Wolves coach Ryan Saunders was providing a point of reference, not necessarily a player-to-player parallel.
Saunders was asked about Naz Reid. The 6-10 rookie center has gone from being undrafted in June out of LSU to being signed to a two-way deal by the Wolves to starring on the Wolves’ entry in the summer league in Las Vegas. He played so well the team converted that contract into a partly guaranteed multiyear NBA deal.
“The unique thing about Naz is that he’s got a similar skill set — and I hope you guys take this the right way — to KAT,” Saunders said.
KAT would be Karl-Anthony Towns, the player the Wolves are building their future around.
No, Reid is not where Towns is. Not close. But the Wolves have seen enough out of Reid to know he has skills that translate into today’s game. He has range with his jump shot that extends beyond the three-point line. He can also play inside. He has passing skills that would allow him to make plays from the high post.
But, Saunders cautioned, it will take time to see that talent mature.
“Naz is young,” he said. “He’s really young. But he’s a guy that, like I was saying, he can do different things. He’s a big body. … He’ll continue to grow, but I don’t want to put a timetable on when he’d be getting minutes in a real game environment.”
Reid, 20, played in the team’s first three preseason games but did not play Tuesday in Indiana. He averaged 6.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in those three games, averaging 13.6 minutes.
The Wolves want Reid to work on his rebounding, a very important job for any center playing for the Wolves, who figure to play a lot with a small lineup. Also, Reid has been working hard on his defense.
It would appear Reid could see a lot of his development playing for the Iowa Wolves in the G League.
Reid, who has been learning all he can from Towns during training camp, said there is value learning at the NBA level even without minutes. But the prospect of playing big minutes in the G League has value, too.
“You’re able to get run and you’re able to understand the game from another perspective,” Reid said. “That’s definitely something I wouldn’t mind doing. It would benefit me a lot.”
With a number of young players in need of development, the Wolves’ link to their G League team is more important than ever, one reason Sam Newman-Beck was brought back as head coach in Iowa.
Newman-Beck was with the Wolves for eight seasons as video coordinator and coaching associate before spending last season as an assistant in Atlanta. Newman-Beck and Saunders know each other well. The lines of communication between the Timberwolves and the Iowa Wolves will be wide open.
“On our staff we have a coach who’s a designated liaison,” Saunders said. “So when we install something new, he can relay that to the assistants down there. Sam Newman-Beck is somebody I’ve known for years and have a lot of respect for and really like. So he will do right when we talk to him when it comes to players, systems. He is all in with the Wolves.”
And that just makes any time spent in Des Moines with the Iowa Wolves more valuable. Especially to a young player.
“You can’t substitute the competition of game environments,” Saunders said. “When guys have the opportunity to play in Iowa — we’re committed to Iowa, too. That’s a big part of our program here with the Wolves.”