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Has Naz Reid become Minnesota's main commercial asset?

techsm5

The Minnesota Timberwolves have hovered around .500 during this tough December game schedule without Karl-Anthony Towns. They are also missing other key players like Jordan McLaughlin and Taurean Prince. Even Rudy Gobert missed a few games. Still, Wolves did the best they could to stay afloat.

In the 13 games since the fall of KAT in late November against the Washington Wizards, Wolves have maintained a record near .500 (6-7). Minnesota is currently the 11th seed in the Western Conference, still battling teams like the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder for a playing spot. A 6-7 record is average according to most NBA team standards, but it’s better than even some Wolves fans might have expected the team to play. They have been plagued by injuries this month and have had a poor start to the season.

Big credit has to go to the players who have stepped up extensively for the shorthanded Wolves. Anthony Edwards has reached a milestone as a pseudo-point guard, and players like Jaden McDaniels and D’Angelo Russell have also reached the level many fans hoped to achieve this season.

However, the emergence of Naz Reid might be the biggest surprise. With KAT’s injury and a few games Gobert hasn’t played this month, Reid has taken the opportunity to present himself as a versatile and valuable big man.

Naz played little in the 15 games where KAT and Gobert were healthy. He averaged just 7.6 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, and was completely out of the rotation for some games. Depending on the game, it was sometimes difficult for Chris Finch to find playing time for himself with Minnesota’s busy frontcourt.

Reid, however, has stepped up his 13 games since the fall of KAT. He’s averaging 13.7 points per game and 7.9 rebounds on effective shooting splits of 61.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.

Reid also had some monster games during that 13-game streak that were arguably some of the best nights of his NBA career so far. Against OKC on December 16, Naz had 28 points, 9 rebounds and shot 3-5 from deep, helping Wolves win that night. Reid had another big game against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 19, with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Perhaps just as impressive? Naz only committed two fouls in 40 minutes of playing time that night. By avoiding fouls, Reid could play most of the game for Wolves and help them to victory against the Mavs.

When Reid is on the pitch, he offers Wolves a skill set as a big man closer to KAT than Gobert. Naz has good ball control for a player his size, makes quick decisions on set pieces and can stretch the ground. Reid provides the team with needed offensive versatility that Gobert cannot provide.

Hardly anyone would go so far as to say that Reid offers more defensively than Gobert. However, Naz’s defensive abilities and his impact on that side of the pitch for this team doesn’t diminish too much compared to Gobert. So far this season, Naz has a defensive rating of 110.4, averaging 0.5 steals and 1 block per game. By comparison, Gobert has a defensive rating of 109.6 averaging 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Reid has agility for his size, can light up screens and defend well at the edge. He’s also more than capable of being a positive defender when he’s on the court, which is evident with Minnesota’s play this month.

However, Wolves have to consider Reid’s contract situation. Naz is currently in the final year of the 4-year, $6.1million contract he signed with Wolves after being drafted in 2019. He is expected to earn $1.9million this year and be a free agent without restriction after this season.

Tim Connelly and the Minnesota front office invested $360 million in Towns and Gobert. Therefore, they have a tough decision on whether or not to re-sign Naz.

With Wolves also having to make decisions on extensions with DLo and Jaylen Nowell, they might not be able to afford a big extension for Reid. That’s unless Wolves are willing to pay the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, which we’re not sure if Wolves ownership is willing to do at this point. In most cases, league owners are more willing to exceed the luxury tax if the team has always been a title contender and has made long playoffs, as they believe the gain outweighs the luxury tax in these cases. However, for Wolves, it’s just not too clear if the team, as currently constructed, is a true contender in the stacked Western Conference.

Looking at their allocated cap space for their players already under contract and considering any potential new free agent deals next summer, Wolves could likely offer Reid between $8 million and $12 million a year if they look to extend it. However, Reid could potentially get more from a different team with more cap space.

However, the contract itself will probably not be the only factor. For Reid, this month of basketball has been an opportunity for him to be more of a focal point at center. It is the purest desire of any young player trying to establish himself in this league. Reid, 23, has shown continuous improvement over the past four years and has rightfully earned his way to a bigger role on an NBA team.

Ultimately, Reid might find better opportunities elsewhere. With KAT and Gobert taking up most of the frontcourt minutes when both are healthy, this leaves Naz at a disadvantage to maximizing his development and recognition as a big man in the league.

Because of this, Wolves may be looking to trade Naz before this year’s trade deadline (February 9 at 2:00 p.m. CT). Some fans will be sad to potentially see Naz go someday this season. However, he could be a valuable trade piece for Wolves to win back draft capital or get players to help them with other needs.

Regardless of what happens, Naz has played well when asked for more this season. He is undoubtedly earning his way to a big salary or a new opportunity with another team that could use him more and allow him to reach his full potential. Now we just have to wait and see how Naz continues to progress playing for this team while KAT remains out and what the foreseeable future will look like for one of Minnesota’s hometown players.

techsm5

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