Timberwolves

Nowell’s Talents No Longer Under the Radar

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Since the All-Star break, the Minnesota Timberwolves have looked reborn under Chris Finch. Team morale is high as players find themselves embracing their roles and the process of turning the tide. For Jaylen Nowell, the recent lack of depth at guard has allowed the second-year player to find a groove of his own.

An Opportunity

Consistency is the new motto in Minnesota, but has been seldom seen in the last month. With Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell missing time, Nowell’s minutes have doubled from last season. The former Washington Husky cashes 50% of his shots in games where he meets his 20-minute average. An encouraging surge that compliments rookies Anthony Edwards and fellow Washington alumnus Jaden McDaniels.

Nowell and McDaniels’ playstyles pair seamlessly, with Jaylen’s ability to penetrate and find catch-and-shoot looks. Yet, Nowell’s playmaking abilities have remained mostly untapped. Only averaging two assists per game, an emphasis must be placed on his court vision. There’s no doubt the 21-year-old can score and be the primary handler when on the hardwood, so generating assists and clean looks will be one of the next facets we see emerge from his game.

With his primary strength residing in his mid-range abilities, Nowell’s development as a passer is only beginning. Beasley’s return will provide another strong outlet for the Wolves’ offense and improve the fluidity Minnesota has been missing.

Mid-Range and Defense

Amid the hectic season the Timberwolves have endured, there have been few constants. Regardless, Nowell’s unchanging efficiency from mid-range has been an impressive show. Jaylen shoots a clean 53% from within 16 feet, including 60% on cuts to the rim. The rotation-man’s ability to slice into opposing defenses and create efficient looks for himself is astounding, but the young guard still relies on his teammates to deliver the ball on time.

Nowell carries the tools to become a true shot-creator. His game exemplifies similarities to Portland’s C.J. McCollum who makes his living in the mid-range game. In only his second year, Jaylen has a sound foundation for expansion and great supporting pieces as catalysts. It’ll be exciting to see whether or not Nowell continues as a supporter from the bench, or becomes one of the supported in a feature role.

In order to earn that prominent role, however, Nowell needs to continue improving his defensive presence. This season, he’s allowing opposing players to hit 51% of their two-point baskets, with 46% from three. The numbers only improve slightly from his rookie year. The real results lie in Jaylen’s effort and understanding of the flow at the NBA level. The Timberwolves have been underwhelming on defense for years, but with players like Nowell making the effort plays, they can surely change course.

Fourth-Quarter Impact

With many of the Wolves’ games coming down to closing minutes, Nowell’s been embracing crunch time. Even though he doesn’t see the floor for the final ticks, the impact Jaylen makes to start fourth quarters allows for the starts Minnesota needs. The Timberwolves have regrettably tagged themselves as a second-half team, suffering large deficits in the first two quarters. Recent bouts with the Rockets can attest for this, despite a miraculous 22-0 run to end the game with a win on one occasion.

To counter the abysmal opening quarters, Nowell contributed on 47% from three in March. The efficiency from beyond the arc for Minnesota has improved tremendously with Beasley’s return and McDaniels’ emergence. Nowell continues to add to the pot on his own with every game. Surprisingly, the number of blowouts has been stymied for the Twin Cities team. Nowell, along with other bench players like Naz Reid, has done the most with his awarded minutes.

After a silent trade deadline, Minnesota’s young roster may experience a shakeup this summer. However, Nowell has stated his case and can only look to continue trending upwards. After suffering a right leg injury against Philadelphia, Jaylen will be challenged with continuing his efficiency upon his return. Though, under Chris Finch and executive Gersson Rosas, there’s reason for hope among Timberwolves faithful.

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