The Minnesota Timberwolves signed Naz Reid as an undrafted free agent in 2019, and he’s been stuck in an understudy role from the get-go. During his rookie campaign, Reid only played in 30 games for Minnesota while spending 16 games with the Iowa Wolves in the G-League. Reid showed flashes on the offensive side. However, he was 6’10”, and 250 lbs coming out of LSU. There was some obvious work to be done on both his body and game until Reid was truly NBA-ready.
Fast forward to today, and Reid has quickly shaped himself into a unique and versatile big man over the last three years. His ability to score inside and out while being light on his feet poses a massive threat to every opponent’s defensive schemes. Last season, Reid was only an understudy to Karl-Anthony Towns, and he flourished in that role. However, Naz faced another roadblock heading into this season when the Wolves traded for Rudy Gobert.
Earlier this season, Chris Finch commended Reid’s maturity when handling his new, ever-changing role with the team.
“I know he’s frustrated as a young player trying to come in and prove himself, build his career resume, earning potential, all that,” Finch said. “But he realizes last year it was a 16-minute role for the most part. This year, the role could be a little bit all over the place.”
Asking a 23-year-old player in only his fourth season to roll with the punches and be able to adapt on a game-by-game basis is an incredibly tall task. However, Naz has answered the bell all year long – especially in Towns’ absence.
Through the 49 games that Reid was active during Towns’ recovery process, he averaged 12 points, 5.5 rebounds on 53% from the floor, and 32.7% from deep while making 11 starts. Reid has begun to open eyes on a national level ever since KAT went down, even drawing LeBron James’ attention.
The blossoming of “Naiz” and his game has been eminent; he looks like a starting caliber center/forward on a good team.
Speculation has ensued in regards to his future with the Timberwolves and how the two may soon part ways. However, Wednesday Night at Target Center, we saw that there may be a way for Chris Finch and Co. to successfully implement Towns, Gobert, and Reid all in the same rotation.
“Naz was spectacular, he really was,” said Finch after Wednesday’s 125-124 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
He didn’t try to change how he played, I think that was key. Defensively, he got his hands on a bunch of stuff. Guarded well. Listen, like he’s been one of our better players all year. We got to find a way to make the two big lineup work. That has to be part of who we are these last eight games. We have the flexibility to go a lot of different directions, but when a guy’s playing this well, he deserves to be out there in some form or fashion. It’s my job to figure that out.
It may have been Towns’ return to the lineup, and all eyes were on him. However, Naz quietly led the Wolves in scoring as he finished with 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals on 11-for-15 (73%) from the floor and 2-for-4 from deep.
It was KAT’s first game in just under four months, so he had some minutes restrictions. Towns and Reid both played 26 minutes, sharing the floor for a good amount of time. When KAT was out there with Naz, Towns primarily had the ball. Reid played off the ball, spacing the floor, and letting KAT do his thing while being an offensive safety valve.
We even saw Reid and Gobert share the floor during stretches Wednesday, which hasn’t been relatively good this season. However, the two have been figuring each other’s game out in Towns’ absence — being able to play off each other much better than before.
Heading into the season, Finchy made it a point that staggering the minutes between Towns and Gobert would be key. However, with KAT’s minutes restriction, Naz was a part of that staggering on Wednesday and seemed to form somewhat of a three-headed monster in the front court.
But as Towns’ playing time slowly ramps up, the 19.7 minutes per game Reid saw while KAT was out will almost certainly start dwindling. However, as Finch said, he will need to find a way to keep Naz in the rotation as the Wolves gear up for a final playoff push. If not, they risk losing the incredibly versatile game Naz brings in the off-season.