September 25, 2022

When the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted forward Josh Minott from Memphis in the second round of the 2022 NBA draft with the No. 45 pick, many thought it would be a multi-year draft.

Considering Minott only played 14.6 minutes per game and had largely disappointing averages per game, that was understandable. But tonight, Minott showed improved play from what we saw in Memphis, thriving in the fast, paced, space style of play to the next level.

The former four-star prospect got off to a slow start, working his way through things in the first quarter, but exploded in the second quarter. He scored 11 of his game-high 22 points, showcasing his athleticism and finishing. The rookie also rolled a 3 with an improved shot.

Minott made just two of his 14 3-point attempts in his rookie season at Memphis, but made two tonight with a willingness to let him fly with confidence if given the space. After doing both, the defense started to close in on him which allowed him to pull his defender off the dribble for a nice bucket inside as well. He also made high-energy plays on glass.

“Overall, I feel like I got into the thick of it. It’s like a lawn mower. Once I started, I kept going,” Minott said after the match. “Energy is everything. I am energy. I feel like I am the embodiment of it.”

His defensive versatility was the lucrative skill that NBA teams were most interested in, and it’s easy to see why. Minott turned well at the back, moved well laterally and made a block in the clutch to help seal the victory for Minnesota as well.

He needs to improve his grip in order to more effectively create space from his defenders off the dribble, but hopefully that will play a big role with the Iowa Wolves in the G-League. Despite this, it was a very encouraging performance.

When the final buzzer sounded, Minott’s line showed 22 points on 8/15 shooting (including 2/3 from 3 and 4/4 from the line), 10 rebounds, three assists and one block in 25 minutes of action. .

After leading the offense as a playmaker for much of the first quarter, Wendell Moore Jr. became more aggressive off the ball and joined in the scoring fun in the second quarter. The No. 26 overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft scored eight of his 10 points on 3/3 shooting during the quarter. He moved extremely well off the ball and opened up before using excellent footwork to set up two very fluid 3-pointers.

Moore Jr.’s play proved that his grip is still a bit shaky, as he’s not used to playing full-time point guard against heavy all-court pressure and half-court traps, but the reps will help him. He struggled in the fourth quarter but got erratic time on the ball and faced a Nuggets defense with long defenders who increased the aggression to try to rally from a double-digit deficit.

Boosting Moore Jr.’s confidence should be a key priority this season for Wolves’ front office, who will need him to become a top player given their lack of draft capital going forward. That shouldn’t be a problem, however, as Moore Jr. has proven to be quite effective as a complement to the most used players such as Tre Jones, Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin.

He finished with 10 points on 4/9 shooting, including 2/3 from deep, and four rebounds in 26 minutes.

Minott’s second-round pick Matteo Spagnolo, dubbed the “Italian Ricky Rubio” raised some eyebrows with his play. He showed great feel in the pick-and-roll, throwing several big rebound passes that led to buckets, fouls or open eyes on the extra pass. He also made a few plays defensively, including this one that led to a transition triple at the other end.

He didn’t run as much as Minott or Moore Jr., given he’ll be a draft and hideout player, but played better than the box score showed. Spagnolo scored three runs and gave out a pair of dimes in 16 minutes.

The highlight of the night came when guard Kevon Harris absolutely exploded on Matt Mitchell for a clutch and -1 that turned out to be the game-winning bucket.

Harris also moved his feet well on defense to cut drives, and made some impressive passes on the drive en route to a 13-point performance to go along with two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes.

Next up for Wolves is a Sunday night showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.