I: Veteran PG Mike Conley Jr. knows how to involve Rudy Gobert in the offense
Perhaps the greatest difference in a year’s time is the fact that the Minnesota Timberwolves have veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. running the floor. While some view Conley as just one more aging veteran who will need to be replaced sooner than later, he has proven to be far more vital to the Timberwolves roster.
When the Timberwolves traded D’Angelo Russell for PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round draft picks, the chemistry on the Timberwolves roster was barely a factor. D’Lo was not only unhappy as a point guard for the Timberwolves, but he was openly critical of Gobert and was not shy about making comments on the basketball court and in the locker room. For a Timberwolves roster that needed to gel, D’Angelo Russell was a huge factor that prevented that from happening.
Here comes the Conley Jr. cavalry
When Conley Jr. arrived on the Timberwolves roster, he had been incredibly effective in distributing the basketball for the Utah Jazz, averaging 7.7 assists per game, which at the time was a career-high. But his scoring had fallen to just 10.7 points per game, his lowest average since his rookie season.
Ironically, his statistics flipped in the 24 regular season games that he played for the Timberwolves. He averaged 14.0 points per game, an average that bested his four-year average for the Utah Jazz. But his assists dropped to 5.0 assists per game, one of his lower averages. But when it came to the NBA Playoffs, he managed to score 12.0 points per game, while improving his assists to 6.4 assists per game. Both numbers were significant improvements over his 2022 NBA Playoffs performance.
Yes, there are risks in any basketball competition, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have four players who will be competing this year. But unlike the beginning of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are firmly set in terms of their top seven or eight players this season. In the end, the difference is the continuity.
Good luck, Rudy, Ant, NAW, and Luka! And have no fear, when you are done competing against one another for the World Cup, Minnesota Timberwolves fans will welcome you all back with open arms.