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The Timberwolves have a group of young talent that, over the course of the summer, have an opportunity to take significant strides in their games and help the team take that next step into playoff contention. Rookies Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee and second-year player Wes Johnson are part of that group and are the top candidates to participate in Summer League in Las Vegas on July 13-22. In Part 2 of this three-part series, Timberwolves.com breaks down Lee’s rookie year and looks ahead to his development over the summer.
Biggest strengths in 2011-12
Defensive presence: Lee spent more than half of the season recovering from December knee surgery and working on his game in the NBA Development League, but when he began getting minutes with the Wolves during an injury-plagued March and April he filled in admirably on the defensive end. Lee’s 6-foot-5 frame and athletic ability enticed Minnesota to make a deal for him last summer, and both give him the opportunity to be a combo guard in this league. “He’s got the size to play combo. He can defend really well,” assistant coach Terry Porter said. “He’s got the physicality, the quickness, the strength.”
Court awareness: Like other rookies, Lee didn’t have the benefit of working out with his NBA team over the summer, and in the first three months of the season much of his focus was on rehabilitation. Still, Lee showed he has a feel for where his teammates are on the court and can make both the easy and difficult passes when handling the ball.
Off-court preparation: One thing his teammates noticed was Lee’s preparation away from the court. He kept himself ready physically, and though his plays were limited he continued to study the Wolves’ playbook and watched how his teammates executed on the floor. “He’s doing everything right outside the court,” guard JJ Barea said. “So inside the court just stay aggressive, run the team and I think he’s going to do a good job of that.”
What to work on this summer
Leading the offense: The Wolves would like to see Lee be able to play off the ball but also be able to lead the offense at the point guard spot with more authority moving forward. At times this season when Lee was on the floor he had trouble keeping the offense flowing freely. With Ricky Rubio and a combination of Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea injured down the stretch, Lee was the next in line to enter the game at the point. Being able to transfer to either position seamlessly is the next step in his development. “Our offense is going to be extremely valuable to him and his future,” player development coach Shawn Respert said. “He’s able to turn corners and get to the basket and accelerate in small spaces, and he can finish at the rim as well as create opportunities for other people to drive to the basket.”
Shooting efficiency: Lee’s season-high in scoring came April 16 when he scored nine points against Indiana, but he finished the year averaging 3.3 points per game. He shot 39 percent from the floor and was 2-for-10 from 3-point range on the season. Being able to connect from distance and having a higher scoring efficiency on the offensive end will take Lee’s game to another level.
“I’m feeling comfortable. The more I play, the more I get used to the style of play and playing with my teammates.” — Malcolm Lee
“We were really happy with his progress. He’s a guy we think has a great ability to defend the basketball—on the ball as well as from the weak side of the floor. He’s got good size. He can play the 1 or the 2.” — Player development coach Shawn Respert
“When you’re young, those are the same things I went through. Until you’re on the floor, you start building your confidence. Saying you kind of belong. You can watch it, but until you get out there in the heat of the battle, that’s when you really get a chance to mature and grow and improve your game.” — Assistant coach Terry Porter
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