On Saturday afternoon, the Timberwolves officially acquired wing Jarrett Culver, as part of a draft-day deal. Our Kyle Ratke and Julian Andrews had a quick chat to discuss what Culver brings to the table.
KR: Here we are, about three weeks after the 2019 NBA Draft, and we can finally talk about who the Wolves’ top pick is!
Earlier on Saturday, the team introduced wing Jarrett Culver as part of a trade that sent Cam Johnson and Dario Saric to the Suns.
This is a huge move for this franchise that shows how aggressive Gersson Rosas is going to be in hunting stars. Rosas could have stayed at 11 in the draft, but there was no player with the upside Culver has there. Instead, Rosas went star hunting and went after a player who has wild two-way talent and a pretty high floor and ceiling.
Julian, before I write 400 words in our opening statements, what was your first reaction when you heard Culver was going to the Timberwolves?
JA: Excitement! Opportunities to move up in the draft don’t come around very often, especially at the price the Wolves paid. Saric is a nice player and he will certainly be missed, but adding a player with the youth and potential of Culver to this group is a big win.
It was no secret that the Wolves needed some help on the defensive end last year. Culver could be a huge part of the antidote to their struggles. He’s long, athletic, smart and he plays extremely hard. Sound like anyone else on the roster? Josh Okogie maybe? Robert Covington?
The ability to make life difficult for opposing wings is a top priority for many teams in the NBA right now and the group that the Wolves are putting together right now will have the ability to create chaos.
The defense excites me the most but I also love the offensive fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns. What about you? How do you think Culver fits?
KR: This fit seems about perfect to me.
After hearing Rosas talk after the draft, it sounds like we’ll see Covington play more power forward. While Culver’s shooting numbers were down last season, a big part of that was because he was asked to do more for the Texas Tech offense.
Culver won’t be the go-to scorer for the Wolves and that should open up more easy baskets for him. He can attack and has a good enough shot where you can’t leave him. That bodes well for both him, and Towns. Feed Towns inside and fail to double, you’re looking at an easy basket. Double him, and the Wolves are adding in another player who can shoot. Three points are worth more than two.
There’s not one part of Culver’s game that makes you jump up and down, but it’s the fact that he can do everything well is what’s so intriguing to me. This is a prospect who does everything at a high level and that’s exactly what we’re asking for wings in the NBA in 2019. Call me crazy, but I see a lot of Paul George in Culver.
You thought it was interesting how Culver’s efficiency dipped from his freshman to sophomore season, but you’re optimistic about how he can improve that. Convince me, Julian!
JA: I like the Paul George comparison as Culver’s ceiling! Definitely the thing that needs to come around for him to reach that potential is his shooting. The efficiency drop-off doesn’t worry me at all to be perfectly honest. That’s just what happens when you go from being a supporting option to a lottery pick (Zhaire Smith) to the first player in every single team’s scouting book.
The anecdotes about how hard Culver works are well-documented, but they’re also entirely true! If the Wolves staff tells him that he needs to develop his shot in order to play more, he will do it. There’s nothing wrong with Culver’s shooting mechanics and he has the length to shoot over almost anyone so his ability to be efficient will be contingent primarily on his focus on improving. That, as we’ve already outlined, shouldn’t be an issue.
Taking a player who doesn’t have the raw tools and teaching them how to be productive is far harder than helping a player who already has a ton of skills and elite physical attributes sharpen their game. There’s so much to work with in Culver’s case and he will have no pressure to deliver scoring right away. This is a great environment for him to develop in.
KR: I think this says a lot about this front office, too. This group is going to be aggressive in finding impact players, and won’t be afraid to be creative, too. I like that and Wolves fans should be, too. It also shows how much work this group did during the scouting process leading up the draft. They were prepared to draft at any place and because of that, they had intel on any player who could be available. Getting Jaylen Nowell in the second round was also a nice get, as was adding Naz Reid (a McDonald’s All-American two years ago) to their Summer League roster.
The Wolves have three more preliminary games in Summer League, and I’d imagine we’ll see Culver in at least a couple of them. Make sure to continue to refresh Timberwolves.com for a whole bunch of coverage. We’ve got the whole content crew out here.