The Timberwolves are 3-0 in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, and they've done it without the help of rookie Jarrett Culver.
Culver, the sixth overall pick in last month's NBA Draft, is not injured. The Wolves simply don't want to risk injury by rushing him into game action just days after finally welcoming him to the team after he signed on Sunday.
Minnesota acquired Culver by trading up with Phoenix in the draft, and because the NBA's rules are goofy, the Wolves weren't allowed to have any contact with him until July 6.
“We’d love for him to play here but realistically he’s too important to us,” President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said, via SKOR North. “The way things are, not having had a chance to do the full training camp with our team, not having played 5-on-5 in such a long time. He’s too important. He’s here doing practices and individual work. But for him and for us, we decided the best thing was not to have him participate.
"We’ll build him up through the rest of the summer, but he’s too important not to have him play right now.”
Culver hasn't played a 5-on-5 game since the NCAA national championship between Texas Tech and Virginia at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on April 8.
"In a way it's difficult but I control what I can control. At the end of the day, I just stayed in the game and made sure I'm in sure and stay working on my craft," Culver said Monday in Vegas.
Saunders plans versatile role for Culver
Head coach Ryan Saunders spoke Sunday and said Culver could play all over the floor with the Wolves, raving about the 20-year-old's ability to guard multiple positions and attract defenders on the offensive end, not to mention play some point guard.
"He played some point guard at Texas Tech, so I see him fitting in perfectly with that," Saunders said. "You'd like to have a point guard, but having a guy like Andrew Wiggins or Jarrett Culver bring the ball up the floor, that's not a bad thing."
Don't expect Culver or Wiggins to be the primary point guard.
"If he gets the rebound – we've been working all summer on positions being interchangeable – so if he gets the rebound, he has the ability to bring the ball up the floor," Saunders added.
Saunders added that he's "very confident" Culver will be a 3-point threat in the NBA. He shot just 30.4% from 3 as a sophomore in college, but connected on 38.4% of his 3s as a freshman.
Expect the Wolves to play frequently with a point guard, three wings and one big man. For example, that could mean a lineup of Jeff Teague, Wiggins, Culver, Robert Covington and Karl-Anthony Towns.