Fifteen games into the season, things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for the Minnesota Timberwolves as fans had hoped. The team is still under .500 at 7-8, and although they’ve looked better as of late, this group still has a long way to go.
With 67 games remaining, Minnesota will need to make gradual improvements if they’re to reach their potential and be in the thick of the NBA playoffs come April.
One of those improvements will be figuring out the best ways to integrate Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns with the rest of any given lineup on the floor. There’s been noted frustrations surrounding how Gobert in particular impacts the team’s offensive strategies while he’s on the court.
While this is a problem that Chris Finch and his staff certainly can fix, it’s hard not to think about how Minnesota’s starting frontcourt was a bit more simplistic last season with the presence of a former Timberwolves fan favorite: Jarred Vanderbilt.
Jarred Vanderbilt simplified the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offense
With Jarred Vanderbilt operating as Minnesota’s starting center next to Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves’ offense flowed less like a muddy creek, and more like a raging river.
In 2021-22, Minnesota boasted a 114.3 offensive rating, good for eighth best in the NBA. This season, they’re in the bottom half of the league at 16th, with a 112.4 offensive rating. It’s clear that it will take time for Gobert to be able to unlock the Timberwolves’ offense in the same way Vanderbilt did.
This is not to say Vanderbilt is a better player than Rudy Gobert. While Gobert is obviously the stronger individual talent, Vanderbilt’s skillset was able to maximize the rest of his Timberwolves teammates’ abilities in a way that we simply haven’t seen from Rudy Gobert yet.
Vanderbilt possesses a unique combination of size and mobility that’s seldom matched by his opposition. He pairs that with a high motor that allows him to operate all over the floor and be effective in many situations.
Jarred Vanderbilt is thriving in Utah
Vanderbilt’s game has played a big part in the Utah Jazz’s strong start to the 2022-23 season. Helping lead the team to a 10-6 start, the Jazz sit at third in the Western Conference.
Individually, Vanderbilt is shining as brightly as ever in his still-young career. Averaging a career-high 8.1 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 44% from three, Vanderbilt is looking like one of the best all-around big men in the NBA.
Vando’s huge impact for the Jazz has to be all the more disappointing for fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves. While playing in the Twin Cities, his energy was infectious and brought the fans in Target Center to their feet countless times.
That’s something the Timberwolves are missing right now. They’re sorely lacking when it comes to energy players that the rest of the team can rally around, and no player is missed more this season than Jarred Vanderbilt.