The Wolves Have Become NBA Trend Setters

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves rode their modern “Two Tower” roster construction to the Western Conference Finals this year, defeating the defending champion Denver Nuggets and their heat-pack throwing squad in seven games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. It marked the best season the Wolves have enjoyed since Kevin Garnett’s prime.

Minnesota rode the defensive prowess of Rudy Gobert, who won his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award, and Karl-Anthony Towns‘ dynamic offense and revitalized approach toward playing defense. The Wolves ranked No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating during the regular season, allowing only 108.4 points per game, two full points better per game on defense than eventual champion Boston Celtics.

Until the Timberwolves ran into the tough matchup of the Dallas Mavericks’ sterling guard play from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, it looked like Minnesota’s zagging dedication to going big while everyone else in the NBA was zigging would propel them to the uncharted territory of the NBA Finals.

It seems decades ago that the Golden State Warriors changed the NBA landscape by going small, riding Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson‘s sweet shooting, Andre Iguodala‘s versatility, and Draymond Green‘s stalwart defense. However, the Warriors last won it all in 2021-22. Now Klay Thompson is gone to Dallas, Iguodala retired, and Draymond is more famous as a pugilist and podcast. That leaves Curry to try and reinvigorate a dramatically different roster.

When Tim Connelly made the Rudy Gobert trade, the NBA world was up in arms because it was still caught up in the small-ball philosophy. Some were even calling it the worst trade they could recall. They gave little thought to  Chris Finch’s experience with the New Orleans Pelicans when he worked with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on an intermittently brilliant team.

Now the dust has settled on that trade, and the naysayers look like idiots because the Wolves have a foothold in the upper echelon of the Western Conference to go along with playoff success to build upon. Now, other NBA teams are starting to model Minnesota’s winning formula.

Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals with 7’1″ Dereck Lively II and 6’10” Daniel Gafford. Western rival Oklahoma City already boasted the slender 7’1” Chet Holmgren and recently added another 7-footer in Isaiah Hartenstein this offseason.

The Houston Rockets added Kiwi Steven Adams to play alongside budding star Alperen Sengun. The Memphis Grizzlies drafted 7’4” Zach Edey to go along with former DPOY Jaren Jackson. The Utah Jazz feature Lauri Markkanen, who often plays alongside Walker Kessler. They even drafted the 6’11” Kyle Filipowski to add another big to the mix. Even the lowly Portland Trail Blazers are purportedly following suit, having drafted Donovan Clingan to go with the mercurial Deandre Ayton. That’s 7 of the 15 Western Conference teams that now feature or can play in a two-big fashion.

It’s not like this hasn’t been done before, as some would say that the Houston Rockets were the original “Twin Towers” team with Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. David Robinson and Tim Duncan achieved great success with the San Antonio Spurs. In trading for Rudy Gobert and moving Towns to the 4, Tim Connelly established the modern version of the Twin Towers and caused a seismic shift in how current NBA rosters are constructed. Whether this plan will lead the Timberwolves to the NBA Finals is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear: teams around the league have started to take notice.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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