With the ever-expanding talent pool, additional two-way roster spots, and team construction limitations from the new CBA, identifying undrafted free agents will be more important than ever. In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of players go undrafted and carve out roles and prolonged careers. Names like Austin Reaves (there were some agent shenanigans that went into that one), Jose Alvarado, Luguentz Dort, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ own Naz Reid all have proven that they not only belong in the league but are worthy of significant roles.
The Timberwolves only have the No. 53 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. If they are looking to bring in some inexpensive promising young talent, they’ll have to either trade up with second-round picks they received in the D’Angelo Russell deal, or be active with undrafted free agents.
Here are three of the top names that the Timberwolves could target as UDFAs if they don’t end up getting drafted.
Backup point guard is a major area of concern for the Timberwolves next season. Pickett could slide into that role with a rather limited learning curve. Pickett is one of the older players in the draft at 23-years-old with five years of college experience under his belt. This season for Penn State, Pickett averaged 17.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists on 50.8/38.1/76.3 shooting splits.
According to Synergy, there wasn’t an area of offense where Pickett was inefficient. He ranked in the 94th percentile as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, 83rd percentile on post-ups, 74th percentile in isolation, 72nd percentile spotting up, 79th percentile shooting off the catch, 80th percentile shooting off the dribble, 91st percentile on floaters, and 76th percentile shooting at the rim. He was also one of two players in the country this year, and one of 16 since 2008, to record a usage of at least 25, an assist rate of at least 35, and a turnover rate below 15. Pickett was at 29.3, 39.3, and 13.2 respectively. Pickett put up some bonkers numbers this year.
So, why would he even be available if he was that dominant on offense you ask. For starters, teams typically aren’t rushing to draft 23-year-old point guards who are 6’2” (barefoot) and posted up on 23.9% of their possessions. With Minnesota, though, Pickett’s age and experience suggest that he should be ready to contribute early in his career. Additionally, Pickett tends to over-dribble the ball. His usage and production were astronomical because he always had the ball in his hands. He has some incredible playmaking capabilities and scoring versatility, but the ball can’t stick with him as much in the NBA as it did in college. Finally, Pickett was flat out bad on defense this year. It’s rare for players of his archetype to be good defenders, but it could become an issue with Pickett if things don’t change with a lesser offensive role.
If the Wolves picked him up, most of those concerns could be covered up as he’d be in the most simplified role of his career. With the second unit he’d provide scoring versatility and playmaking. And even if he got minutes with the primary options, he could set them up for easy scores and be a reliable outlet for them.
For a closer look at Pickett, click here.
Since 2008, only five players from a high major conference have recorded a block rate of at least 2 and a steal rate of at least 5: Mario Chalmers, Marcus Smart, Gary Payton II, Matisse Thybulle (x2), and D’Moi Hodge (2.1 and 5.1 respectively). When you factor in Hodge’s outside shooting and set a 3-point threshold of 40%, the list falls to just Hodge and Chalmers. Hodge also attempted almost 100 more treys than Chalmers.
When it comes to low maintenance, plug-and-play guards, there aren’t many more intriguing UDFA options than Hodge. His defensive playmaking capabilities are astounding, but he also has a really attractive offensive game. If you’re looking for him to create his own shot or create for others, you’ll be incredibly disappointed. However, his off-ball scoring is excellent as he ranked in the 88th percentile in transition, the 91st percentile spotting up, the 67th percentile on cuts, and the 87th percentile shooting off the catch.
Hodge is already 24 years old, so there may not be a ton of potential left for him to unlock. It would be stunning if he suddenly improved as an on-ball scorer or playmaker. That wouldn’t be the expectation, though. If Hodge could reliably shoot +40% from deep off the catch, force a handful of turnovers, and provide some point of attack defense, he’d be a terrific low-cost addition on a cap-strapped team.
The former Missouri star also worked out for the Timberwolves on Monday, along with other potential undrafted free agent targets.
You can read a more in-depth breakdown on Hodge here.
Chris Livingston is a total wildcard in this draft. Most expected him to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season after a rather disappointing freshman season, but Klutch is gonna Klutch. Livingston could go anywhere from early second round to completely undrafted. If he goes undrafted, the odds are that Klutch is going to steer him somewhere else. Despite that, he’s still worth taking a shot on.
Livingston is one of the more interesting case studies in terms of scouting. He didn’t necessarily show anything in his freshman season that suggested he was an NBA player aside from his size and athleticism. However, if you go back to his high school tape, which many view as more valuable or instructive for NBA translation, there was a lot to like.
At Oak Hill, Livingston had a lot of tools. He was a versatile off-ball scorer, a reliable shooter, and even showed impressive stretches of playmaking. His size and athleticism made him a solid defender as well. Livingston never really showed the “superstar” flashes, but he consistently showed a lot of the tools that teams look for in off-ball wings. Livingston will be much more of a project than Hodge or Pickett, but if they could land him, there is a ton of upside to take a chance on.