After the departure of several key players, including Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the entire off-season searching for the ones who can possibly fill in the shoes left by their usual starters. The team’s holdovers from the previous season, particularly 6’4″ guard Jaylen Nowell, had been anticipated by the spectators to deliver the goods for the Timberwolves this upcoming season, especially after having a couple of well-spent off-the-bench minutes throughout his stay with the team.
A second-stringer for the Timberwolves since his rookie year, the University of Washington standout definitely had enough of being one. With the trade of 3-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert costing them a couple of their main guns, will Jaylen Nowell have more opportunities for the Timberwolves this season and eventually provide the numbers needed by the team en route to their first-ever NBA title in franchise history? Moreover, will his presence result in an increase in the Timberwolves’ 2022 odds?
Indeed, A Reliable Sixth Man
Since his NBA debut in 2019, Nowell has been regarded as one of the league’s most reliable sixth men, providing the needed spark for the Timberwolves whenever they needed him the most.
Nowell, 23, was the 43rd overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NBA draft, signed by the Timberwolves in August of the same year. The 6’4″ guard appeared in 15 games for the Timberwolves in his rookie season, posting an average of 3.8 points per game, along with 1.3 assists and 0.2 steals, all produced off-the-bench within such limited minutes, 10.1 to be precise. It is also interesting that he already had his career-high free throw percentage, 0.941, in the same year as well.
The Washington alumni remained to be in the Timberwolves’ bench the following season. With him gaining more time on the court at an average of 18.1 minutes in 42 games, his numbers significantly increased as well, earning a couple of career-highs throughout the tourney’s 2020-21 season. Generating 9.0 points per game, 2.3 rebounds, and a 0.333 beyond-the-arc shooting success rate, Nowell proved himself worthy of a starting position. However, up against the likes of proven deliverers in Beverley and Russell, Nowell had to settle in the Timberwolves’ second unit for the second straight year.
Nowell’s long-awaited dream for a starting position finally came into reality the following season, starting for the Timberwolves in a 124-134 loss against the Phoenix Suns. Beverley and Russell did not play for the squad in the game, with the former suffering an ankle sprain and the latter with a left shin contusion. Nowell, on the other hand, chipped in 10 points and one rebound across a 15-minute performance.
In the following games, as usual, the 6’4″ guard played off the bench but still delivered the guns for the team. His third year with the Timberwolves is arguably his best so far, coming up with a number of good moments in the Timberwolves’ 2021-22 campaign. These include a team-high of 16 points in a 113-104 win over the Heat, a 15-point output in a 12-minute showing against the Suns, and a 29-point career-high performance in a battle against the Celtics.
In a span of three years, Nowell has consistently proven himself to be a reliable sixth man. With a huge space unconquered in the team, Nowell should definitely take advantage of the situation and grab the opportunities ahead of him and the Timberwolves.
Jaylen Nowell stepped up to lead Minnesota to victory 🙌 pic.twitter.com/CAQLPLVJl1
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 28, 2021
An Opportunity Awaits: Will He Take It?
In a battle with Rivers, Forbes, and McLaughlin, it is safe to say that the 23-year-old baller has the upper hand in the race to gain more minutes on the floor. Measley and Beverley, two of the Timberwolves’ losses in the Gobert trade, ate up most of the minutes in the previous seasons for the team. Their separation from the team gave rise to more playing time opportunities for Nowell and the rest of the squad.
According to NBA critics, Nowell, being a dependable off-the-bench contributor, is assumed to have the highest chance of receiving more minutes this season. However, with Austin Rivers’ acquisition, a lot had speculated that Chris Finch, the Timberwolves’ newly-tapped head coach, isn’t satisfied enough with Nowell’s performance yet. Hence, the former Pac-12 Player of the Year’s future with the team is still uncertain, with Finch still searching for the perfect combination for his team.
On the brighter side of things, however, Nowell still has the rest of the preseason to prove himself to Finch. Eventually, it is up to the 6’4″ guard whether he will take the opportunity or be contented with being pulled off the second unit.
Jaylen Nowell fake + drive + finish through contact pic.twitter.com/u9YueVjXzO
— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 5, 2022
Staying unbeaten at 3-0 in the ongoing preseason games ahead of the regular season, the Timberwolves found themselves comfortable with the results of the moves done off-season. Nowell started for the team in their first preseason action against the Heat, tallying 14 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist, highlighted by a 54.5 shooting success rate in a 23-minute showing.
With Russell back, Nowell came off the bench for the Timberwolves the following game, generating 13 points and 4 rebounds in a 15-minute performance in the team’s 114-99 win against the Lakers. Most recently, he posted 11 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, all within an 18-minute off-the-bench showing in the Timberwolves’ nerve-wracking 119-117 triumph against the Clippers.
Say Nowell continues to produce such quality outputs in a limited playtime, he can definitely shine brighter by earning more minutes and eventually grab a spot in the first five.
Stonks are BOOMIN pic.twitter.com/B8s0Xks4rz
— 𝓳𝓸𝓷𝓪𝓱 (@Huncho_Jman) October 5, 2022
With the Timberwolves still unscathed in the preseason games, a promising season ahead awaits the team. Nowell, if given more minutes, will definitely be a threat to watch out for this upcoming season. Led by the Gobert-Towns tandem, with one of the league’s deepest rosters, can the Timberwolves end a 33-year drought and bring the elusive NBA title to Minneapolis?
The Timberwolves still have two exhibition games to play before opening the regular season against the Oklahoma Thunder on October 20.
Jaylen Nowell is set for a big season
His finishing is what gets underrated
Here are two clips of him getting through traffic with ease finishing at the rim pic.twitter.com/iwjAmRbUYs
— 𝓳𝓸𝓷𝓪𝓱 (@Huncho_Jman) October 5, 2022