It’s Luka Garza Season
Late last night or early this morning, depending on which time zone you were in, news broke that Minnesota Timberwolves breakout big man, Naz Reid, would miss significant time from a broken wrist he suffered during Wednesday’s loss vs the Suns.
Reid’s injury derails the most pleasant surprise of the Wolves’ 2022-23 season. Naz was averaging 11.8 PPG (22.5 per 36 min) and 4.9 RPG (9.5 per 36 min). Nobody expected him to get any run, with both Gobert and KAT ahead of him on the depth chart. But he made it impossible for Finch to keep him off the floor, even after Towns returned from his 50+ game injury hiatus.
the name's Naz Reid. don't forget it.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 23, 2023
26 PTS / 8 REB / 2 STL pic.twitter.com/N1kLYDLrK3
You’d think, given how the Wolves want to tower over teams with multiple big-man lineups, that this would be a huge loss for head coach, Chris Finch. But that may not be the case for Minnesota. In fact, there might not be a team in the league better prepared to absorb the loss of a prolific bench big man like Naz Reid.
Enter Luka Garza
Luka Garza was the most dominant player in the G-League this season, when he played. Maybe that’s why the Timberwolves only let him play 6 games in Iowa this season. Putting him on the floor wasn’t fair for the others on the floor.
In those half-dozen appearances, Garza averaged 32.2 points on 64% shooting (42.9% 3PT), 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. In Iowa’s season finale on March 25, Luka put up 41 points (3 for 4 from 3PT) and 10 rebounds.
47 PTS ???? 15 REB ???? 19/26 FG— NBA G League (@nbagleague) March 26, 2023
Luka Garza ended his G League season with a CAREER-HIGH scoring night for the @iawolves! This was the second 40+ point game of the year for the @Timberwolves two-way star. pic.twitter.com/CD9VS6Z9vP
Because the Minnesota Timberwolves are so stacked in the front court, Luka Garza’s only been active for 26 games this season and averages just 9 minutes per, when available. In those limited minutes, however, the former Iowa Hawkeye is averaging 6.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
Similar per 36 minute players
Remember Naz Reid’s per 36-minute averages? Luka’s 27.1 points are nearly five points per 36 minutes more than Reid’s 22.5. His 9.2 rebounds are nearly identical. How Garza affects the Wolves defensively is yet to be seen.
To help supplement Naz’s minutes, the Timberwolves can also turn to Nathan Knight, another big man who would be getting significantly more run on almost any other NBA roster.
Knight is a bulldog who stands out nearly every time he takes the floor. He can also hit from distance when open and gives the Wolves another viable option if any of the other big men get into foul trouble or run into any injury issues.
|Per 36 Minutes||PTS||REB||AST||STL||BLK||FG%||3PT%|
Losing a really good contributor, in Naz Reid, is unlikely to “help” the Timberwolves. But fans across the NBA will be shocked by how good Luka Garza is over the last handful of regular season games.
Garza is not playoff eligible… for now.
As of now, Garza is not eligible for the playoffs because he is on a two-way contract. The Wolves would have to sign him to a standard NBA deal before the postseason, if they want him on their playoff roster. I’d imagine they make that happen sooner, rather than later.
The Timberwolves have one of their biggest regular season games in franchise history on Friday night, when the LA Lakers come to town. A loss would make it difficult to escape the play-in tournament and put their postseason hopes in doubt all together. A win will send national media into a tailspin and make them near favorites to make the playoffs outright, without having to play-in.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan