Timberwolves

What Do We Know About the KAT-Gobert Pairing After 25 Games?

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns’ injury and the long adjustment period with Rudy Gobert have been detrimental to this year’s Minnesota Timberwolves team. But KAT is back, and he’s averaged 19 points per game on 44.8/36.7/88 splits in six games. It has been turbulent, though. He had a big impact in the Golden State Warriors game, making the game-winning three. But he only shot the ball three times in the embarrassing loss to the tanking Portland Trail Blazers.

The Timberwolves are 3-3 since KAT returned, with the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans ahead of them to cap off the season. Minnesota’s destiny still appears to be the play-in, barring drastic changes. Still, how much can we really gauge from this small sample size of the Twin Towers pairing? KAT just came back from injury and only played 19 games with Gobert before that.

Similar to many of Minnesota’s stats this season, they are 12-13 when Towns and Gobert play together. It’s hard to know what to make of that because it’s only a quarter of the season, and most of the sample size is from early in the year. The Wolves traded for Gobert to bring energy to the defensive side of the ball, and he’s done that. The Wolves may have tipped the scales too much, though. They have gone from 113.7 points per 100 possessions, 9th in the league, to 113.9 points per 100 possessions, 24th in the league. The influx in points has changed rankings.

KAT missed many of those games. However, in the six games since he returned, the Wolves haven’t been an offensive juggernaut. Below are their percentiles of points per 100 possessions in each game since his return.

  • 77th percentile (123.8) in a W home vs the Atlanta Hawks
  • 12th percentile (102.1) in a W at the Golden State Warriors
  • 81st percentile (125.3) in a W at the Sacramento Kings
  • 15th percentile (103.1) in an L at the Phoenix Suns
  • 23rd percentile (106.7) in an L home vs Los Angeles Lakers
  • 22nd percentile (106.1) in an L home vs the Portland Trailblazers
  • 51st percentile (115.1) in a W at the Brooklyn Nets

Things have trended differently on the defensive end, though:

  • 29th percentile (121.6) in a W home vs the Atlanta Hawks
  • 93rd percentile (97.9) in a W at the Golden State Warriors
  • 35th percentile (119.8) in a W at the Sacramento Kings
  • 69th percentile (109.2) in an L at the Phoenix Suns
  • 43rd percentile (117.1) in an L at home vs Los Angeles Lakers
  • 66th percentile (110.3) in an L at home vs the Portland Trailblazers
  • 67th percentile (109.7) in a W at the Brooklyn Nets

The Wolves still have work on the offensive side of the ball. However, an impulsive Towns trade isn’t going to help Minnesota. Still, it will take time for the team to gel next season, and they need to pursue scoring and self-creation.

Minnesota’s inability to put the ball in the basket for long stretches of time hindered them in their recent three-game losing streak. That was especially prevalent in the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, the road collapse against the Phoenix Suns, and the disappointing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They could not execute on that side of the ball consistently enough.

Chris Finch has featured KAT and Rudy together most with D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels before the DLo trade. That lineup featured a 26th-percentile offense (109.8 points scored per 100 possessions) but an 86th-percentile defense that limited opponents to 104.4 per 100 possessions. Together, they played 541 total possessions with a 5.4-point differential.

Post DLo trade, the Mike Conley-KAT-Rudy lineup has played 204 total possessions this season and scored a dreadful 110.3 points per 100 possessions (17th percentile). However, it has an incredible 99 points allowed per 100 possessions on defense (100th percentile). Net average but the impressive defense has covered for the lack of offensive success.

KAT and Rudy featured lineups have played 1045 possessions this season. They rank in the 7th percentile in points per 100 possessions (107.3). However, they make up for it defensively, ranking in the 98th percentile in points per 100 possessions (106.4).

There’s still plenty of room for the Wolves to add scoring talent, but they must be able to find the correct players to surround their core. Fortunately, most of that core will return next season – depending on what happens with Naz Reid.

From a cap and resources perspective, the Wolves would be foolish to give up on this experiment after an average season. While it was as chaotic as it could have been, they found a way to still around .500 all year. They have already put far too much into the future regarding picks to punt on it now Fortunately, Edwards and McDaniels will be around for many years, so there shouldn’t be much worry regarding any of these picks becoming lopsided unless a dramatic series of events occurs.

Next season should be seen as the ultimatum. Edwards’ price will be high, and McDaniels’ value raises by the day. That will leave the Wolves with limited money to work with and without a point guard going into the 2024-25 season.

Below is an extremely deep look into the future. Player movement can change everything, but this timeline seems viable if they roll the dice with the same cohesive unit next season.

Ant, Jaden, KAT, and Rudy’s salaries would take up far too much salary at this point, and they would have to likely prioritize one over the other. That should not be an issue for this offseason. However, it’s worth keeping in front of mind when it comes to building around the margins to maximize next season’s (hopefully) fully healthy roster. At that point, we’ll see a meaningful sample size of Tim Connely’s vision that we can fully judge.

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