Robbie Hummel relatively healthy, but still facing long odds with Wolves

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

Robbie Hummel has to be getting restless.

The Timberwolves small forward prospect has done his darnedest to overcome injury and prove his worth to the team that drafted him in the second round (58th overall) in 2012. He spent his first season of professional basketball with Obradoiro CAB in the Spanish Liga ACB before showing well in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League and earning a training camp invite.

The 6-foot-8, 215-pound former college star now has his best look to date at the target of playing in the NBA.

Does he have what it takes to squeeze the trigger?

2012-13 stats: 10.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 41.1 3-pt PCT

2013 salary: not yet specified

Last year: Recovering quickly from offseason knee surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his much-maligned right leg, Hummel helped Obradoiro sneak into the Liga ACB playoffs. He displayed a penchant for efficient shooting and rebounding, traits that once made him an honorable mention All-American at Purdue.

His senior year as a Boilermaker, Hummel averaged 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds and finished as the school’s No. 4 all-time rebounder and No. 9 all-time scorer.

But with his collegiate success came health concerns that have yet to completely subside. He tore his right ACL twice during college.

Hummel underwent meniscus surgery Sept. 18 in New York and didn’t feel 100 percent until December, he told the Post-Tribune newspaper. He insisted he was a full-go heading into summer league play and did well to vindicate his claims, racking up 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shooting 47.1 percent from the floor.

Hummel also showed an ability to guard both threes and fours in an equally effective manner.

Now, instead of doing the same against other fringe big-time hopefuls, he must show he can stick with the likes of Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams and even Kevin Love.

This year: Hummel wasn’t the only Timberwolves player to earn his way into Minnesota’s training camp via summer league.

The team also extended invites to 2013 second-round draft pick Lorenzo Brown and undrafted free agent Othyus Jeffers. Those two stand in Hummel’s way of earning the Timberwolves’ 15th and final roster spot, assuming they decide to fill it.

A continued display of defensive versatility would help Hummel’s chances. Minnesota upgraded its offensive arsenal but, aside from Brewer, doesn’t possess a wing particularly well-known for his matchup skills.

A hot hand shooting, of course, wouldn’t hurt either. The Timberwolves shot worse from behind the 3-point line than any other NBA team last season, and Hummel’s been known to step back and hit a perimeter jump shot now and again.

But the biggest key for the three-time all-Big Ten first-team selection is to keep his legs under him — literally. Former president of basketball operations David Kahn took a risk in drafting him, and Flip Saunders replaced Kahn to find a talented player in Hummel who hadn’t been able to stay healthy until the second part of his season in Europe.

Even if he does move as well as he did in summer league, Hummel could end up back overseas. The NBA D-League would also be an option, as Saunders plans to make more use of it than his predecessor.

As we discuss the last of the three players fighting for roster slot No. 15, it should be noted there’s a good chance the Timberwolves leave it open and send all of them elsewhere. Saunders said Tuesday the team is over the salary cap (but under the luxury tax). An open roster spot, therefore, would give Minnesota some well-needed flexibility heading into the season. Saunders said earlier this offseason he prefers to operate with such leeway.

It’s up to Hummel, Jeffers or Brown, then, to make him change his mind.

From the front office: “I see him as the next generation. The NBA’s changing. Carlos Delfino guarded Kevin Love last year. You can get away because of the zone defense rules. You can front people, come across, tag. There are different ways to guard players.” — assistant coach David Adelman

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