Minnesota Timberwolves forward Josh Minott is entering his second year in the NBA, and the former Memphis swingman has a lot of characteristics that people salivate over. A very athletic and bouncy player, Minott comes in standing at 6-foot-8 and fills out that frame with 205 pounds of lean muscle. The 20-year-old oozes with potential of being a high flying player that can rock rims and wreak havoc on the defensive end, but potential can only carry you so far, and the Timberwolves are in a win-now mode.
In Minott’s first NBA campaign, he played very limited minutes in games that were blowouts. Out of the 15 games he played in the regular season last year, the closest margin when the final buzzer sounded was 10 points. During his time on the court, he averaged around six and half minutes shooting 50% overall and 33% from 3-point range to amount to 3.1 points and 1.7 boards per game.
When Minott played in the G League for the Iowa Wolves, his offensive production saw a huge jump. In almost 30 minutes a game he averaged 20.6 points per game shooting 56.4% from the floor and 29.2% from deep, while also upping his total rebounds to 7.2 per game.
The stats shouldn’t be the main focus though. As mentioned earlier, Minott is entering his second year into the league and we’ve seen some of that potential reveal what it could become over time if Minott does continue to develop similar to how other young players in the Wolves organization have.
Let’s start with some of the intangibles. As mentioned earlier, Minott comes is 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan to match. With his length, he possesses the built-in potential to alter and block shots and disrupt passing lanes and finish in a variety of ways with outstretched arms that should rarely be contested.
On paper, this sounds like a great young player to have. Someone who has some bounce, and can make long strides to cover a lot of ground quick, wreak havoc on the defensive end, and finish at the rim at a high level. The issues that stem from potential is that work in fantasies and ideas of what could be on the horizon. The Wolves are in a win-now mode and do not have the courtesy of throwing players out on the floor and letting them go through growing pains to figure it out, and so far from the on-court action last year, and with his play in this year’s summer league, Minott is not ready to be a rotation-level player for this team as things stand.
Minott has shown some ability to be a disruptor on the defensive end, but the context of that matters. As mentioned earlier, in a lot of the games he did play, they were in blowouts and not against a lot of guys that play concrete minutes at the NBA level. He has shown quick hands while rotating on help defense and while being the primary on ball defender, and getting in passing lanes.
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He can also get up and block shots at the rim, which is also a valuable asset in the league. Given Minott’s bounce, coupled with his length, he doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect in his timing to block shots. His wingspan allows him some more leeway to either be early or be late in his timing and still send shots back. Blocking shots is a hard skill to master because there are so many skills that go into it, from spacial awareness, to timing, to understanding tendencies, and everything in between, but the one thing a coach can’t teach is length. Using that length properly is another thing, but you are either born with it or you aren’t and Minott has it.
This block is a prime example of that length. Minott is actively jumping out of the way of Denver Nuggets wing Peyton Watson and is still able to block this. Minott is not in a good position at all with actively moving away from the contact, but because of his size and his wing span, he has the ability to still get these types of plays.
While Minott has flashed this here and there, he still isn’t ready to be a key guy that contributes meaningful minutes. While he has the length, he doesn’t know how to use it properly, especially on the offensive end. A lot of his drives to the rim have him twisting and turning in weird ways that negate all of the size and athleticism attached to him and he has really bad touch around the rim on those drives.
With his size and athletic ability, he should be going into the chest of the defender and finishing above people, not shying away from contact. With him leaning and fading away, it negates any sort of advantage he has and makes the physical force he can be almost nothing.
He is not an elite finisher at the rim, and he is not a good shooter from outside so teams will be reluctant to guard him on the perimeter. In his lone season at Memphis, he shot 14.3% from downtown, while this past season he shot 29.2% in the G League and 33% in NBA games. He also shot 2-16 in five summer league games (12.5%). Without adding some outside shooting ability and not knowing how to use his touch at the rim, the Wolves do not have the time to let him go through growing pains in games that matter more than ever when winning needs to be prioritized over development. Furthermore, while Minott is a tremendous athlete, he does not possess an elite NBA skill that he can rely upon and translate to earn NBA minutes. His minutes could change, though, especially if the Wolves are bit by the injury bug in a major way once again next season.
Outside of the actual skillset Minott lacks, the positions Minott could find himself playing for the Wolves is at a log-jam currently. Jaden McDaniels and Karl-Anthony Towns will monitor the 3 and 4 spots in the lineup, with Gobert manning the middle. Starting-caliber players Kyle Anderson and Naz Reid are backups at the 4 and 5, respectively, and new free agent signing Troy Brown Jr. and No. 33 overall pick Leonard Miller project to be more impactful next season, too.
The loss of Taurean Prince in free agency opens up a key reserve spots for the Wolves and with replacing Prince means replacing his shooting. Troy Brown Jr. shot 38% from 3 on a respectable 3.7 attempts per game, with Shake Milton averaging 36.5% on a smaller volume, with two attempts per game. With all the players in front of Minott that are simply better, I find it tough to see him being slotted into the rotation assuming normal circumstances.
There are also levels to being a professional. Minott has been on the record saying he struggled in the morning games during summer league because he does “not like breakfast food.” At this stage, the time a game is being played can not be a valid excuse as to why you are not playing well. You either play well, or you don’t. Nobody is going to say “I understand” if you play poorly because of the time at which the game is played.
Minott has a long way to go until he can find himself playing valuable minutes for a Timberwolves team that is all-in on winning. He has the physical attributes and has a chip on his shoulder that has been noted, and he seems willing to put in the work, but potential can only take you so far in the NBA before production outweighs it. Unless there is a drastic development from now until October, Minott is not ready to contribute to this team when the 2023-24 campaign kicks off.