NBA: Can Jaylen Nowell appropriate the role of Wolves main scorer?


The Minnesota Timberwolves went through massive changes in the 2022 offseason, and it’s worth wondering how exactly that will all play out for Minnesota in 2022-23 as they look to build on a promising year. Every week from now until the start of the regular season on October 19, I’ll write about one specific thing for each potential rotation player that I’m most intrigued to see in terms of how the team ultimately fits together. . For the previous story on Jaden McDaniels, Click here.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves potentially sacrificing depth in this offseason’s trade for Rudy Gobert, but there’s also justified hype that this will always be one of the deepest teams in the league. One line of thought is that Minnesota was so packed with talent up and down the roster that the remaining players who didn’t have a consistent role last season will be able to step into real bench roles without too much of a drop.

Jaylen Nowell is perhaps the poster child for this perception. He repeatedly flashed the scoring odds that got him drafted the No. 43 pick in 2019, but the rest of his game kept him from carving out regular minutes. With Malik Beasley gone, however, the 2018-19 Pac-12 Player of the Year is set to step in as Minnesota’s bucket-getter off the bench, sicced on opposing reserves with the intention of producing candle scores. ignition.

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

However, Nowell is a very different player from Beasley; the former is better with the ball in his hands while the latter is a formidable long-range sniper with the versatility to throw while spotting and flying off screens. How could Nowell leave his mark on this crucial work?

What Nowell can do

Above all, Nowell is an exceptional pick-and-roll scorer. Of 132 players with at least 100 PNR ballhandling possessions last season, Nowell’s 1.06 points per possession are ranked first (!!) by NBA.com. That’s a smaller sample size than the league’s top players, but he’s among the elite when he gets the chance.

Nowell has a very functional and protective grip, which allows him to easily reach his points, and possesses the body control which helps to get up quickly to free himself from defenders. Here, he’s not bothered by big San Antonio Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl as he nearly jumps backwards while maintaining his float lineup.

He also has a surprising amount of burst when he wants to get down. He shifts gears well and makes good use of his strides to find open real estate in the paint.

You can see the effect of his ball and body control in his pulling score, both on film and in his stats. His effective field goal percentage of 52.8 on such shots ranked 15th among 171 players with 100+ attempts by NBA.com.

The players either side of him in this ranking are Tyrese Haliburton and Steph Curry, players who are their teams’ primary ball handlers. This bodes well for Nowell’s success in a bench scoring role.

He also shot 41.3% on 46 3-point pull-up attempts last season. When paired with a solid 38.1% on catch and shot attempts, he has a great profile as a floor spacer.

Last but not least, Nowell does not return the ball. It ranks in the 97th percentile in CraftedNBA The Creation Turnover Percentage stat, which measures turnovers per 100 possessions while accounting for the offensive load a player is carrying. This indicates that his productive game is evolving and that he will not start throwing the ball willy-nilly with more responsibility.

Nowell is a little harder to fit into the rotation than Beasley because he needs the ball in his hands to be at his best, a tough prospect given Minnesota’s offensive talent. But building bench units around his scoring ability and empowering him with ball control will pay dividends for Wolves.

What Nowell can improve

Nowell doesn’t leave much to be desired as a scoring guard, especially with the opportunity he’s had, but there are areas he can elevate to become a real threat.

First, he could improve his free throw rate (FTA/FGA); according to CraftedNBA, his 22.3% mark ranked in the 46th percentile last season. Learning tricks like when to raise your arms and how to gain leverage on the defender in order to shoot fouls will skyrocket Nowell’s floor and ceiling as a goalscorer.

Nowell would also do well to watch Beasley’s moving shot and start adding that element to his game. Beasley took the third-most off-screen FGAs in the NBA last season at 150, while Nowell took just 22.

It’s not something Nowell is going to implement overnight. It’s more of a goal for the future which will make him more valuable in his next contract. It averaged 1.00 DPI on game type and its mechanics are spot on, so there’s reason to be optimistic.

To get an idea of ​​Nowell’s potential as an offensive player, let’s take a look at his CraftedNBA comparison chart. The score on the right indicates how similar Nowell is to each player, where 100 is the most similar and 0 is the least similar.

Every player is a major threat off the bench at worst and a multiple-time All-Star at best. Nowell shouldn’t be expected to reach the top of this group; he probably has lower expectations than any of the 10s. But he has the archetype of a real difference maker to that end, and nothing we’ve actually seen indicates he’s unworthy of be given a greater role.

Nowell clearly has the talent to be a force off the bench. Now it’s about proving he can stay productive and effective with more responsibility and more attention from the defense. If he can do that, he will put his own mark on a rising team.

All clips from @WolvesClips on Twitter

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