New Minnesota president of basketball operations
Gersson Rosas took an aggressive tack toward his first draft with
The Timberwolves wound up with another wing player, Jarrett Culver,
and he comes with a strong defensive pedigree.
With the 11th overall selection, the Wolves took North Carolina
small forward Cameron Johnson, but with the intent of trading him
with power forward Dario Saric to Phoenix in a proposed pre-draft
swap that pushed them up five slots for the rights to Culver,
according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. The person
spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday because the trade cannot
become official for salary cap purposes until July 6, when free
agent contracts can be signed.
In the second round, with the 43rd overall selection, the Wolves
took Washington shooting guard Jaylen Nowell.
Culver, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, played two seasons at Texas Tech
, helping the Red Raiders reach the Final Four for the first time
in program history. Culver’s last game was actually in Minnesota
when the Red Raiders lost to Virginia in the NCAA championship game
. He was the first recruit coach Chris Beard contacted after taking
the job, a native of Lubbock, Texas, who stayed in town to play for
the hometown school.
Beard transformed Texas Tech into a defensive machine, and Culver
was his best offensive player. Though he might not fit the profile
of the pure 3-point shooter the Timberwolves have lacked for years,
Culver ought to provide another boost to a team that can surely use
more lockdown defenders, too, just like last year’s first-round
draft pick, Josh Okogie.
”That’s one of the best parts of my game, the defensive side,”
Culver said. ”I feel like I can make an impact on the defensive
side and come in and do that. Also, playing with some great players
over there, I feel like I can make an impact on the offensive end
and be another threat.”
As a sophomore, Culver’s 3-point percentage fell to 30.2 from 38.4
during his freshman year.
”I’m still confident in my shot, for sure. All the work that I’ve
put in, I know it’s going to go in,” Culver said, adding: ”I feel
like a big reason why it dropped is just because I had the ball in
my hands more. I was guarded different by a lot of teams. If you
know the numbers, my freshman year, I wasn’t having off-the-dribble
shots, and I wasn’t really having the ball. It was more kick-out
threes. Then this year, I was really having to take tougher shots.”
Culver said he planned to get in the gym for a late-night workout
once the draft festivities were done. The Timberwolves weren’t
allowed to formally acknowledge him , because of the moratorium on
finalizing the trade, and like some of the other draftees he rather
awkwardly donned a Suns hat on stage and received a Suns wristwatch
as part of the requisite pomp.
”I’m not keeping that,” Culver said later. ”I already gave that
back. I’m making sure I got my Minnesota one on.”
Saric was acquired last November from Philadelphia in the Jimmy
Butler trade, with small forward Robert Covington and point guard
Jerryd Bayless. Covington was the centerpiece, but he played in
only 22 games for the Wolves because of a knee injury.
Saric, thus, wound up with the most visibility. The 6-foot-10
native of Croatia averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 68 games
for Minnesota, getting 28 starts. Saric shot 38.3% from 3-point
range. He can be a restricted free agent next summer, and the
Wolves don’t have much room under the luxury tax threshold after
awarding maximum contracts to center Karl-Anthony Towns and small
forward Andrew Wiggins.
Rosas, who left the Houston Rockets front office last month to take
over the Timberwolves , vowed to use all avenues possible to help
the team return to the playoffs. The only untouchable player on the
roster would be Towns.
”We want to make sure that we’ve got people in place that can grow
and develop with him and peak at the right time,” Rosas said this
week. ”You win in this league with high-end players, and
fortunately on our roster we’ve got a high-end player.”
There’s a lot of work remaining this summer for Rosas. The NBA’s
free agency frenzy, of course, is coming fast, with Derrick Rose,
Taj Gibson and Anthony Tolliver all about to become unrestricted
free agents and Tyus Jones on track to be a restricted free agent.
The rest of the front office and coaching staff have to be filled
out, too. The Timberwolves this week announced the addition of
David Vanterpool as associate head coach. After spending the last
seven seasons as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers,
Vanterpool will essentially be the defensive coordinator for new
coach Ryan Saunders.