With the ever-expanding talent pool, additional two-way roster spots and team construction restrictions from the new CBA, identifying undrafted free agents will be more important than ever. In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of players go undrafted and carve out roles and extended careers. Names like Austin Reaves (there were some agents going into it), Jose Alvarado, Luguentz Dort and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ own Naz Reid have all proven that they not only belong in the league, but are worthy of a significant role.
The Timberwolves only have the No. 53 pick in 2023 NBA Draft. If they’re looking to bring in some cheap promising young talent, they’ll either have to trade up second-round picks they received in the D’Angelo Russell deal or be active with undrafted free agents.
Here are three of the top names the Timberwolves could target as UDFAs if they don’t end up being drafted.
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Backup point guard is a major area of concern for the Timberwolves next season. Pickett could slide into that role with a fairly limited learning curve. Pickett is one of the older players in the draft at 23 years old with five years of college experience under his belt. This season for Penn State, Pickett averaged 17.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists on a 50.8/38.1/76.3 shooting split.
According to Synergy, there wasn’t one area of offense where Pickett was ineffective. He ranked in the 94th percentile as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, 83rd percentile at post-ups, 74th percentile in isolation, 72nd percentile spotting up, 79th percentile shooting off the catch, 80th percentile, who shoots off the dribble, 91st percentile. on floaters, and 76th percentile shooting at the rim. He was also one of two players in the country this year, and one of 16 since 2008, to record a consumption rate of at least 25, an assist rate of at least 35 and a turnover rate of under 15. Pickett was at 29.3, 39.3 and 13.2 respectively. Pickett put up some wild numbers this year.
So why would he even be available if he was so dominant in attack, you ask. For starters, teams typically don’t rush to draft 23-year-old point guards who are 6’2” (barefoot) and carry 23.9% of their possessions. But with Minnesota, Pickett’s age and experience suggest he should be ready to contribute early in his career. Additionally, Pickett tends to over dribble the ball. His usage and production was astronomical because he always had the ball in his hands. He has some incredible playmaking and scoring versatility, but the ball doesn’t stick to him as much in the NBA as it did in college. Finally, Pickett was completely bad on defense this year. It’s rare for players of his archetype to be good defenders, but that could become a problem for Pickett if things don’t change with a smaller offensive role.
If the Wolves signed him, most of those concerns could be covered as he would be in the most simplified role of his career. With the second unit, he would provide scoring versatility and playmaking. And while he got minutes with the primary options, he could set them up for easy scores and be a reliable outlet for them.
For a closer look at Pickett, click here.
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Since 2008, only five players from a major conference have recorded a block rate of at least 2 and a steal rate of at least 5: Mario Chalmers, Marcus Smart, Gary Payton II, Matisse Thybulle (x2) and D’Moi Hodge (2.1 and 5.1, respectively). When you factor in Hodge’s outside shooting and set a 3-point threshold of 40%, the list comes down to just Hodge and Chalmers. Hodge also attempted nearly 100 more treys than Chalmers.
When it comes to low-maintenance, plug-and-play screens, there aren’t many more exciting UDFA options than the Hodge. His defensive playmaking skills are amazing, but he also has a really attractive offensive game. If you’re looking for him to create his own shot or create for others, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But his off-ball scoring is excellent, as he ranked in the 88th percentile in transition, 91st percentile spotting up, 67th percentile on cuts, and 87th percentile shooting off the catch.
Hodge is already 24 years old, so there may not be a ton of potential left for him to unlock. It would be great if he suddenly improved as a scorer or playmaker. However, that would not be the expectation. If Hodge could reliably shoot +40% from deep off the catch, force a handful of turnovers and provide an attacking defense, he’d be a great low-cost addition on a cap team.
The former Missouri star also worked out for the Timberwolves on Monday along with others potential undrafted free agent targets.
You can read a more in-depth overview at Hodge here.
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Chris Livingston is a total wildcard in this draft. Most expected him to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season after a rather disappointing freshman season, but Klutch will Klutch. Livingston could go anywhere from early second round to completely undrafted. If he goes undrafted, odds are Klutch will steer him elsewhere. Despite that, he’s still worth a shot.
Livingston is one of the more interesting case studies in terms of scouting. He didn’t necessarily show anything in his freshman season that suggested he was an NBA player other than his size and athleticism. But if you go back to his high school tape, which many see as more valuable or instructive for NBA translation, there was a lot to like.
At Oak Hill, Livingston had a lot of tools. He was a versatile off-ball scorer, a reliable shooter and even showed impressive stretches of play. His size and athleticism also made him a solid defender. Livingston never really showed the “superstar” flashes, but he consistently displayed many of the tools that teams look for in off-ball wings. Livingston will be much more of a project than Hodge or Pickett, but if they could land him, there’s a ton of upside to take a chance on.