Jaylen Nowell put up a lot of tantalizing numbers when he played for the Timberwolves' G-League affiliate at Iowa a season ago.
Nowell, a second-round pick from 2019, averaged 21 points, but the number that stuck out most was 44% — that's what he shot from three-point range.
If Nowell could translate that efficiency to the NBA level, he'd likely find himself in the rotation on a regular basis.
Nowell has played his first significant minutes of the season over the past three games. He had 12 points in 16 minutes against Golden State, 10 in 23 minutes against Philadelphia and a career-high 13 in 19 minutes vs. Cleveland.
"Playing with other players who I haven't really played with consistently, it's taken a little bit of time to read them and for them to read me as well," Nowell said. "We're still in that process of learning each other consistently, so that's definitely something that's been challenging, but we're up for that challenge."
In his limited time at the NBA level, Nowell has shot just 8-for-45 from three-point range, and that, he said, is partly a product of growing accustomed to playing with different players when he's on the floor.
"It's pretty challenging, just because I don't know when I'm going to get it, don't know certain guys' tendencies, so that's certainly challenging," Nowell said. "But the more reps we will get, the more I'll be able to read off guys. It's actually been happening faster than I thought it would."
Even though he's not shooting at the clip he was at Iowa, Nowell has had an uptick in production. He shot just 36% overall and 12% from three-point range in 15 games last season. Through fives this season he was at 48% overall, 31% on three-pointers.
"I had a lot of people tell me not to be so hard on myself after last year," Nowell said. "But just as a competitor and somebody who normally does shoot the ball fairly well, it definitely was frustrating. Over the summer, [I was] just shooting thousands of shots a day to make sure that when the opportunity comes again, that I will make the majority of them."
Friend to friend
Wolves coach Ryan Saunders and Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff go back to their time spent together at the U with Saunders saying on Sunday that Bickerstaff and Wolves player development assistant Kevin Burleson were the ones charged with showing Saunders around campus when he came for a visit before attending the U.
"That's a long time ago," Saunders said.
Without revealing too many details, Saunders said he had a good time on the visit.
"JB was on staff at the time there, so I hung more with KB than some of the other guys, but those guys are just fun to be around," Saunders said. "They can have a conversation with whoever and they showed that Dinkytown, that Stadium Village is a fun place to be."
Saunders said he also admired how Bickerstaff has spoken up and devoted his time and energy to causes of social justice. Bickerstaff serves on a coaches committee dedicated to that cause.
"He's been very vocal and vocal in a way that is forcing action," Saunders said. "I love that about him and love that he's reaching out to coaches and taking initiatives seriously and he's helping us become better. He's helping someone like myself find my voice more so when it comes to social justice issues and seeing how I can help be an ally in those areas."