Wolves rookie Culver goes viral with dunk over Lopez

With an established star and several young talents to build around, the Minnesota Timberwolves are attempting to establish themselves as a playoff contender once again.

From established players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to newcomers like Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, we’re taking a weekly look at the present, and future, of the Wolves.

Each Thursday we’ll also track the progress of the Iowa Wolves standouts who might be of help to the Wolves in the future, or a current member of Minnesota’s roster.

This is the 8th edition of the 2019-20 Young Wolves Tracker.

Spotlight on …

Guard Jarrett Culver

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Culver opened 2020 with a dunk that almost broke the internet.

With 10 minutes to play in Minnesota’s game against first-place Milwaukee on Wednesday night and the Wolves within four points, Culver found space on the floor thanks to screen from teammate Naz Reid.

He used the pick and did the rest himself, meeting Bucks 7-foot center Robin Lopez at the rim. The rest is history.

Culver’s taunt after the dunk drew a technical foul, but that didn’t take away any of the enthusiasm about the play from head coach Ryan Saunders.

“I love it,” Saunders said of the sequence after the game. “Just love it.”

Asked what he liked about it, Saunders simply stated “everything.”

Culver and the Timberwolves — sans Towns (left knee sprain), Wiggins (flu-like symptoms and Jeff Teague (right knee sprain) — stuck around with Milwaukee, which has the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on roster and owns the best record in the Eastern Conference. But a shorthanded Minnesota squad eventually fell 106-104 to the Bucks for its 13th loss in the last 15 games.

The dunk, which picked up steam on social media Wednesday night, was a big growing moment for Culver, who has had a rocky rookie campaign after the Wolves traded up to select him sixth overall in the 2019 draft.

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Culver has played in 32 of Minnesota’s 33 games this season, starting 19 contests. Culver ranks 14th among rookies in scoring (8.2 points per contest) and has also tallied 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal in 23 minutes per game.

He’s made just 27 of 113 attempts from 3-point range for a 23.9% clip, which ranks 148th out of 149 NBA players with 100+ shots from downtown. Only Russell Westbrook has a worst 3-point percentage at 23.1% (34 of 147).

Culver isn’t known to be a sniper, but the Wolves certainly hope he can improve his shooting. He posted a 38.2% clip from downtown as a freshman at Texas Tech and 30.4% as a sophomore last year.

The 20-year-old also had the biggest game of his career Monday night in the Wolves’ 122-115 overtime win over Brooklyn. Culver poured in a career-best 21 points in career-high 38 minutes against Brooklyn, shooting 8 of 21 from the field and 3 of 8 from 3-point range.


— Towns continues to miss time. The 24-year-old has been sidelined for Minnesota’s last eight games with a left knee sprain. Towns played all 82 games in his first three seasons and missed just five games last year.

— Wiggins isn’t healthy, either. Wiggins has sat out the last three games with flu-like symptoms.

— Filling in for the injured Towns has been Gorgui Dieng. Dieng started each of the last eight games and averaged 13.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest. He’s made multiple 3s in four of eight games, including a clutch triple late in Monday’s win over Brooklyn. Dieng now has 13 games with multiple 3s in his career. Before Saunders took over as interim head coach last season, Dieng had just five.

— Kelan Martin poured in a career-best 17 points thanks to a trio of 3-pointers in Minnesota’s loss to Cleveland on Saturday night. His previous career high was 14.

— Second-round pick Jaylen Nowell, who shot 44% from 3-point range last year as a sophomore at Washington, drained his first career NBA triple Wednesday night. Nowell had missed his first nine attempts from deep entering Wednesday’s game.