The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Jaylen Nowell from Washington with the 43rd pick (13th in the 2nd round) of the NBA Draft. Various mock drafts projected Nowell late in the 2nd round or outside the draft, so the relatively high selection validates his decision to leave school after his sophomore year.
Many experts expected the Wolves to target a point guard in the first round, but they chose Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver on the wing instead. With Jeff Teague in the final year of his deal as the only point guard on the roster, the Wolves may ask Nowell to continue developing the playmaking skills he flashed in his second season at Washington. With Gerson Rosas in charge of the franchise after a long stint in Houston, Nowell’s three point proficiency was likely a selling point, as well.
Nowell made it clear soon after the Huskies’ season ended that he intended to go pro and didn’t see much reason to return to school. He tested the draft waters after his freshman year, but ultimately decided to stay for another season. Based on his ranking among prospects, it appears that the extra year helped, but Nowell was always going to have a ceiling around the early part of the second round.
Let’s be clear- in the pool of all human beings, Nowell is an exceptional, phenomenal, outstanding athlete. But compared to other professional basketball players, he doesn’t stand out in size, speed, strength, wingspan, horizontal movement, or leaping ability. In spite of those limitations, Nowell did everything a scout would have asked him to do in his sophomore year. Increase playmaking as a lead ball-handler? Check. Improve three-point shooting? Big check. Become a more efficient scorer within the team dynamic? Check.
The one place his athletic limitations showed up was in Washington’s zone defense. Coach Hopkins often hid Nowell in the corner, and even then, he was beaten by backdoor cuts or failed to recover to an open shooter too often. While he won’t play in a zone at the next level most of the time, he will have to maintain focus within his team’s scheme.
The second round of the draft can be very hard to predict, so Nowell appeared in many different spots. Neither ESPN nor The Ringer projected Nowell to be drafted. The Athletic was relatively high on him and slotted him to the Clippers at 48. NBADraft.net also pegged him to the Clippers, but with their later pick at 56.
In Minnesota, Nowell will play in the back court. As mentioned earlier, the Wolves will only have Teague at the point unless they bring back Tyus Jones or Derrick Rose. On the wing, Nowell will have to scrap for playing time with Culver, Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Josh Okogie, and Keita Bates-Diop.