Naz Reid: From Undrafted to Timberwolves’ Unsung Hero

When Timberwolves center Naz Reid went undrafted in 2019, it came as a surprise to many. The New Jersey native was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit who played only one season at LSU (13.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG) before declaring for the NBA Draft.

Following stints with the Timberwolves’ G League team in 2019, Reid finally got his call to the big leagues when Karl-Anthony Towns’ season was derailed by a wrist injury. Now, Naz is an integral backup to Towns amid the Wolves’ best start since 2018, carving out a career based on work ethic, gritty play, and the ability to stretch the floor.

Reid sat down with Sports Section to discuss what kept him going after he went undrafted, his long-standing relationship with Towns, and how he’s been able to transition into a career 34.2% 3PT shooter.

***

I think some of the most inspiring players in the NBA are those who go undrafted and make a name for themselves. What emotions/thoughts did you have when your name wasn’t called that night, and how do you feel now in your third season?

On Draft Night I was definitely a little hurt, but at the end of the day, I knew that the job wasn’t done. I knew what I was capable of, and I still had to go out there and be the best version of myself. It was up to me to prove to other people what I had to offer. I’m feeling really confident this season — we have a great team and are ready to win. For me, I know that people are depending on me — I’ve got mouths to feed, so I’m more motivated than ever.  

Is there anyone who gave you worthwhile advice or life lessons along the way that helped keep your eyes on the prize? 

Someone who has always been by my side and kept me focused is my uncle. Throughout the process, he constantly told me just to keep focused and that this is a journey. It’s easy to want things immediately, but he just kept telling me that there is a process, and with hard work these things will come with time. 

What’s your relationship like with Karl-Anthony Towns? 

I’ve known Karl-Anthony Towns since I was in the seventh grade, so I’ve had experience playing both with him and against him. With our whole past and basically growing up together through basketball, we’ve created a really close relationship. It’s cool that after all this time we get to play together again, especially at such a high level. 

There have been a lot of changes in Minnesota since you signed, specifically in the front office/coaching staff. What are some of the challenges that come with that, and what are you most excited about with this team going forward?

One of the biggest challenges for me is that the front office and coaches who initially brought me in are no longer there. Those are the people who gave me a chance and allowed me to grow into my role. It’s still different getting to see new faces every single day, but when it comes to this season, we are so dialed in and ready to go. Our biggest task at hand is to go all in and get something done for Minnesota.

You became a reliable three-point shooter this past season — the new norm for bigs in the NBA. When did you start working on that part of your game, and how difficult was it?

For me, it’s about being an all-around great player, so I’ve always been at work with my three-point shots. I realized at a real young age that it’s not enough to just be a good defensive player — you really need to be able to contribute to both sides of the court. Growing up, all my friends were guards, so I was always doing all the drills that they would do, and little did I know how much it would come back and help me now. It only gets really difficult when you stop practicing it, and then you can lose the skills — it’s important to keep at it. 

Anthony Puccio is in his ninth season covering the NBA after stops with The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and SB Nation. You can reach out to Anthony at Anthony@fos.company or on Twitter: @APooch.