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Wolves 85, Nuggets 78: Welcome to the Josh Minott Show

Minott, a 2022 second-round pick, scored a game-high 22 points in the Timberwolves win

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

When the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted forward Josh Minott out of Memphis in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft with the No. 45 overall pick, many thought he would be a multi-year project.

Given that Minott played only 14.6 minutes per game and had largely underwhelming per game averages, that was understandable. But tonight, Minott showed an improved game from what we saw at Memphis, thriving in the up-tempo, pace-and-space style of play at the next level.

The former four-star prospect got off to a slow start easing his way into things in the first quarter, but exploded in the second-quarter. He scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the frame, putting his athleticism and finishing on full display. The rookie also made a 3 with an improved shooting stroke.

Minott made just two of his 14 3-point attempts during his freshman season at Memphis, but made two tonight with a willingness to let it fly confidently if afforded the space to do so. After making both, the defense began to close out to him, which enabled him to take his defender off the dribble for a nice bucket inside, too. He also made some high energy plays on the glass, too.

“Overall I feel like I just got into the groove of things. It’s like a lawn mower. Once I get goin’, just kept goin’,” Minott said postgame. “Energy, it’s everything. I am energy. I feel like the embodiment of it.”

His defensive versatility was moneymaking skill NBA teams were most interested in, and it is easy to understand why. Minott rotated well on the back side, moved well laterally, and made a block in the clutch to help seal the win for Minnesota, too.

He needs to improve his handle in order to more effectively create space from his defenders off the dribble, but hopefully that will come in a high-usage role with the Iowa Wolves in the G-League. Despite that, it was a very encouraging showing.

When the final buzzer sounded, Minott’s line read 22 points on 8/15 shooting (including 2/3 from 3 and 4/4 from the line), 10 rebounds, three assists, and a block in 25 minutes of action.

After running the offense as the point guard for a good chunk of the first quarter, Wendell Moore Jr. got more aggressive off-ball and joined the scoring fun in the second quarter, too. The No. 26 overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft scored eight of his 10 points on 3/3 shooting in the quarter. He moved extremely well without the ball and got himself open before utilizing great footwork to set up two very smooth catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

Moore Jr.’s play proved his handle is still a bit shaky, as he isn’t used to playing full-time point guard against heavy full-court pressure and half-court traps, but reps will help there. He struggled in the fourth quarter, but got inconsistent time on the ball and faced a Nuggets defense with long defenders that turned up the aggression to try and rally from a double-digit deficit.

Growing Moore Jr.’s confidence should be a key priority this season for the Wolves’ front office, who will need him to become a high-level role player given their lack of draft capital moving forward. That shouldn’t be an issue, though, as Moore Jr. proved to be very effective as a complement to higher-usage players such as Tre Jones, Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin.

He finished with 10 points on 4/9 shooting, including 2/3 from deep, and four rebounds in 26 minutes.

Minott’s fellow second-round pick, Matteo Spagnolo, dubbed the “Italian Ricky Rubio” raised some eyebrows with his playmaking. He showed great feel in the pick-and-roll, throwing several great bounce passes that led to buckets, fouls, or open looks on the extra pass. He also made some plays defensively, including this one that led to a transition triple on the other end.

He didn’t get as much run as Minott or Moore Jr., given that he will be a draft-and-stash player, but played better than the box score showed. Spagnolo scored three points and dished out a pair of dimes in 16 minutes.

The highlight of the night came when guard Kevon Harris absolutely detonated on Matt Mitchell for a clutch and-1 that proved to be the game-winning bucket.

Harris moved his feet well on defense to cut off drives, too, and made some impressive passes on the drive on his way to a 13-point performance to go along with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 24 minutes.

Next up for the Wolves is a Sunday night showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies at 8 PM CT on ESPNU.