The Minnesota Timberwolves gave up 5 players and four picks for three-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert. They went all-in on him and the roster, so what happens if Gobert doesn’t work out in Minnesota?
While there are a lot of positives associated with obtaining someone of Rudy’s stature, the possibility of the plan could fall flat. However, Tim Connelly is one of the best basketball minds in the league. If he ends up digging a hole for the Wolves, he could climb out of it and get the team back on track.
Before we dive into some avenues for Connelly and Co. to take following a potential Stifle Tower collapse in the Twin Cities, let’s look at what Gobert could do for this team on both sides. Gobert’s positives are evident, but so are the shortcomings. While he takes the load off of Towns on the defensive end and controls the glass on both sides, he may also bring DLo back to his Brooklyn days and bring out the best in Anthony Edwards. However, he can also be a potential roadblock in the paint, which could spark fit issues for him and Edwards. Running two bigs in one lineup may also cause fit issues on the offensive end. Despite those issues, Gobert may bring what it takes to lead this Wolves team to the next level.
Will We Ever See 2019 DLo Again?
Following an underwhelming playoff run for D’Angelo Russell, many were upset with his performance. Some even wanted to move on from the 26 year-old-guard. However, quite a few people, including me, still saw Russell’s talent and just how important he was for the Wolves through the regular season and play-in game. With the addition of Gobert, those thoughts rise to the surface even more.
During DLo’s 2018-19 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets, he scored 21 points per game, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds on 43% from the floor and 37% from three in 81 games. Russell was the main man, leading a mediocre Nets team to a Playoff berth and notching his first career All-Star nod.
Russell’s match with big man Jarrett Allen made him so lethal in Brooklyn. DLo has a history of running the pick-and-roll to near perfection. However, he hasn’t had a solid partner to execute that set since he was in Brooklyn. But now he does in Rudy Gobert.
While Russell may have been the main calling card for that Nets team, he doesn’t need to be that for the Wolves. What he does need to fulfill, though, is his ability to hit open guys, especially in the case of Anthony Edwards. If Russell wants to be the 4th star on the Wolves squad and earn an extension with Minnesota, he’ll need to exploit his matchup with Gobert in the paint while finding open guys out on the perimeter.
Does Ant Have Another Gear?
Adding Gobert to the lineup gives teams one more threat they must worry about. While that may only be from the paint in Gobert’s case, the threat is still there. Having someone like Gobert can only bring out other players’ talent, especially Edwards… for the most part.
Again, Gobert will be involved in a slew of pick-and-rolls. While the primary goal of those sets will be to open up the lane for either him or the guy he’s rolling with, open wing spots and corner shots will be there — right where Edwards will be standing.
Gobert’s great passing ability is one of the parts of his game that gets overlooked the most. For someone like Gobert, who stands over 7 feet tall and excels at paint defense, you wouldn’t expect him to be able to see the whole floor the way he does. With all his work in the paint and attacking the rim, having a good read on the court is enormous, especially with all the offensive talent on this Wolves roster.
I’m painting a picture in my head where Gobert rolls, draws two, kicks out to Ant, who pump-fakes and drives, putting another defender on a poster finish – Heaven.
While all those situations sound great, a fit issue may still arise. Edwards makes his living attacking the basket, and while Gobert can complement Ant with his solid sealing off the roll, there is still a chance that he would clog a potential open drive for Ant. If Issues like fit develop down the road, what can Tim Connelly and the Wolves do to claw out of that situation?
How Would They Blow It Up?
The Wolves community is excited about adding Gobert, but the idea of their vision failing is still in almost everyone’s mind. With the departure of key guys like Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley, along with the many draft picks, there doesn’t appear to be a backup plan.
The Wolves have only five draft picks until 2029, three of which are first-rounders. While that doesn’t appear good up front, it’s not much to be concerned about. If the Wolves had to deal four firsts to obtain Gobert, they could get a similar haul down the road.
So what do they do? Trade Gobert, Towns, and Russell.
While Gobert is in his prime right now and may start to decline sooner rather than later, Towns and Russell are 26 and have just entered their prime. If the Wolves have been a consistent playoff team for multiple years but have nothing to show for it other than a couple of series wins, they probably wasted Towns and Russell’s primes. In that case, the somewhat obvious solution would be to deal them both. Doing so would add a significant amount of draft capital and cap space. If the Wolves go that far, they’ll probably also move Gobert. He is already 30 and wouldn’t fit the timeline for a rebuild.
Don’t hang your head if it looks like Gobert isn’t clicking early. They will need time to start gelling with each other on the floor. It may be only a few games or 15+. When adding someone like Gobert to a team who’s never had someone like that since Kevin Garnett, it will take time for the Wolves to be on the same page.
In the case of a potential rebuild, the main focus would be on Edwards and Jaden McDaniels. Ant had a terrific season last year, putting up 21 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists on 44% from the floor and 36% from three. However, McDaniels stood out to me the most last year. Big Mac averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds on 46% from the floor in 70 games. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, his ability to impact the game at a very high level on both sides of the ball is remarkable. The talent between those two alone is enough to center a rebuild around them.
While the chances of something like a total rebuild coming to fruition are low, the possibility is still there. I fully expect Gobert to reside in Minnesota alongside Russell and Towns for quite some time. However, if that doesn’t come true, the Wolves are not married to the Stifle Tower. Therefore, Minnesota fans shouldn’t lose any sleep over this matter.