MINNEAPOLIS -- Gersson Rosas arrived at the Timberwolves’ practice facility early on Thursday morning, July 18, walking in with a team scout around 6:30 a.m.
There was already someone there to open the door for Minnesota’s president of basketball operations upon his arrival: rookie wing Jarrett Culver.
Culver was actually on his way out, having already completed his morning workout.
“That was my first time, whether as an assistant or a head coach, that a player probably beat me to the gym,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “So that got me excited.”
Culver has had that affect on many around the organization. Though the public hasn’t had a chance to see the first-round pick Minnesota moved up in the draft to nab last month, the Wolves have.
Saunders has been “very impressed” with the 20-year-old’s workouts.
The Timberwolves aren’t going to take the next step as an organization until they possess a star perimeter player to complement Karl-Anthony Towns. The easiest way for Minnesota to accrue such a player is to develop one from within. The thought for years was that player would have to be Andrew Wiggins, who is signed to a max contract.
But what if it’s Culver?
This is the guy who served as the best player on a Texas Tech team that was runner-up in this spring’s NCAA Tournament. He was not only the Red Raiders’ best defender, but also often the one initiating the team’s offense.
“The guy can really play,” Rosas said. “He plays on both ends, offensively and defensively. He’s a playmaker, he’s a scorer, he’s a finisher. We’re going to work to improve his shooting, but offensively we feel like he’s pretty complete.”
And if Culver does have any weaknesses, he’ll be sure to address them in short order. Saunders described the young wing as “diligent.”
“No. 1, he’s a winner; No. 2, he’s a professional,” Rosas said. “The stories you hear about that is going to be much more common. The guy worked out after the draft. The guy worked out this morning. He’s a professional. To have a college kid who comes out of Lubbock, who leads his local school to the NCAA championship game, those things don’t happen by accident. Adding those virtues to our program are special. It’s our DNA. It’s what we want to be our identity.”
Rosas already has identified Culver as a “high-end player,” and while he’s emphasized the draft as a three- or four-year developmental process, Culver could be an immediate contributor. The best players often are.
“He’s going to get every opportunity,” Rosas said. “The reality is, special players in this league do good things in their early years. To be fair, there’s some guys that do it in Year 3 or Year 4, so everybody’s different. But he’s going to be given every opportunity to see what he can do and see if he can help. But it will be up to him and will be up to how the team looks in terms of addressing our needs.”
His playmaking and defensive prowess would figure to fill a couple of Minnesota’s most glaring holes. But, as much as anything, the Wolves need someone who can create for himself and others in the closing minutes of a tight game.
Perimeter stars win teams close games.
Culver wants to be that guy.
“You live for those moments, and those are moments that I worked for, and I’m gonna take advantage of that,” Culver said. “Those opportunities that I have, and it’s something you dream of — hitting that buzzer-beater, or being that guy you go to, because that speaks volumes about you.”
Discussing Culver, Rosas said, “when your best players are your hardest workers, they set the tone for your program.”
If Culver isn’t already one of Minnesota’s “best players,” the organization’s hope is he will become that — and more — sooner than later.
“You’ve got a young man who is very motivated, is very focused, has a lot of character and has a lot of desire to be great,” Rosas said. “We feel like he’s going to see that fulfilled with the Timberwolves.”