When the summer arrived and NBA free agency rolled around, Jordan Bell knew one thing — he wanted an opportunity to play.
Entering his third year in the NBA, Bell had spent the better part of the last two seasons as an occasional reserve for the Golden State Warriors. His minutes on the court fluctuated at times, but when he was called upon, he showed he was capable of being a valuable contributor.
Bell originally began the free agency period as a restricted free agent. The Warriors had tendered him a qualifying offer giving them the right to match any contract offer he should receive from another team.
But when the Warriors pulled off the sign and trade for D’Angelo Russell, they rescinded the offer and made him an unrestricted free agent. A few days after the NBA lifted the free-agent moratorium, Bell signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It was opportunity. I told my agent from the jump, don’t bring me no numbers, I just want to play. I just want to have an opportunity, I just want to grow as a basketball player,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “In the summers I work my ass off, in the season I work my ass off. The Warriors was a great opportunity, I loved it, it was great, but I just want to be a better basketball player and keep growing. I just wanted to go somewhere else so I can grow and expand my game.”
The Timberwolves traded Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns on draft night, and Taj Gibson signed with the New York Knicks. With both players gone, there appears to be an opportunity for Bell in the rotation, perhaps even as a starter at times alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
Bell is in the mold of a versatile big man that can thrive in today’s game. On the defensive end, he’s able to body up against bigs in the post while being able to switch out and cover wings on the perimeter.
Offensively, he’s got somewhat of a point forward feel to him. He can handle the ball in transition and make plays for his teammates. He started a total of 16 games over two years with the Warriors, and he often displayed that ability to be a playmaker. He learned a lot from the veterans in Golden State and he’s hoping he can bring what he learned to Minnesota.
“Just to make everybody else around me better. I know obviously Karl and [Andrew] Wiggins are the focal points as far as scoring and things like that. They let them control the offensive side, and then me try to control the defensive side,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “And just bring out everything I learned from Draymond [Green], KD, Andre [Iguodala], everything I learned my two years from winning a championship. I’ll try to bring that over here. I think we have a special group, we can do something special this year.”
When he first came into the NBA, Bell was somewhat of an overlooked player. He was coming off a solid NCAA Tournament run with Oregon, but he fell to the second-round where he was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 38th pick in the draft.
The Bulls famously traded him to the Warriors for ‘cash considerations.’ His rookie year in Golden State, he was in the rotation right away and even played meaningful minutes in the playoffs as the Warriors won the 2018 NBA title.
Bell has used that as motivation ever since, and he has some strong advice for any other young player who is possibly worried about not getting enough exposure or is also being overlooked.
“At the end of the day, rankings and all of that, that don’t mean nothing. If you get the opportunity to play against somebody who’s ranked higher than you, bust their ass and go at their neck. Show everybody what you can do and who’s the better player,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “At the end of the day, once the draft is over, all the numbers mean nothing, it just means you get paid more. People like Thomas Bryant, he’s making the most money out of everyone in our draft class right now. Just keep working, if you get the opportunity, take advantage of it.”
A year after making it back to the postseason after one of the league’s longest playoff droughts, the Timberwolves missed the playoffs once again this past season. It was a year of upheaval as Jimmy Butler was traded before the season opener and Tom Thibodeau was fired in January. Ryan Saunders will have a full training camp under his belt now and the team brought in Gersson Rosas as the President of Basketball Operations.
Bell is among several new players who were brought in, along with Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, and rookies Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell. Although the start of the season is still a few months away, Bell is already looking forward to this new chapter in his basketball journey.
“Just being able to freely play and just being around another young team,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “Just expand my time and show all the work that I’ve put in over the summer, late nights, early mornings, all the running and conditioning. Just everything I’ve been doing, show that on the court.”
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