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After trading for Rudy Gobert, Wolves are set to win now

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Let’s get this out of the way immediately.

Yes, the Minnesota Timberwolves paid a lot more in their efforts to bring three-time All-Star Rudy Gobert to Minneapolis. There’s just no other way to put it, as the compensation draft alone saw an alarming amount of future assets walk out the door. This is generally the kind of all-in move teams make when they’re one move away from a title, not coming off a season that culminated in a seventh seed.

So yes, “value” is bad, but I don’t want that completely they dwarf what they’ve done here from an on-court perspective.

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This team, especially in the regular season, is going to be absolutely amazing. I really liked the shape britt robson of MinnPost he compared it to “paying $20 million for a $10 million house” on the latest episode of The Dane Moore Podcast. The good thing about overpaying for the $10 million house is that you still have the $10 million house, you know?

The Wolves have clearly bought a window here, which runs from now until the end of Gobert’s contract (2026). I don’t know if I would have staked such dramatic capital on that when two of their biggest players are still 21 or younger, but based on the aggressive nature of current minority owner and future Wolves governor Marc Lore, I bet he thinks that they will do this again once Gobert’s contract is up and Anthony Edwards is only 24 or 25 years old.

Through all the risks, the one I appreciate the most is daring to think very, very original. This quote from a recent article by Jon Krawczynski in The Athletic in particular caught my eye.

I haven’t gotten the idea that Karl-Anthony Towns is a 4 defensively, but Gobert is such a perfect fit to cover for Towns’ shortcomings that I can now see the vision there.

One of the main complaints people nationally seem to have regarding this “fit” is that the Wolves could have tried to find a cheaper option first to get some proof that the concept would work, but I’d push back a bit. .

For one thing, KAT has genuinely played the 4 on offense for much longer in his career than we think. He may have been the tallest player on the court and taken the jump between two in open games, but he’s played so often alongside someone who doesn’t shoot that he’s almost always been the de facto 4 in the game. offensive. Whether it’s Jarred Vanderbilt, Taj Gibson or Gorgui Dieng, Towns has plenty of experience operating as the 4 on offense, with great success.

If anything, I imagine this move will give him more room to operate than he had in last year’s starting lineup.

The only thing that could make the Wolves’ offense sink last year was bringing defender Jarred Vanderbilt from dunk point to Towns’ double. In large part, this strategy worked so effectively because even when his man left him, Vando still wasn’t really a threat. He was an incredible part of the 2021-22 team that we won’t soon forget, but his poor hands and limited offensive repertoire around the rim made it that much easier for teams not to think twice about doubling him up. It’s much harder to do now, because Gobert not only has great hands, but he’s also 7’1” with a 7’9” wingspan. If you leave Gobert open near the rim, he’s an easy lob for a dunk. This is how he gives you space without being a shooter.

By comparison, I’m a little less sold on the defensive fit, in part because I think the offense will be amazing. What I can’t deny, though, is that with this move the Wolves are leaning fully on Towns’ strengths as a defender. KAT isn’t much of a defender, but he’s solid and moves his feet particularly well for his size. We saw this last year, where he had arguably his best defensive season as he spent more time on the perimeter sliding his feet with guards at the point of attack. His work will be different now, but at least I can appreciate the team trying to build on their strengths.

However, beyond my optimistic take on the tweak, I found the “proof of concept” stuff to be a bit silly overall. The modern NBA has more wing size, sure, but it’s not like teams playing two bigs are irrelevant. Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol played valuable minutes alongside Anthony Davis in the Lakers’ run for a championship in the Orlando Bubble. The Bucks’ entire recent run has been based on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez erasing the rim and the backboards.

Going back a little further, I thought about how the only team not led by LeBron James that really struck fear into the Golden State Warriors was the 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder, who blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. .

(Editor’s note: Sorry, Mike. Game 6, Klay, baby!)

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game 6

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the big names on that Thunder team, of course, but the Thunder really took hold of that series (before Game 6 Klay broke out) by absolutely shredding Golden State on the backboards with a combination of Steve Adams. , Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter. Ultimately, it didn’t work out in part because Klay went nuclear, but even in a losing effort, OKC was +35 on the boards in that series.

I’m not suggesting there won’t be challenges, and teams like the Clippers are sure to have Chris Finch get creative or make some tough rotational decisions. However, there are more ways to win basketball games than just going all-in on the wings. Some people may not like to hear that basketball is in fact a math problem to some extent, but when the object of the game is add more points on your side of the ledger than your opponent, only up to a point.

The Wolves should dominate the battle for possession this season due to their ability to clean glass on both ends, plus what Gobert’s presence at the rim does for his wing defenders. Until that point, the Wolves will not only be positive in the battle for possession due to their improved rebounding, but also in their ability to force turnovers. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are already great at forcing steals and transitioning out, but now there are far fewer downsides to taking chances and jumping passing lanes.

Ant may not have been willing to admit that Gobert is a generational rim protector last December, but his play on the court will soon reflect that he understands now. If Ant’s side bets last year were like doubling your 11 with the dealer showing a face card, now they’re like doubling your 11 with the dealer showing a 6. Even if he and/or Jaden don’t get the steal, chances are that the opponent ends up looking subpar anyway due to Gobert’s presence at the rim. The Wolves are taking an unconventional route to adding possessions, but it’s worth exploring. Bottom line, when you give yourself more scoring opportunities with a star as efficient in the midfield as Towns, and a rising star as explosive in transition as Edwards, good things will come.

The big difference for the Wolves is that most teams that go big end up doing it while sacrificing space.

2022 NBA All-Star - MTN DEW 3-point Contest

This guy has something to say about it…
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

They’re not going to, mainly because one of their 7-footers is an elite 3-point shooter, shooting over 40%, and the other is perhaps the best vertical spacer in the NBA. That doesn’t even take into account Edwards’ dynamism above the arc and above the rim.

Especially compared to the 2021-22 team, they should be just as good, if not better, on the offensive end, while also being a significantly better defensive rebounding team. It’s not as sexy as other parts of basketball, but maintaining an edge in the battle for possession is one of the hallmarks of most great teams. The Wolves are now built to do that, without having to return as many points from 3-point range as the 2016 Thunder did.

So yeah, there’s technically no proof of concept here, in the sense that Towns hasn’t played alongside someone who doesn’t shoot in the frontcourt on offense or guard the perimeter on defense since … last season. But other than that, I really like the fit.

This is going to be a really good team, and it’s refreshing to finally have an ownership/front office collective that’s trying to win the title. This is not when I would have pushed my chips, or probably by that many chips, but I won’t complain (too much) that this particular franchise is finally making a real run.

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