One of the best stories in sports is seeing an undrafted player become a hidden gem. There have been multiple examples throughout NBA history, from Ben Wallace and John Starks to Udonis Haslem and Fred VanVleet.
Although it’s still early in his career, we might be seeing the beginning of another example with the Minnesota Timberwolves and center Naz Reid. An undrafted player in 2019 who the Minnesota Timberwolves later signed, Reid has carved out an excellent role on the Wolves roster in his third season. He has stepped up lately while other players have missed time due to health and safety protocols.
It might be too early to call Reid an undrafted player who turned into a hidden gem. But he is well on his way if his play this season progresses into the future. While we watch how Reid’s story unfolds, let’s look back at his journey from coming out of LSU to where he is now.
High Hopes Coming Out of LSU
An Ashbury Park, N.J. native, Reid came out of Roselle Catholic High School in 2018 as a five-star recruit, McDonald’s All-American and the No. 18 ranked prospect on the Recruiting Services Consensus Index Rankings. The top of that list included fellow NBA players RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson, Bol Bol, and others.
Reid ended up committing to play collegiately at LSU, where he quickly created a name for himself with the Tigers. He averaged 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 34 games during the 2018-19 season. Following that year, Reid declared for the NBA Draft with hopes of hearing his name called early on.
Not only did Reid not hear his name called as early as he had hoped, but he didn’t hear his name called at all. Some experts were surprised he went undrafted. But shortly after the draft, Reid ended up getting a call from the Wolves, who signed him to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent. He started his career in the G League. That marked the start of what was going to be an uphill battle for the big man.
From G League to NBA
Reid spent portions of the 2019-20 season in the G League with Minnesota’s affiliate, the Iowa Wolves. That is where he began to impress in 16 games in Iowa, averaging 18.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, two blocks, and 1.2 steals per game as a rookie.
Reid did enough to prove himself as a legitimate prospect deserving of an expanded role at the next level in that short span in the G League. He ended up getting the call up to the NBA to make his debut.
Part of the reason for Reid’s call-up was due to his play in the G League. The other was due to an injury suffered by Karl-Anthony Towns that left the Wolves shorthanded in the paint. To round out the 2019-20 season, Reid ended up making a total of 30 appearances with Minnesota, averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while starting in 11 games.
Since that point, he has remained in the NBA. He has started to create a role for himself in the league. In 2020-21, Reid played in 70 games and started 15 of those contests, averaging a career-best 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 assists in 19.2 minutes per game. Now in 2021-22, he continues to build off of that and has even kicked things up a notch.
Role in 2021-22
Reid has shown flashes that he is ready to hold his own in the NBA in some regard, whether or not that is in a backup role or perhaps a starting job sometime in the future. Regardless, he has been an excellent piece on the Wolves rotation in whatever role he has ended up filling. He has been one of the more hard-working, energetic players to take the floor on a nightly basis.
Nearing the midway point in the regular season, Reid has averaged 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, and 0.8 assists in 17.2 minutes a game, starting in five games thus far for Minnesota. In his last five games going into Wednesday’s contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Reid has filled in nicely while Towns is out in health and safety protocols by averaging 12.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and one assist in 23.8 minutes.
Reid will drop back down to a backup option at center while coming off the bench to relieve Towns. But the Wolves are hoping his hard-working and energetic mentality and his play lately will only continue and grow in a different role.
Naz has been fun to watch since getting the call-up to the NBA in 2019. Some have even asked for him to expand his role with the Wolves during the 2021-22 season. If his play continues to match what we’ve seen to this point and gets even better, a more prominent role will be a hard thing to ignore for this undrafted player both this year and beyond.