This is the second in a 17-part series profiling each player on the Timberwolves’ roster leading up to training camp.
The mystery man on Minnesota’s projected training camp roster has spent his first four years of professional basketball in relative obscurity, bouncing between the NBA, the NBA Developmental League and even Greece. But an impressive summer league performance earned Othyus Jeffers a bid at settling in Minnesota, albeit a long shot.
An undrafted free agent out of Robert Morris University, Jeffers is a prime example of why there are a D-League, two summer leagues and a place for talent to develop overseas.
A lot of basketball players have NBA skill sets. Far fewer use them effectively enough to make it in the league.
Last year: Jeffers added to an already-strong D-League career in Des Moines, Iowa, ranking fifth in points-per-game on a high-scoring roster.
He started 31 of 33 games for the Energy, recently announced as the Timberwolves’ new D-League affiliate, and put up solid but not spectacular numbers. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 200 pounds, he finished with an efficiency rating of +16.21.
Iowa has been the most frequent stop on what’s been an up-and-down journey for Jeffers.
He played his first two years of college hoops at Illinois-Chicago before transferring to Robert Morris, then was drafted 47th overall by the Energy in the 2008 D-League Draft. He burst out of the gate, averaging 21 points on 53.5 percent shooting and nine rebounds and eventually earning rookie of the year honors.
The next season, he split time between Iowa, Cantu in the Greek League and the Utah Jazz. He appeared in 14 games for the Jazz and averaged just 5.2 minutes per game.
The 2010-11 season brought NBA action with two different teams — 16 games for the Washington Wizards under coach Flip Saunders, now Minnesota’s president of basketball operations, and one with San Antonio. In 38 games with Iowa that year, he scored 21.1 points per game and reached the NBADL All-Star game for the second time in three years.
Jeffers did not play during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season but re-signed with the Energy before last year.
This year: With 31 NBA games to his credit, it’s anyone’s guess as to where Jeffers will end up this season.
He acquitted himself well in Las Vegas during summer league play with 8.3 points per game and a 53.3-percent shooting clip from the field. His lockdown defense provided Saunders and several other scouts at UNLV reason to ponder how Jeffers could potentially fit into their plans.
But he hasn’t had a top-level stint longer than 17 games for a reason, nor is he under contract. Minnesota didn’t invest a draft pick in him, either, meaning he’ll have to shine extra bright during training camp to get a serious look.
One thing Jeffers does have going for him is the position he plays.
Of three known camp invitees battling for the Timberwolves’ 15th and final roster slot, only Jeffers mans a spot where Minnesota isn’t already deep. Point guard Lorenzo Brown has to try and separate himself from the likes of J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved behind Ricky Rubio, and small forward Robbie Hummel has Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer to contend with.
At present, the Timberwolves don’t have a true, pure shooting guard to back up free-agent get Kevin Martin. The plan, for now, is to use a combination of flex guards and swing men at two-guard– Budinger, Barea, Shved, possibly Brown.
Unless, of course, Jeffers can prove he’s finally ready for a longer-term NBA gig.
From the front office: “We knew he was a professional — he’s been in the league — but the type of shape he’s in, the way he competes, the way he guards three positions, he just goes about his business the right way. It’s good for the young guys to see him play.” — assistant coach David Adelman