We’ve briefly mentioned the lack of playing time for the Twin Towers duo of KAT and Rudy Gobert due to Towns’ injury, but we did get 75 total games with the Stifle Tower in a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey.
In the previous season, Gobert was rewarded with another NBA All-Defensive Team honor, as well as his third All-Star game selection, while also being the best rebounder in the whole league, finishing the season with a career-high 14.7 rebounds per game.
While the expectations for similar honors remained the same with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gobert’s role would be quite different. Playing alongside the 7-foot-0 power forward Towns, Gobert was expected to provide rim protection and rebounding for the team. That would allow the vulnerable interior defender Towns to play on the wings and let him flourish offensively.
However, in the 27 games the duo played together, Gobert averaged his fewest points per game since 2016, while also showcasing a less defensive impact than that performed for the Utah Jazz.
Transitioning to a more optimal role
Why did this happen? Well, there are a variety of reasons, such as the fact that Gobert is already known around the league as an elite rim protector. Therefore, opponents often chose to lure him out of his comfort zone and attack away from the basket, leaving the impression that he no longer is the top shot blocker in the association. The Timberwolves did not have the right point guard to feed Gobert the basketball for much of the season. And like it or not, the Timberwolves’ perimeter defense was incredibly ineffective in the early part of the 2022-23 NBA season.
With this negative but tiny sample size, come many opportunities to prove the doubters of Timberwolves Connelly wrong. As the offseason progresses, Timberwolves players continue to put in the work and improve their games.
Timberwolves fans will see this work come to fruition as soon as the FIBA World Cup starts, as Rudy Gobert will be representing the French national team as they hope to win their first title in the competition.
Changing with the times
The FIBA experience is viewed negatively by Wolves fans regarding Rudy Gobert’s participation due to his injury that delayed his full participation with the Timberwolves to start off last season. But it is also an opportunity for him to get in great game shape ahead of the season and showcase his dominance on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball, as he usually does in these international games.
Finally, to lay the final expectations on the Stifle Tower ahead of this upcoming season, it’s not required that he wins the Defensive Player of the Year award for the fourth time or that he even becomes an All-Star again. Gobert just needs to be on top of his game and do what he does best on a night-in night-out basis.
As long as he is feared once more as one of the greatest defensive players of this last generation, the Minnesota Timberwolves will have gotten a bargain. He must do more than co-exist with his teammates and work alongside the self-entitled “Greatest Shooting Big-Man of All Time”, Karl-Anthony Towns. For the Minnesota Timberwolves to truly advance to Round 2 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the Timberwolves will need Gobert to be comfortable in his role on the roster.
And with former teammate PG Mike Conley Jr. on the Timberwolves roster, that is exactly what will happen.