MINNEAPOLIS -- As a long, eventful draft night neared its conclusion last month, Gersson Rosas and his staff were working the phones.
Having already acquired Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell, the Timberwolves had one specific undrafted prospect on their radar they knew they wanted, and badly. That player was Naz Reid.
The highly rated, incredibly skilled 6-foot-10 recruit out of high school had a reasonably productive, yet still in some ways underwhelming freshman year at LSU. Still, he was worth taking a chance on.
So the Wolves went after Reid hard, and the 19-year-old agreed to join Minnesota’s roster. The original plan was for Reid to play for the Wolves on a two-way contract this season, spending most of the year in the G League in Iowa, eligible to spend just 45 days with the NBA club.
Then came this month’s Summer League. Reid was dominant, establishing himself as an offensive force for the summer Wolves, who went 6-1 en route to a runner-up finish. He flashed his ability to shoot, score inside, dribble and pass.
“He deserves a lot of credit because what do you do next (after going undrafted)?” asked Rosas, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, who hired in May from the Houston Rockets. “He embraced his opportunity. He was a top target in terms of undrafted prospects. He came in. he worked hard. He made the most of his opportunities. That’s what we want our guys to do. So it speaks a lot about him.”
Minnesota used him in some of the same ways it intends to use Karl-Anthony Towns in the upcoming season, both on offense and defense. Put simply, Reid is a near-perfect fit in the modern NBA. That’s not the kind of guy you keep on a two-way deal.
So, on Thursday, as the Wolves officially introduced draft picks Culver and Nowell to the Twin Cities, Rosas also announced the team had signed Reid to a multi-year contract.
Reid’s deal is for four years and worth up to $6.1 million. The first year of the contract is guaranteed.
“It’s an early fruit of our labor,” Rosas said. “We identified a player that went undrafted who we considered a valuable drafted player in terms of our board. To be able to bring him into the program, evaluate him and see him play in our style and see how productive and talented he is, we were very fortunate that we were able to work something out that worked for him and worked for us and will allow us to invest more in him and develop him at a high level. We’re excited about that success, and our staff deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Rosas noted getting a guy like Reid is essentially like Minnesota having another pick in the draft. The Wolves feel lucky he landed in their lap.
“We were very fortunate,” Rosas said. “We had to fight off other teams. It wasn’t like anybody else wasn’t interested in him. We were able to execute there. We believed in Naz and our vision and how we want to play and what we want to do.”
That the Wolves got a steal became obvious even prior to Summer League. Wolves coach Ryan Saunders knew it during the team’s minicamp in advance of the Las Vegas competition.
“You see his talent and you see what he can be, especially being 19 years old, you see the upside,” Saunders said. “You have him on a two-way, you see him play more games, and it’s probably smart to lock him up, because we see what he could be — his feel for the game, his ability to shoot the ball, his ability to finish inside, and then we liked his attitude, as well.”
Signing Reid to a multi-year deal wasn’t a decision Minnesota rushed into. Along with watching his Summer League performances, Rosas and Saunders spent ample time with Reid in Las Vegas. They got to know him through outings and dinners, and liked what they saw and heard, including an underrated maturity level.
“We love his talent level,” Rosas said. “We love who he is as an individual.”
The person Reid is continues to evolve. Even this draft process helped shape him. Reid said he wasn’t disappointed to go undrafted, but it did humble him, and created a “huge chip on my shoulder.”
“I say this in the humblest way: I don’t feel like there’s many guys who can compare to me in certain aspects,” Reid said. “I’m just happy I get a chance to prove it.”
Reid entered Summer League excited to show exactly what he could do. In a competition setting, he dominated. Reid averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 18 minutes a game.
“I just tried to play the best of my abilities,” Reid said. “Do the things that I can do, more right than wrong, put myself in predicaments and help the team out in a lot of ways that I could. I’m blessed that I have the opportunities to do that this soon. I’m excited, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Will Reid put in the work on a consistent basis? That’s a question he faced in the predraft process. He was criticized for giving less than 100 percent at given times earlier in his career. But unlike many teenagers, Reid recognizes his flaws, and is willing to fix them. This, Reid noted, is a new start.
“I may have taken plays off in high school, college,” Reid said during his news conference Thursday. “Now, every bit of effort in me is going to be displayed on the floor.”
At that point, Saunders almost leaned over to Reid to deliver a message, but instead later shared it with the media.
“You’re right, you’re not going to take plays off, because you’re a professional and that’s what we expect and that’s what we will demand in this organization,” Saunders said. “But with that, we want to be an actions-over-words team. He said that, and Gersson and I are on the same page in that sense where it sounds great, but we need to make sure that we act on those words.”
If his words do indeed translate into actions, then the talented, undrafted big man potentially could go down as one of draft night’s biggest steals.
“He’s got the tools and the talent and skill to be a very special player. What he showed in summer league is just scratching the surface,” Rosas said. “As his body improves with his skill set, the sky’s the limit.”