanding debut against the Nuggets when he dunked everything. Every movement of his is all-out, and that helps create good looks on cuts and transition run-outs.

So we know Minott brings that energetic dynamic Minnesota needs. The question is, will he see the court enough for it to matter?

The smart money says no. Minott was just the 45th overall pick, and while he earned his true NBA contract, that does not mean he will be a major part of Chris Finch’s rotation. He simply has too much developing to do before he’s ready for that.

Minott’s lack of craft is what will keep him off the floor for now, and it made itself known in the struggles he faced in Summer League. He needs a lot of work as a ball handler and shooter, as evidenced by his 38.3 field goal percentage. He’s still learning where to be on the floor and when to be there, and that’s to be expected.

However, if Minott can surprise with his skill level like he did in Vegas, perhaps he will be in line for a bigger role than expected. After making two of just 14 3-point attempts in college, no one anticipated Minott would shoot like he did — 41.7% from downtown on 2.4 attempts per game. It was a small sample size, of course, and he needs to keep sharpening his form, but he looked so much more confident and fluid in his shot.

Minott struggled with his handle in traffic at Memphis, but the enhanced spacing that came with improved teammates and the larger court allowed him to flash some impressive driving ability with his long strides.

He also threw some beautiful passes on anticipatory reads, dropping 1.6 assists per game. These are the passes he made every once in a while at Memphis, but he rarely got the playing time or on-ball opportunities to show off his vision.

Don’t get it twisted, Minott has a ways to go. But he is the exact kind of player Minnesota will need to contend at the level Tim Connelly and Co. are striving for.