In 2023-24, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had one of the best defenses in the league. They managed to make things much tougher on Nikola Jokic when they beat the Denver Nuggets a few nights ago, and then against the best offense in the league in the Boston Celtics, they were able to hold them to 39% shooting from the floor.
They won’t get talked about in the way they should as a defense, but they are right on the verge of elite. Through their first six games of the season, the Timberwolves currently have the best defensive rating in the league at 100.5. They are 12th in the league in points per game allowed.
Minnesota has not gotten off to a defensive start this good in quite some time. Why is that? Well, you can point to a few different reasons that help support the claim, like Jaden McDaniels being an elite wing defender or even Mike Conley playing a role as a primary ball-handler-defender.
But the biggest reason is because of the way Rudy Gobert is playing. He may not be playing like the Defensive Player of the Year he was a few years ago in terms of the block numbers, but his presence is being felt. He is the defensive guy on this team. And, for some odd reason, one former player who is out of the league now after a short 10-year career is hating on Gobert.
Here is what Evan Turner tweeted out about the former DPOY:
"I love Rudy and respect all his DPOY trophies, but he gets highlighted a lot for being ELITE"
This tweet was in response to Celtics’ guard Jaylen Brown dunking on Gobert, which, to be fair, was a pretty nice dunk. However, getting dunked on does not make you a bad defender, nor does it make you a non-elite defender.
Gobert is elite; the fact that he is on a lot of highlight reels is because he plays defense very hard. It just means he is trying every play. You’d rather him get dunked on making the play hard than just moving out of the way and giving up the easy bucket. He is also oftentimes the last line of defense for the Timberwolves, as most rim protectors and centers are as they wait in the paint and around the rim.
Being dunked on doesn’t make you a non-elite defender.