Points of promise, room for improvement for important young players

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The Timberwolves’ final Summer League game of 2023 is set for Saturday in Las Vegas, when they take on Charlotte at 1:30 p.m.

That marks the unofficial beginning of the offseason for rookies like Leonard Miller, and the final audition for many other players on the roster hoping to make an impression on the organization in hopes of either grabbing Minnesota’s final two-way spot or potentially a place on the Iowa Wolves G-League roster.

For all, it signals the end of another opportunity to showcase abilities. Here’s what we learned about a few of the primary players from their time on the Wolves’ Summer League roster:

Leonard Miller

The rookie forward has flashed plenty of potential with his expanding offensive game, consistent efforts on the glass and defensive capabilities.

The second-round draft pick has two double-doubles and a 20-point showing to his name in four games so far, and it’s quite evident he’s only getting started.

“I think for him, you see a lot of talent out there,” Timberwolves Summer League coach Max Lefevre told reporters. “He’s, at times, going to get a little confused on what we’re doing, and not playing in the NBA yet, you just see him surviving off talent and still making plays, but I think he has a lot to learn and get the details together of the NBA game. To his credit, to be able to put up the stat line he has and have the games that he’s had without any of those concepts in his head is pretty impressive.”

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Still, Lefevre said, the Timberwolves will need him to pick things up quickly. He noted the 19-year-old is a fast learner who has had a lot on his plate during his time in Las Vegas, including morning sessions at the NBA’s rookie transition program.

But the physical tools have already jumped off the screen.

“I think his length and athleticism, his versatility. We’ve been on him about switching up and being able to move his feet, and I think versatility is going to be key offensively and defensively in order for him to be really good,” Lefevre said. “So that’s why we’re trying to put him in this situation right now. It’s really good for his growth, and that’s what he’s going to have to do to last in this league.”

Josh Minott

Minott, the No. 45 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, was perhaps the most anticipated player Timberwolves fans wanted to see in action again in Las Vegas. He hasn’t disappointed, scoring with solid efficiency while also doing his share on the glass.

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Lefevre has liked the volume at which Minott has gotten into the paint on offense.

“He gives us a lot around the basket, so his (shooting) percentage is up, as well,” Lefevre said. “I think he can improve as a finisher, but I was happy how he drove the ball to show some ball skills, take some guys off the dribble. So I think that’s growth from him.”

Minott had a three-steal game in Minnesota’s loss to Atlanta but has just one takeaway in the Wolves’ other three games combined. Minott fancies himself to have the potential to be an elite on-ball defender, but Lefevre feels there are more opportunities to be opportunistic.

“It’s crazy, he can get as many deflections as he wants. He has very quick hands and obviously great length when he’s super active,” Lefevre said. “He just has a tendency of kind of standing up and not being ready to go and just like hopping around. When he’s locked in and in his stance, he can get anywhere before anybody else on the floor. He’s just got to stay locked in the whole game. I think that’s where he can see growth.”

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Brandon Williams

The 23-year-old guard saw his day cut short Thursday against Sacramento, playing just 10 minutes before exiting with a knee contusion. Before that, though, Williams made a strong case for potentially nabbing Minnesota’s final two-way spot.

He averaged an efficient 21.3 points over his first three games in Las Vegas.

The Wolves could still stand to improve their point guard depth. Williams even has some NBA experience under his belt, having played for Portland on a 10-day contract last season.

“Stabilizer. He’s just super steady, he just plays the same — down, up. I feel very confident when the ball is in his hands to make the right decisions,” Lefevre said. “So he’s been kind of our leader with the ball in his hands. He’s had some really good moments, so yeah, he’s kind of forging a role out there for us.”

Wendell Moore Jr.

The Timberwolves’ first-round pick from 2022 was an intriguing name to circle ahead of Summer League, but he missed two games in Las Vegas with knee soreness. In his two appearances to date, Moore is averaging 14 points while shooting at a 32-percent clip from the field.

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