Many feel Minnesota gave up too much to get him, but there is no doubt it now has one of the best frontlines in the NBA with him and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Timberwolves are coming off a season in which they took a big step forward by finishing with a 46-36 record and fighting hard before losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
Gobert himself has some high expectations for his new team, as he declared that he came to Minnesota to “win a championship.”
But no one should expect this team, as is, to contend for the NBA title, or to even come close to doing so.
Gobert Can Help Improve Minnesota’s Defense
Last season, the Timberwolves were a mediocre defensive team, ranking 13th in defensive rating, and they were also just 27th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Gobert has the ability to send them soaring in those categories.
He is known as one of the game’s premier shot blockers and rim protectors, so much so that the French native has been nicknamed the “French Rejection” and the “Stifle Tower.”
Rudy Gobert's 4th quarter defense vs. the Mavericks was nothing short of spectacular. pic.twitter.com/QkJrPsn4em
— 𝐇 𝐨 𝐨 𝐩 𝐕 𝐞 𝐧 𝐮 𝐞 (@KGsGOAT) February 26, 2022
In the 2021-22 season, he averaged 2.1 blocks per game, and he is consistently among the league leaders in that department.
Gobert is also a monster on the glass who led the NBA with 14.7 rebounds per game last year.
The 2021-22 BBall Index DPOY: Rudy Gobert
Key Metric Performance:
🟣 A+ Rim Protection
🟣 A+ Mobile Screener Defense
🟣 A+ Defensive Rebounding Talent
Gobert lead the league in defensive impact per 100 possessions (D-LEBRON) and on aggregate (D-LEBRON Defensive Points Saved). pic.twitter.com/Us9P9ylREB
— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) April 25, 2022
With him in the lineup, Minnesota can prevent opponents from getting second shots, which will it make it easier for it to complete defensive possessions and get out and run, something it excels at.
Last season, the Timberwolves ranked eighth in fast-break points, and with Gobert limiting opponents to one shot, they can improve on that stat this coming season.
Gobert Is Quite Limited Offensively
The problem with Gobert is that offensively, his game is limited to lobs, transition buckets, offensive rebounds and other easy opportunities at the rim.
One may look at the fact that he has led the league in field-goal percentage three of the last four years and think he’s a good offensive player, but he isn’t.
He has no real low-post game, let alone a perimeter jumper, and in fact, he took 73.8 percent of his shots during the 2021-22 season from within three feet.
Come playoff time, when teams have the time to diligently come up with a defensive gameplan, Gobert’s offensive limitations tend to get exploited, as they did a few months ago versus the Dallas Mavericks.
In that series, his scoring plummeted to 12.0 points a game from 15.6 points a game in the regular season.
His lack of any offensive game outside the paint could make it hard for Anthony Edwards to attack the rim.
Will Minnesota Even Make The Playoffs?
The Western Conference will be tougher this season, as the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans are expected to post better records than they did last year.
The Timberwolves finished seventh, and if the Pelicans and Clippers leapfrog them in the standings, they would be a play-in team once again, barring plenty of internal improvement.
As of now, it is hard to see them finishing in the top six of the West, given that the Clippers, Nuggets, Warriors, Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies are all considered better teams by most observers.
The Timberwolves could win the play-in tournament again, but it won’t be a given, and even if they do so, look for one of the aforementioned squads to handle them in the first round of the postseason.