The Rudy Gobert experience has been difficult for many to judge. Going from a scoring first and offensive threat in KAT and then having to adjust to Rudy’s traditional offensive game has forced an adjustment from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has been coming into his own lately, though. Mike Conley deserves a lot of credit, but Gobert looks much more improved on the offensive side of the ball. Since Rudy missed the Feb. 26 matchup against the Golden State Warriors, he is averaging 16.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 offensive rebounds, 1.8 blocks on 6.4/10.2 field goals per game.
While these stats are impressive and an improvement upon his season-long averages, the eye test doesn’t do enough justice to how much more comfortable he has looked lately. That’s especially true when the Wolves have been lacking offense and needed to force Rudy with more post touches than we saw earlier in the season. He also saw an increased opportunity when Anthony Edwards went down with an ankle injury. Gobert didn’t need to be the primary option on offense. However, he was vital to how the offense was going to work when the Wolves’ two-best scorers were off the floor for an entire night.
A perfect example of this was the Bulls game where he was incredibly active on the boards and used his size to body defenders down low.
The majority of this came in a game that lacked space and shot creation, but Rudy still was able to be dominant in his facet of the game. That’s exactly what the team needs from him, too. Nothing too drastic but enough to make sure that defenses cannot lay off him. Gobert has been able to find ways to be successful without needing the team to force-feed him.
Now that Karl-Anthony Towns has returned and Edwards looks like he’s close, it will be vital that Rudy effectively finds ways to pick his spots to impact the game offensively. Many lineups that he is involved in are more defensive-favored. However, there have been some specific play types that he has found success in on his own – both post-up opportunities and as the roll man.
Gobert is in the NBA’s 70th percentile in scoring off post-up opportunities. He is scoring 1.05 points per possession in these opportunities, which ranks him alongside players like Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Vucevic. In terms of frequency, Rudy only sees a post-up opportunity on 9.3% of his total offensive possessions, similar to LeBron James and Jerami Grant, who both are forwards. Many other centers rank higher in opportunities. While it doesn’t always look as smooth as his counterparts, the numbers show that he has been able to take advantage of these looks. He also excels at sealing off smaller matchups for an easy bucket.
Here are some of his best looks in this play type over his last 10 games:
Regarding his play as the roll man in pick-and-roll, Rudy averages 1.24 points per possession ranking in the 70th percentile as well. That puts him in the realm of Joel Embiid and Domantas Sabonis when it comes to PPP. From a frequency standpoint, his 18.7% sits similar to Jonas Valanciunas and Christian Wood. Gobert has increased that lately, though. He has looked much more comfortable with Mike Conley feeding him, knowing how to find his hands much easier than D’Angelo Russell did.
Much of this success came from either feeding Gobert, or him taking advantage of his matchup. He also has been positioning himself in the best spot for a bucket. Both are extremely beneficial for the Wolves. Shooting gravity from others and Rudy’s success within these scenarios will only allow Coach Finch to be more creative with the offense, which has been very stagnant lately. We have also seen flashes of what works between Rudy and KAT when they are on the floor together.
That will take a bit more time to develop, though. KAT will need to be eased into minutes. Ant will need to fully recover from his ankle injury. Conley will need to adjust to playing with KAT. And the team needs to gel quickly because of the lack of games that are remaining.
It is vital that the Wolves do their best to win tiebreaker games and winnable games against lesser opponents in this final stretch. Unlocking players like Rudy in the offense will only make it easier to adjust to bringing back KAT and Ant. Fortunately, Towns and Edwards have already found ways to adjust to playing with their current teammates and Finch.