As their season comes down to an end on Tuesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves have plenty of questions to deal with as they are set to evaluate their needs and competitive nature for years to come this offseason. Among those who are seeking an answer is the team’s ongoing underwhelming experimentation around the blending of both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Wolves have committed themselves to deliver and live up to a blockbuster move upon the front office takeover of Tim Connelly, acquiring the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Gobert from the Utah Jazz in exchange for the team’s lucrative future assets which includes four first-round picks and several key players, including promising rookie center Walker Kessler.
The gamble made by Minnesota last year created shockwaves around the league and undeniably trembled the market value of NBA stars. Fast forward to April, the transaction continues to stir mixed reactions among fans and league circles, doubting the decision made by the T-Wolves by letting go of their entire future threshold for an undeniably defensive powerhouse, yet an offensively liable unit on one end. The Wolves are 6.0 points per 100 possessions better on defense when Gobert is on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. While at the offensive end, they transform to 5.6 points worse.
This could have been the first season that the Timberwolves fans have been anticipating how Towns and Gobert – an offense-defense frontcourt combo – will be able to mesh up their game styles. But injuries and inconsistencies have riddled the club to fully view the immense potential and full collaboration of both star big men.
As such, in his postgame presser following the Wolves’ first-round elimination against the Denver Nuggets, head coach Chris Finch remains optimistic that both Towns and Gobert will have plenty of time and work to do in order to achieve what the franchise desires for their pairing.
“They’re both incredibly good basketball players, and with the skill level that KAT has for sure there’s no reason basketball wise that it shouldn’t work,” said Finch.
“There’s a lots of things we can talk about why the learning curve was so steep for it, but the most important thing is we’ve got enough kind of – we have a big enough body of work. I think we can properly evaluate it so I still remain extremely confident that we’re able to be able to maximize those guys.”
The unexpected long-season absence of Towns ultimately burnt such significant time for both Finch and the Timberwolves to entirely integrate the interesting partnership. The three-time All-Star suffered a calf injury that shelved him for 51 games and only managed to return with three weeks left to the regular season.
With Towns serving his absence, Connelly sought to attain needed pieces to limit the struggle and help maximize Gobert’s presence in the middle. The Wolves orchestrated a three-team deal with Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade deadline and landed veteran guard Mike Conley Jr., who got familiarity with the French tower’s play style given their three-year basketball bond in Salt Lake City.
With the offseason set to be in the books for them, Minnesota can at least be hopeful that their desired outcome for both Gobert and Towns will come to fruition. After enduring a lopsided season marred by unavailabilities and shortcomings, the 2023-24 season is certainly a must-watch campaign for the franchise as they will look to finally break through and attain that title-contending status anchored by their two imposing bigs.