Justin Patton, the Wolves’ first-round pick in June’s draft — No. 16 overall — made his professional debut Friday night for the G League’s Iowa Wolves.
Patton, playing for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot in early July, played just a doctor-mandated 16 minutes. He made five of nine shots, all five of his free throws for 15 points and added seven rebounds and four blocks.
A good debut, according to Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau.
“I saw a few clips,’’ Thibodeau said. “And [Iowa coach] Scott Roth sent a report in. He played four segments. The first one, struggled a little bit, which is to be expected. And each segment he got better and better. It gives us a baseline. So it was good.’’
“Everyone was doing a good job of getting me acclimated to the game, and that’s why we started off a little slow,’’ Patton said. ‘‘I think it was just good to get everybody on the same page. You know, I haven’t played with these guys before, and this was all the steps of being a great team, me helping them and them also helping me. We’ve all got a job to do, and I feel like today we did it and got the W.”
Patton’s stint with the Iowa Wolves will be his training camp. That means it will be a stint that is at least a few weeks long.
To Thibodeau there is no substitute for game action. And while the G League is a level below the NBA, he says Patton needs extended playing time, something he’ll get in Iowa.
“We want to make sure he can handle playing a certain amount of minutes in a game there,’’ Thibodeau said. “Basically it’s three, four weeks of games and practices. That sort of thing.’’
Eventually Patton will return to the Timberwolves, and there is still a chance he could contribute this season.
“I don’t want to put a lid on it,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’ll see how he develops, that’s the big thing. I think he’s gotten a lot better from when he first came in. Look back at his experience, he got better as he went along, from high school to Creighton, and then coming here. He keeps getting better and better. We’ll see how it develops.’’
Patton has a lot of rust to shake off. He got hurt during offseason workouts, missing the chance to play in the Vegas Summer League. He needs to work on his midrange jumper. But he has the ability to defend the rim right away.
“That’s really what we want him for,’’ Thibodeau said. “But he’s skilled, in terms of playmaking ability, dribble handoffs, that sort of thing, the ability to run the floor and put pressure on the rim. I think he’ll continue to get better and better as a shooter.’’
• Thibodeau said Nemanja Bjelica, who has missed eight games because of a left midfoot sprain, still is not taking full part in practice. “He’s feeling better,’’ Thibodeau said. “So we’ll see where he is [Sunday].’’
The Wolves will not rush Bjelica. They want him fully healthy before returning him to action so he isn’t in danger of injuring the foot again.
“I don’t want him going back and forth,’’ Thibodeau said. “So when he’s ready we’ll go forward with it. He’s moving around a lot better. That’s a good sign.’’
• Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins is playing big minutes. “I don’t really get tired,’’ said Wiggins, who, along with teammate Jimmy Butler, is tied for fifth in the league in minutes played per game (36.9). “I’m only 22. I can run forever. For now.’’