When the news broke a week before free agency about Naz Reid’s extension, I was in the same boat as the majority of Minnesota Timberwolves fans - ecstatic to retain a player who has earned every bit of the money he signed for.
Reid is a homegrown story. He came into the league undrafted and worked incredibly hard to get better in every single year of his career. It has been fun to track his improvement, which has earned him life-changing, generational money. He went from an written-off, former five-star prospect to a highly valuable, needed asset, which is something that does not happen all too often — especially for the Timberwolves. With this being said, and thoughts about his potential fit on this roster coming to mind, it reminded me of a Twitter thread that I saw and participated in that asked the question:
Who is Naz Reid’s player comparison?
Player comparisons are always difficult. You always end up saying, “He’s like this guy but can shoot,” or “He’s like this guy but with worse defense”. So how do you try to find a comparison for a 6-foot-9, 264-pound center, whose best asset is his fluidity, and ability to take defenders off the bounce, and finish at the rim?
I wanted to pick a retired player from the past as one comp, and a current player for the other, to illustrate the variety of players whose skills are similar to those displayed in Naz Reid’s game.
Player Comparison #1: Pau Gasol (Lite)
It took a lot of research and some heated debates with my older brother (who also is a basketball nerd) to finally land on a player from the past that encapsulates what Reid does on the basketball court.
I finally was able to land on someone, who when I put him to the eye test, I could see a lot of similarities to Reid in his game: Pau Gasol. Now, obviously Naz Reid is not as decorated as Pau and probably never will be, but I could not help but see the glimpses when watching Gasol’s highlights.
Pau was always able to handle the ball very well for his size and use that to get by defenders and slam it over them. The former Spanish National Team star possessed an evident fluidity and could use that smoothness to get his own shot as well as set up his teammates with good looks around the perimeter and around the basket. While the two-time NBA Champion was a little more of a classic back-to-the-basket player, I can still see moves reminiscent of Gasol that make Reid so electric and will continue to make him a key piece off the bench for the Wolves this season — namely, his quick spins and finishes. The Los Angeles Lakers legend was also a constant mover on offense and served as the engine that facilitated ball movement and good looks all over the court. That, plus a learned ability to stretch the floor (Pau’s shooting came more later in his career, he was never a knockdown nor a high volume shooter but he could take an open one) as well as being an overall minus defender encapsulates a lot of Naz Reid’s role with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Player Comparison #2: Jordan Clarkson
I know what you’re thinking.
Why would I pick a combo guard as a player comparison for a center? Well, I think that this illustrates not only how unique of a player Reid truly is, but also how difficult it is to answer this question. Let’s take the positions out of it, though, and focus on what these players bring to the table. Jordan Clarkson is a spark plug, energy player that is great off the bench for the Utah Jazz. He is fluid and smooth with the ball in his hands, plays with great pace, and serves as a scoring weapon capable of carrying the load offensively. The San Antonio, Texas native can also shoot a little bit, even if it isn’t the best part of his game, and Clarkson is overall a minus defender. Does that remind you of anyone?
Watching Clarkson highlights (which is a dangerous game as it feels like every one from this year is against the Timberwolves), it is almost uncanny how similar he and Reid can look when you compare their games side by side. Every team would love to have a Jordan Clarkson — just like every team would love to have a Naz Reid. They inject energy and pace into the offense and are usually a half-court heartbeat that drives movement around them, even if they are prone to too often looking up their own shot, more often than not. This pace and energy is important to have on offense especially when that player comes off the bench.
Naz Reid is one of the most unique players in terms of what he offers at the position he plays and the body type that he has. It has been fascinating to track his progression and fun to watch him perform on the court as he has. While there is reasonable question marks surrounding how this team will work through the fit of Naz, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert one thing is certain: I am glad that Naz Reid is still a Timberwolf, and will be for the foreseeable future.