Hello. My name’s Brooks Davis… and I am a former Jarrett Culver stan.
Whew! That felt good to get off my chest.
It all started back a few summers ago. Following the 2018-19 NBA season, I did what I always do when there’s no more basketball to watch: breakdown film on Minnesota Timberwolves draft prospects. From Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter to Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, I spent a large chunk of my free time that summer watching clips of various collegiate players who had entered their names into the draft. But among all prospects outside the consensus top-3, one stood out to me more than the rest: Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver.
With the prototypical frame of an NBA wing, accompanied by high-end shot-making and defense, many draft experts deemed Culver a high-floor prospect who could come in and quickly contribute to an NBA franchise. And after helping lead the Red Raiders to the National Championship game, Culver quickly became a consensus top-10 pick and one of my favorite draft prospects.
The Timberwolves held the rights to just the 11th overall pick leading up to the draft. At the time, I primarily focused on projected late-lottery prospects such as Kentucky’s Tyler Herro and Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, who I felt could someday contribute for an underwhelming Wolves team. But just hours before the draft, then-POBO Gersson Rosas made his first big move as head of Minnesota’s front office. He sent the rights to Dario Saric and the No. 11 overall pick to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 selection.
Rosas’s plan was no secret. After a lackluster season from Jeff Teague, the Wolves desperately needed a point guard. And with Ja Morant presumably off the board by pick six, there was one name that overshadowed the rest: Darius Garland. Before the draft, it had been reported that Minnesota was interested in the Vanderbilt standout, and for good reasons. With the ability to create shots for himself and his teammates, a Garland-Wiggins-Towns trio didn’t sound all that bad. Still, I wanted Culver on the Wolves. So when the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to draft Garland with the fifth overall pick, I didn’t mind.
“The best Minnesota Timberwolf to wear No. 23.”
As I typed the ignorant comment under Culver’s introductory post via Instagram, I felt an overwhelming sense of optimism. After a season riddled by injuries and the Jimmy Butler debacle, it felt as though Rosas’s decision to draft Culver was the first sign of a newly-promising future for Wolves basketball.
But as we all know, Culver’s time in the Twin Cities was disappointing. After a rookie season where Culver made 35 starts, it didn’t take long to realize that I might not have a future in basketball operations. When a rookie averages just under 10 points per game in their rookie season, fans of the player/franchise typically take it with a grain of salt. The NBA is a different game compared to the collegiate level. Even top-10 picks sometimes need a season or two to find their footing. But after averaging 9.2 points per game while shooting just 40% from the field, 30% from three, and 46% (Yes, forty-freaking-six!) from the foul line, it was apparent that the Texas Tech product was undoubtedly out of his element.
Culver would only last two seasons in Minnesota. The Timberwolves traded him and Bo Cruz — I mean Juancho Hernangómez — to the Memphis Grizzlies for Patrick Beverley. Throughout his lone season in Memphis, Colver split time between the NBA and the G-League. He averaged just 3.5 points in only 9.1 minutes per game for the Grizzlies. Culver was far from the type of player I, along with many others, hoped the former Red Raider would become.
On Monday, the Atlanta Hawks announced they signed Culver to a two-way contract. After seeing the former college standout’s name appear on my timeline, a feeling that I can only describe as post-traumatic stress started to settle in. But before the nightmares fueled by the sights of inconsistent shooting and undershirts began again, I thought back to the (few) good times Culver had while wearing a Wolves jersey. From the infamous Robin Lopez poster to the glimpses at being an elite on-ball defender, the Culver experience wasn’t completely terrible; it just wasn’t what Wolves fans wanted it to be.
Over three years removed from the 2019 NBA Draft, Timberwolves fans are still left wondering what could have been had Rosas drafted someone else. What if Garland fell to No. 6? What if the Wolves held firm at No. 11 and drafted Tyler Herro? Regardless, Wolves fans shouldn’t dwell on these sorts of questions because the truth is that we’ll never know. What we know from this self-intervention of mine is that the past is far behind the team.
Note: In all seriousness, I genuinely hope Jarrett Culver can find his niche in the NBA. He seems like one of the nicest guys in the league and has shown to be a very good basketball player in the past.