Timberwolves

A Look Back At the Jarrett Culver Experience

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

Jarrett Culver is gone. He was a divisive player among the Timberwolves faithful. Some felt that his flashes were representative of the player he could be — a lockdown defender who could handle the rock and create opportunities for his teammates. They wanted to see the Jarrett Culver from last year’s preseason who shot 57% from the 3-point line. Other fans had lost hope and thought that if the Wolves could dump him without giving up additional assets, that would be a win for the franchise.

The fact is, Culver was a disappointment. One can put the blame on organizational instability, COVID-19, or a lack of playing time, but the disappointment still remains. Since entering the league, Culver ranks in the bottom five in VORP, BPM, Win Shares, and True Shooting Percentage among players who logged at least 1,800 NBA minutes since the 2019-20 season. Rookies are almost always negative players, but Culver’s lack of progression made Gersson Rosas’s decision to jump ship easy.

Many Rosas critics are quick to cite the Culver trade in 2019. To review: The Timberwolves traded pick No. 11 and Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns for pick No. 6. On its face, a solid value proposition. But Phoenix drafted Cam Johnson, who has been a far superior player to Culver, and Dario Saric played key minutes for the Suns, a team that reached the NBA finals this past year. Trading Saric and the pick that would eventually become Johnson left the Wolves with egg on their face and Eggman (my affectionate name for Culver) on their roster. Consequently, Minnesota has been unable to find a solution at the power forward position while also being one of the worst teams in the league over the last two seasons.

Flipping Culver and Juan Hernangómez for Patrick Beverley is unambiguously an upgrade. Beverly provides veteran leadership, defensive aggressiveness, and a winning mentality that the Wolves so desperately need. Culver and Hernangómez have yet to prove that they can contribute to a winning team. Conversely, Beverly has never been on an NBA team that hasn’t reached the playoffs. This is good for the Wolves.

For what it’s worth, looking at the trade as No. 11, Saric, and Hernangómez for Beverley doesn’t feel like winning. But we can’t get bogged down in thinking about where this all started. Culver is who he is, and right now he is not helping the Wolves win games.

Take a moment to think about the best possible outcome for Culver. Based on what we’ve seen from him so far, were he to hit, it would be as a lockdown perimeter defender who can knock down 3-pointers at a high clip and run backup point guard minutes. A helpful player for a Wolves team that could use some more defense and shooting. Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary comrades, I present Patrick Beverley. He is a career 38% 3-point shooter, plays point guard, and is a menace on the defensive end.

The issue is that Beverley is turning 33 this year. Culver turns 23 in February. In 10 years, Culver could be an entirely different player. Hell, in three years he could be a different player. However, three years from now was not the point of this transaction. The Wolves need someone who can help them win now. Yes, the Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels are all still very young, but this team is butting up against the luxury tax and hasn’t shown any tangible signs of being competitive. There have been plenty of flashes, and a 13-11 record when Towns and Russell have played together is a reason for optimism. But optimism, hope, and encouraging signs can only take a team — and a president of basketball operations — so far.

Trading Jarrett Culver means that, under Rosas, the Wolves’ 2019 and 2021 first-round picks are gone. This year’s pick, of course, was packaged with Andrew Wiggins for DLo. However, Rosas obtained three first-round picks last season: Ant, McDaniels, and Leandro Bolmaro. The former two appear to be panning out, and Bolmaro has got a lot of Wolves faithful excited. Additionally, Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell would likely be first-round selections were NBA teams to do a re-draft. Reid, Nowell, and a successful 2020 draft ease some of the pain, but that can’t erase the fact that two of Rosas’ biggest swings have not produced very many wins. If the Wolves don’t take significant steps forward soon, Rosas may not have much time left.

Culver makes sense for the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant has proven that he can lead a team to the playoffs, and they’ve got plenty of veterans on their team who can contribute. Kyle Anderson, Steven Adams, and now Rajon Rondo should provide plenty of leadership and stability for that team. What they need are high-upside players who could join Morant, Jaren Jackson, and Brandon Clarke as the Grizzlies continue to work their way back into relevancy.

Based on Memphis’s moves, it seems like they are looking for a wing/forward who can be a secondary creator off of Morant. Jackson doesn’t have the ball skills and Clarke lacks the true upside. Last season they tried Justise Winslow, who failed to see much time on the floor due to injury. Now they’ve got Ziaire Williams and Jarrett Culver, two project players who have shown flashes. At the moment, Morant and their vets will prop them up as they work to develop the next great Memphis Grizzlies team.

If Beverley can’t help the Wolves compete — and, worse yet, if Culver pans out for the Grizzlies — this is a disastrous series of events for Rosas and the Wolves. Odds are, Beverley is more valuable to the Wolves this year than Culver is to Memphis, whether Pat Bev is helpful on the floor or as an asset in a trade for another player.

I wish the best for Culver, and I’m sad he didn’t work out in Minnesota. But I’m happy to welcome Beverley to the squad and look forward to watching the guy who everyone loves to hate play for the Wolves. So long, Eggman, I hope your mom can come to cook for you in Memphis.

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