This is the first in a 17-part series profiling each player on the Timberwolves’ roster leading up to training camp.
Not long after drafting him in the second round, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders didn’t rule out the possibility of Lorenzo Brown cracking Minnesota’s roster this season.
When training camp opens Oct. 1, the lengthy, athletic point guard will get his chance.
Brown, the draft’s No. 52nd overall selection, is one of three known preseason practice invitees gunning for the 15th and final roster spot in Minnesota. He plays a position at which the Timberwolves are relatively deep at the moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for one more playmaker.
Provided that’s what the North Carolina State product can become in the NBA.
Last year: As a distributor, Brown’s junior year of college was a dandy. His 7.2 assists per game led the powerful ACC and ranked sixth in NCAA Division I as the Wolf Pack went 24-11 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
But to make it at the next level, Brown has to do more than set up teammates. It’s for that reason his third year in Raleigh went down as a slight overall regression.
After gaining acclaim following a successful switch from shooting guard to point guard his sophomore season, Brown grew more one-dimensional when it comes to scoring. His only prime chances came when he was able to reach the rim, as he missed 72 percent of the jump shots he took last season.
His field-goal percentage dropped about three points, and he never displayed the innate ability to create and connect on shots that is so crucial for guards in today’s NBA.
Both the ACC media and coaches tabbed Brown a second-team all-ACC selection. He surpassed 10 assists in nine different performances, including a 13-assist showing in a win against Duke.
That prompted Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewksi to tab Brown the best transition guard in the country.
Brown’s best game came against Georgia Tech, when he scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 10 assists, five rebounds, three blocks and one steal.
This year: A solid showing at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas helped Brown earn a training camp bid along with 2012 second-round pick Robbie Hummel and free agent NBA Developmental League prospect Othyus Jeffers.
Even if he does earn a 15-man roster spot over those two, the 6-foot-5, 186-pound Brown won’t be in line for much playing time.
A few eyes around the Twin Cities and the NBA widened when Saunders — at one point insisted Minnesota wouldn’t draft another point guard — took Brown. The Timberwolves already have a guy named Ricky Rubio running the show, J.J. Barea has proven a capable backup, and 2012 draft selection Alexey Shved mans the spot, too.
But Saunders admired Brown’s passing and transition skills enough to take a chance on him, even going so far as to label him a “first-round talent.” The former coach also isn’t afraid to use guards at both backcourt positions, he has said.
Playing point guard during six games in Las Vegas, Brown averaged 8.3 points. His 38.8-percent field goal clip left much to be desired, but he did connect on 6-of-12 3-pointers.
His 2.2 assists per contest tied first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad for tops on the team.
If Brown isn’t able to stick in Minnesota this season, it’s probably off to the D-League or a European team. Either scenario allows him to try and become a better-rounded scorer and adjust to defending the athleticism of professional point guards.
Unless he boasts skill and comfort levels akin to those of Barea and Shved, that’s likely where Brown will end up.
From the front office: “We’ll have to see. One, he comes in, we work him out, we see what happens in summer league and see where he’s at — whether he’s here, or whether or not he wants to give it a go with the team and see if he can make the team or see if he makes another decision. I just thought a guy that has that type of talent, as a first-round talent you bring him in.” — Saunders