A sage friend of mine told me, “The most recent thing that has happened is not the only thing that has ever happened.” Keeping that in mind is easier said than done. I find it difficult myself to see past the here and now, but it’s important that we don’t just focus on the most recent thing.
For Naz Reid, the most recent thing is shooting 3 for 16 in just under 30 minutes over the last three games — a small stretch that is somewhat representative of what we’ve seen from Reid all year. He’s averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and assists.
There has been a strong push from the fanbase to see more Nathan Knight minutes in place of Naz. After Reid’s 1 for 8 shooting performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, my Twitter timeline was full of calls for Chris Finch to give Knight some run. I understand why Knight is appealing. He can jump out of the gym, has shown the potential to knock it down from deep, and plays with a ton of energy. Maybe he’s worth a look. Is it time for the Wolves to try a different look, or can Reid find his groove?
It’s important to remember the aforementioned words from my old and wise friend:
The most recent thing that has happened is not the only thing that has ever happened.
Last season, Naz was one of the best backup centers in the league. He averaged 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1 block per game in his breakout season — impressive numbers for a player coming off the bench. You see, Naz Reid has got a deep offensive bag.
His most common play type is the roll man in the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy sports, 25% of Reid’s scoring opportunities came out of the pick-and-roll. He averaged 1.18 points per possession when he rolled to the basket. Reid’s skill on the roll would lead me to believe that he would be a dangerous pairing with D’Angelo Russell. However, the two have disappointed with a minus-4.5 point differential when they play together.
The key with Reid is playing him in lineups that suit his skills. But that’s easier said than done when Finch has to work around Karl-Anthony Towns’ schedule. Ultimately, as long as he is backing up Towns, his minutes will fluctuate. At the beginning of the season, there was hope that Towns and Reid could share the court for significant stretches. To this point, Reid and KAT have shared the floor for only 146 possessions. During those possessions, the Wolves had a minus-16 point differential.
The numbers are more promising with the emergence of Jaylen Nowell. Nowell loves to operate out of the pick-and-roll, primarily looking for his own shot. When Nowell, DLo, and Reid have played together, the Wolves are outscoring their opponents by nine points per 100 possessions. Now, this is a limited sample size we’re talking about here. The three have played 127 possessions together, per Cleaning the Glass’ garbage time filter.
Nowell is just finding his way into the regular rotation, so there is room for their chemistry to grow. As he continues to develop as a ball-handler, we should see his ability to pass out of the pick-and-roll grow as well. The two together could be the boost that Minnesota’s bench unit desperately needs.
The next step for Reid is to continue to develop as a passer. He has shown flashes of impressive passing ability, both out of post-ups and on the move. I thought it was really great to get a peek at Greg Monroe in December and his improved passing ability. In his heyday, he was a skilled low-post scorer like Reid. During his time with the Wolves, he was a passing machine. There is no doubt in my mind that Reid can develop into that sort of passer.
So why Reid over Knight? Naz is the more sure thing. We’ve got plenty of evidence to show that he’s got the ability to be a quality backup. Before you write him off, remember all the times he’s gotten a bucket down low. His footwork and his touch off the glass are things of beauty. A few bad games can’t take away all the success he’s had in the NBA.