NBA: Three breakout candidates from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2022-23

We are very close. Only one month until Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball.

But until then, we have no choice but to apply the trends we saw from a successful season last year to an expected success imminently this year, although no one knows how this will look at the opening advice; Maybe even Chris Finch hasn’t done that yet.

Behind the much-needed step in the franchise’s progression in the form of meaningful, regular season and post-season games in 2021 was years of player development during seasons that many didn’t care about.

Indeed, Rudy Gobert’s trade would not have been possible without the development of said player, and the guys stepped up their roles (specifically Jared Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley come to mind here).

Even though this list of Wolves has been the most talented in years, there are still signs of big questions that need to be answered. These answers should come in the form of players who have not previously answered them on a consistent basis.

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Jaylene Noel

Noel is the obvious #1 candidate here. Finch has been glowing about it all season, and there seems to be a lot of optimism that Nowell has more gear we can see this season. But how often does it appear that they are lying in the hands of defensive performance.

After dropping out of college in Washington, where he won the Pac 12 Player of the Year, he was seen as a bucket-list player who needed to tune in and complement the playmaking and defensive elements of his game in order to cut a role.

Three seasons later, we’re seeing the fruits of that work. Nowell was more flexible and confident hitting the basket last season than last season. He did so without flipping the ball too, turning it over on only 6.8% of the possessions he used the ball on, putting him in 94 percent, per cleaning the glasses.

He fired 60% of his shots under five feet (almost 10% better than 2020-21), and he continues to be one of the best shooters on the team from 5-14 feet (midrange), which is where we’ve seen him. He starts cutting a role for himself in 2020. Noel called 47% of his mid-range looks (63-134) last season, placing him at 84 percent, per cleaning the glasses.

Another interesting note? I will do it in the form of a blind resume in ISO numbers for NBA statistics since last year.

Noel: 6.2% frequency | 46.2% FG | 48.2% eFG

Mysterious operator: 9.4% frequency | 43.4% FG | 51.4% eFG

mysterious player? D’Angelo Russell. Do they get different defensive attention? definitely. However, something like this is still encouraging. Russell is a good ISO player. That, combined with Finch’s general outlook for Noel’s expanding gaming arsenal, will make him a prime candidate to take another step this season. His best role would probably be similar to that of fellow Seattle teammate Jamal Crawford in 2017-18, but he’s imbued with more passing and less cadence away from the attack.

AFP/Rick Bomer

Eric Paschall

Heading to free agency, I thought Paschall could be a good candidate for the Wolves’ semi-annual exception. Turns out, continued teammate Rudy Gobert came in with less than that as a two-way player and would fight for a spot on the roster in camp.

Paschal’s career has fallen a bit off his impressive rookie campaign, but I think part of that has to do with transforming the system from Golden State Warriors to me Utah Jazz. Now in a system that plays faster, with a more creative offensive coach, I think Paschall has a chance of being an interesting story if he can make his way onto the ground.

He’s not the best defensive player, but he’s been the most effective in terms of net rank as he plays alongside a strong, perimeter defender. He earned one of the best net ratings in jazz last year, playing alongside Hassan Whiteside in the line-up of two players.

While he had an overall negative net worth rating among all the minutes he played alongside Joubert, that veered significantly in a more positive direction when Joe Engels or Mike Conley were added into the mix. Is it unfair to assume that something similar wouldn’t happen next to Joubert and Jaden McDaniels, or an improved ball defender at Anthony Edwards?

Paschall is talented at the offensive end, but if he makes the list and finds more balance in his game, I think he could find himself a role.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Toronto Raptors

Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Nas Red

This will be the third time this season I’ve played the Nas Red drum, and it’s three times more than I thought a few months ago. But while many believe Joubert’s move marked the end of Reed in Minnesota, I’m starting to love his fitness on this team more and more.

Yes, he shoots more than 40% of the corners. Yes, he is a dodge-able driver. But wolves have never had the individuals to deploy in large formations on a more consistent basis. His minutes with the KAT were up and down, but I think a lot of that is because they weren’t able to happen much with how the spin works. Now with Joubert in the fold, I feel very comfortable in saying that he will never be the biggest player in the squad.

For years, Wolves have been making calls to try and move PJ Tucker to Minnesota due to how much Swiss Army Knife he can be, his interchangeability in defense and ability to shoot the ball in attack. Let’s say for a moment that Reed’s feet are getting a little faster, and he’s guarding his 4s with a bit of consistency. Could it be the opposite? A competent defender and little offensive weapon, gives the opportunity to play more minutes and build a relationship with a senior in Gobert or KAT? It certainly begs the question.

We hope to hear more from this song in 2022-23.