Timberwolves

Minnesota's Training Camp Will Feature Intense Competition

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ first day of training camp is just about a month away. Teams use those two weeks to get their players on the same page. However, there are always a few players who sign training camp deals with teams hoping to prove their worth and make the opening-night roster. That’s especially true for the Wolves this season. Five players will be looking to show they deserve a full-time spot in the organization.

The Timberwolves just recently signed forward CJ Elleby and center Luka Garza to exhibit 10-day deals, the only players to be signed to such a deal yet this off-season.

Being signed to an exhibit 10-day contract means that player is assigned to the team’s G-League affiliate. The team that signed that player will be able to waive them with no cap hit. If they waive a player who later signs with the parent team’s G-League squad, they could obtain as much as a $50,000 contract bonus.

Ultimately, Elleby and Garza will be with the Timberwolves through training camp and the preseason. They will have the chance at either a standard contract or a 2-way deal at the start of the season.

Elleby, 22, spent his first two seasons with the Portland Trailblazers. Through 88 games played for the Blazers, Elleby put up 4.6 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists on 39% from the floor, and 27.5% from three.

Those numbers may not stand out to you, nor do they to me. However, Elleby has some impressive hops for only being 6’6”. He also sees the floor pretty well while attacking the paint. Elleby had a substantial role with the rebuilding Blazers last season. He started 28 games after starting none the previous season.

If the name Luka Garza sounds familiar, it’s most likely due to his remarkable collegiate career at Iowa. During four seasons with the Hawkeyes, Garza scored 18.2 points per game and 7.3 rebounds on 55% from the floor and 35% from three in 127 games. Garza would win numerous awards, including National College Player of the Year for the 2020–21 season. He’s also Iowa’s all-time leading scorer.

Garza, 23, spent his rookie campaign with the Detroit Pistons and the Motor City Cruise, the team’s G-League affiliate. He put up 5.8 points per game, 3.1 rebounds on 45% from the floor and 33% from three for the Pistons. Garza appeared in 32 games for Detroit last season. However, that was not where he displayed his best skills at the NBA level.

Garza only spent 16 games with the Motor City Cruise, averaging 20.6 points per game, 9.5 rebounds on 51% from the floor, and 32% from three.

The 6’10” big man poses a severe threat on all defenses. He weighs about 235 pounds, and while it appears he’s slimmed out this offseason, he is still a load to deal with down low. Not only can he dominate the painted area, but he can also stretch the floor very well for someone his size. Spending training camp with the best three-point shooting big of all time in Karl-Anthony Towns will help a guy like Garza out immensely.

Now that we’ve broken down the Wolves’ two exhibit 10-day guys, what about the 2-way players?

The Timberwolves signed forward Eric Paschall and guard A.J. Lawson to 2-way contracts heading into training camp. Neither of these deals is guaranteed, meaning they will have to compete for the spot they currently have.

Paschall, 25, heads into his third NBA season – two with the Golden State Warriors and one with the Utah Jazz. Paschall is a unique two-way signing because he made the All-Rookie first team two years ago. During his rookie campaign in Golden State, Paschall put up a respectable 14 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, and 2 assists on 48% from the floor in 60 games.

Paschall’s numbers have dropped off since that season. He averaged 9.5 points per game in 2020-21 and 5.8 per game in 2021-22. But he is still a very promising young prospect, and it’s a steal for the Wolves to obtain him on a 2-way deal.

Lawson doesn’t have that same NBA resume that Paschall does, though. Lawson, 22, played college ball for the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2018-21. Through 81 games, Lawson averaged 14.2 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists on 40% from the floor and 35% from three. Lawson would also go on to win the SEC Freshman of the Week award in Nov. 2018 after averaging 15.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists over a three-game stretch against Norfolk State, Providence, and George Washington.

Following a stellar career at South Carolina, Lawson went undrafted in 2021 before ultimately signing with the Atlanta Hawks G-League squad, the College Park Skyhawks, where he played 26 games and averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 48.1% from the floor.

Lawson joined the Dallas Mavericks for the 2022 NBA Summer League. He averaged 15.6 points per game and 6.0 rebounds in five games while shooting 51.9% from the floor. On July 19th, 2022, Lawson signed a two-way contract with the Timberwolves.

Not only do the Wolves have a few new guys for training camp, but they also have the two-year forward Nate Knight who was with the Timberwolves last season. Knight showed great rebounding and athletic chops in 37 games last season for the Wolves. He impressed Minnesota’s front office, so much so that they re-signed Knight to a standard NBA contract this off-season after he was on a two-way last year.

Knight is on a partially guaranteed deal next year. Therefore, the Timberwolves can waive Knight anytime from now until the end of training camp. It’s doubtful the Wolves cut Knight, but someone like Eric Paschall may take his spot if the team views him as a more high-usage guy. Don’t worry, though. If that were to happen Knight would most likely take Paschall’s 2-way spot and return to his role from last season.

The Wolves will have five preseason games this year and will play the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers twice, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Brooklyn Nets. If those five guys can put their heads down, work through training camp, and perform through that stretch, they should all have a great shot at those final roster spots.

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