Corey Brewer should excel in supporting role

This is the 12th in a 17-part series profiling each player on the Timberwolves’ roster leading up to training camp.

That efficacious smile, that passing-lane-defying reach, that random game-turning 3, that goofy pet goat.

They’re all back with the free-agent signing of swing man Corey Brewer. But with them come a newfound maturity and invaluable experiences, he says.

And this time, the Timberwolves’ top 2007 draft selection is on a supporting cast, not in a lead role.

Ask him. Ask Flip Saunders. Ask coaches from the Denver Nuggets, where Brewer spent the past two seasons. It’s the niche life for him.

Finding one for him during his second go-round in the Twin Cities shouldn’t prove too difficult.

2012-13 stats: 12.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 24.4 MPG, 

2013 salary: $4,500,000

Last year: The 2013-13 campaign was without a doubt the best of Brewer’s six years in the league so far, and that includes his final season in Minnesota where he scored a career-high 13 points per game.

But Brewer was much more comfortable and in his element coming off the bench for the Nuggets last season. His superb open-court ballhandling and finishing skills make him formidable in transition, though his hyperactive perimeter defense remains his most attractive asset.

His steals average last year tied a career high. Moreover, he was consistently relied upon to quell scoring runs from opponents’ top offensive wings.

Brewer’s biggest knock remains his penchant for shooting too many 3-pointers. He took 307 last season — second-most on the team — and connected on just 29.6 percent of them. He’s a below-29-percent outside shooter for his career and, oddly enough, has one spot on the floor he’s truly effective from.

That’d be the left corner, where he made 41.2 percent of his 3s last season.

Besides his scrappy defense, Brewer offers the Timberwolves an almost equally precious commodity: durability. He didn’t miss a single game in 2012-13 — the second time in his career he’s achieved that feat.

This year: One of the NBA’s poorer offensive teams spent the offseason focused on adding scoring punch. Once that was achieved with the re-signing of Chase Budinger and addition of shooting guard Kevin Martin, president of basketball operations Saunders needed a counterbalance on the other end of the floor.

Both he and Brewer feel the 6-foot-9, 194-pound small forward can be a perfect fit.

Brewer never wanted to leave Minnesota, he said, but underperformance for a top-10 pick caused him to be traded away in 2011. Two-and-a-half seasons later, he’s spent a lot of time re-acclimating to Minneapolis, including a trip to the Minnesota State Fair where he revealed he’s had the same pet goat since the seventh grade.

After winning a championship with Dallas in 2011 and germinating into more of a leader in Denver, Brewer said he’s definitely not the same kid who came to the Twin Cities from Florida and left disappointed, both in himself and the way things went down in what he still calls his second home.

On the floor, Brewer looks like the perfect defensive complement to Budinger and Martin. When the Timberwolves need points in bunches, he’ll likely play an observer’s role.

But when either Rick Adelman protégé needs a breather, it will probably be Brewer who comes in and throws new wrinkles at opposing defenses with his speed in the open floor.

He’ll continue to be used as a stopper, too, provided he can adjust to the tenets of Adelman’s defensive schemes.

From the front office: “We have great confidence that Corey is a great defender that can get out and run with (point guard Ricky) Rubio, can finish in the open floor. Corey was here before, but he’s developed a lot since he left here. It’s always different when you come in with the expectations of a top-10 pick, and you’re counted on to carry a team. He’s not gonna have to carry this team.” — Saunders

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