The Minnesota Timberwolves made one of the gutsiest moves any NBA team has made this offseason when they acquired center Rudy Gobert. In doing so, they gave up four first-round picks, five players, and an additional first-round pick swap.The package they put together to obtain the three-time Defensive Player Of the Year was considerable, and some have questioned his fit on the roster in Minnesota. But despite the skepticism, there’s reason to believe that the all-star center could be exactly what the team has been looking for. Here’s why Gobert could end up being the missing piece that puts the Timberwolves over the top.
As one of the best defensive anchors in the league, Gobert’s effect on that end of the floor should be immediate and significant for Minnesota. In 2021-22, Rudy earned a sixth-straight NBA All-Defensive First Team selection. Only 10 other players in the history of the game have made more All-Defense First Teams. His 2.1 blocks and league-leading 14.7 rebounds per game played a major part in helping Utah earn a top-five seed in the West.
Gobert’s lockdown paint protection and rebounding prowess will be a game-changer for the Timberwolves from day one. Minnesota gave up a lot of second-chance opportunities to opponents in 2021-22, ranking 25th in defensive rebounding.
Look for that number to make a major swing in the upcoming season. In addition, the Wolves’ already solid paint defense should become an even bigger strength with Karl-Anthony Towns being relied on far less as a rim protector.
Fit Next To Karl-Anthony Towns
Speaking of Towns, his game could be unlocked in a major way by putting one of the best defensive centers next to him. While KAT played primarily at the five this past season, he often struggled with turning the ball over, ranking in the 38th percentile for turnover percentage among bigs in 2021-22 per Cleaning The Glass.
With Gobert presumably taking over as starting center and KAT moving to the four, it will allow the two to thrive in their own roles and focus on doing what they do best. As arguably the best shooting big in the league, Towns can operate even more on the perimeter and create even better spacing on offense.
And where KAT sometimes struggled in one-on-one defensive situations last year, Gobert will be much more equipped to handle those matchups. Not to mention lineups that include both Rudy and Towns will make it far less likely that defenses will be effective in targeting either with double teams.
Overall, the pairing of Gobert and Towns may be viewed as a gamble by outsiders, since two-big lineups are something of a rarity in the NBA today. But there’s very real reason to think the Wolves may have struck gold with this move, especially considering how these two stars can complement each other on the floor.
In addition, head coach Chris Finch is no stranger to working with two star big men. He was the Pelicans’ Associate Head Coach when the team started DeMarcus Cousins alongside Anthony Davis from 2017 to 2018. With Minnesota already rising to the level of a playoff contender in 2022, Gobert can be the final piece to the puzzle that makes them a true contender.