The end of summer is truly a special time in Minnesota. The Minnesota State Fair is underway, the Vikings are in training camp, ready for another 8-9 season, and school doesn’t start for another few weeks. For the Timberwolves, late August is usually spent trying to convince fans that some 6’8” tweener who can’t shoot from some blue-blood basketball school like Kansas, Arizona, or Syracuse will lift the franchise out of the NBA’s basement.
But this year is different. The Timberwolves already have a stable of stars, they’re coming off a hard-fought playoff series, and the ownership, front office, coach, and players are all on the same page for the first time in two decades. After a wild draft that saw the Wolves wheeling and dealing all night, Minnesota came away with two players who can help them get past the first round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. However, the season does not hinge on whether Wendell Moore Jr. or Josh Minott have a good rookie season.
If we’re being realistic, as good as the two rookies might be, they’re both going to be hard-pressed to play any meaningful minutes this season. And that’s a good thing. Minnesota’s roster is close to the best it’s ever been. With 14 players potentially ahead of Moore and Minott in the rotation, it will be tough for the rookies to crack the lineup on any given night. If either can shine through and provide a useful service off the bench in his first year, it’s Moore.
The rookie out of Duke is a beautiful shooter of the basketball, which is precisely what the Timberwolves need after sending Malik Beasley to the Utah Jazz in the package for Rudy Gobert. Moore hit 41.3 percent of his threes in his junior year. However, it’s a one-year sample size. He went 4-19 (21.1 percent) as a freshman and bumped that number to 30 percent in his second season. He may not be relied upon to carry a heavy burden for an ascending Wolves team, but Moore will provide a much-needed shooting punch off the bench.
Last year, the Wolves were the 12th best three-point shooting team in the league, knocking down 35.8 percent of their league-leading 41.3 attempts per game. Beasley was the only above-average three-point shooter the Wolves parted ways with this offseason. However, they added Bryn Forbes, a career 41.3 percent three-point shooter, around a mix of non-shooters, including Gobert and Kyle Anderson. Karl-Anthony Towns is the only great three-point shooter left on the roster. But Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Taurean Prince, Jaylen Nowell, Naz Reid, Jordan McLaughlin, and Forbes will provide streaks of competence from beyond the arc. Minnesota’s bench needs another knock-down three-point shooter, and Moore can become just that.
The good thing is that Moore and Josh Minott have no expectations whatsoever. Minnesota didn’t draft either to save the franchise. Chris Finch can bring his rookies along slowly, a luxury that he nor his predecessor Ryan Saunders ever enjoyed. Hell, Edwards was playing in a regular-season NBA game one month after the Wolves drafted him. One or both will likely spend significant time in Iowa this season playing with the Iowa Wolves, one of the best development teams in the league. Man, it feels weird to type those words. The Minnesota Timberwolves have a good development system. We live in a different time, people.
Wendell Moore Jr. brings much more to the team than his shooting prowess. In his junior season at Duke, he was named to the ACC All-Defensive team, All-ACC Second Team, and All-ACC Tournament Team. That’s quite the pedigree for a late first-round draft pick who Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin overshadowed. Banchero went first overall; Griffen was the 16th pick in the draft. Moore slightly reminds me of Jaylen Nowell coming out of college. He’s a really good player who can shoot and defend. However, he may need some seasoning in the G-League before he can really make his mark in the NBA. Following that blueprint, it might take Moore a full season or more to get a foothold with the Timberwolves. Still, he could work his way into a vital role in the rotation for years to come.
The Timberwolves hired a new President of Basketball Operations, pulled off the offseason’s biggest trade, and reset the trade market for the entire league. Therefore, it’s probably good that they also don’t have to worry about some rookie slotting into the lineup and immediately playing big minutes. With a great shooting touch and other marketable skills, Moore will be well equipped to thrive off the bench in the sporadic playing time he’s likely to see this season.