How Rudy Gobert could fit on the court and on the books with the Timberwolves

Ahead of the draft, Timberwolves president Tim Connelly spoke to the media and talked about what he learned from watching this year’s playoffs. The first sentence he uttered on the subject was, “It’s going to be really hard to get to that level where we think we can get to.”

It’s easy, in hindsight, to look at that phrase and say it heralded the kind of big move Connelly made on Friday with Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert in a move that included four players from the last year’s team, four future first-round picks (2023, 2025, 2027 unprotected, 2029 top-five protected), a 2026 pick trade, and one of this year’s premier players, Walker Kessler.

Wolves have no regrets for the kind of price they had to pay to get Gobert, with a member of the organization saying the mood was “ecstatic” after the deal ended. Wolves now feel like they are positioned to be one of the top four teams in the Western Conference for some time to come. The NBA is a league where elite talent wins, and the Wolves have cashed in a lot of their assets for someone they believe is raising the franchise cap significantly, given the other players they have. in their core.

They were delighted to keep Jaden McDaniels, the young striker they had high hopes for, and they sacrificed some extra capital to ensure McDaniels was part of the foundation going forward.

One of the biggest questions regarding Gobert’s transfer is: how is it all going to work out, not just on the pitch, but also on the books? Here is a breakdown.

defensively

The projected starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert means Towns will slide to position 4, or lower, when the two share the floor. At least in the regular season, that shouldn’t be a big deal on the defensive end. Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and this generation’s preeminent rim protector in the NBA.

The Wolves defense, even with Towns guarding power forwards, can work knowing they have the NBA’s best safety net waiting at the edge – and someone who was the NBA’s top rebounder last season. to clean up the misfires. Gobert will improve Wolves on the glass by leaps and bounds, their biggest need since last season.

Gobert can allow McDaniels and Edwards to be aggressive with their defense against the ball on the perimeter, for Towns to be aggressive if he has to keep players along the perimeter, which he has done a lot in the top scheme Wolves wall last season. , and that may allow Russell to be the roving presence he was last season that seemed to suit his limits on defense.

The move also means McDaniels will be the starting 3, small forward, a position he’s probably better suited for than the 4, where he’s had to play for much of his two seasons.

Teams will likely try to be small to fight Wolves, but not everyone will have the staff to pull it off. Who knows what might happen deep in the playoffs when individual matchups become more critical, but Wolves have a whole season to figure out how to make that work before they get to that hill.

The Jazz never left the top half of the league in defensive efficiency and were often in the top three during Gobert’s tenure.

Offensively

This is where it is important for Wolves to have Chris Finch. If anyone in the NBA is equipped to design and attack that involves two greats, it’s Finch, who helped do it around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins ​​when he was an assistant in New Orleans.

Finch was there when the Pelicans advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2018 with Davis and Cousins, 6-10 stars, in the lead. The two combined averaged over 53 points per game that season. This team was overseen by general manager Dell Demps, now a member of the Wolves front office. Demps also worked in Utah as an assistant coach with Gobert.

Gobert is one of the NBA leaders in the “screen assist” statistic, or when a screen set by a player leads directly to a basket by a teammate. Expect Gobert to work a lot with this with Russell or Edwards. Gobert’s presence and efficiency on the inside should prevent Towns from seeing too many double teams when he ventures inside. Too often last season, teams (like the Jazz) doubled Jarred Vanderbilt with their center and limited Towns’ effectiveness. The Wolves even called this plan the “Utah defense”. Gobert is more of an offensive threat than Vanderbilt.

The ability for towns to mark on the outside will keep the ground spaced out and avoid a traffic jam inside. If teams go small because they try to score on the attacking side, Wolves should be able to punish them inside on the other side.

Salary cap

Gobert still has four years on a supermax contract, which means he earns 35% of salary. It will earn him more than $38 million this season. It’s the same contract Towns will have two years from now when his current deal (which is 25% off the cap) expires.

Over the next two years, Wolves also have Edwards and McDaniels on their rookie deals before both are likely to see lucrative extensions. In the case of Edwards, it could also be a maximum contract.

Without going into too many numbers, Wolves have two years where they can play limbo with the luxury tax line and try to stay below it before Towns’ extension kicks in and Edwards and McDaniels start making more money.

They do that by signing Kyle Anderson on most of their mid-level exception, on a two-year, $18 million deal in this window. They gave Taurean Prince a two-year, $16 million deal with a second-year team option, signed guard Bryn Forbes at minimum, and picked cheap team options on Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell ($1.9 million each) for this upcoming season.

If this new core is successful, Wolves plan to venture into the luxury levy to keep the group together in two years. It will be a decision Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez will have to make after taking over the team in 2023.

Right now, Wolves have a two-year window where they can try to compete in the top tier of the Western Conference while potentially avoiding the luxury tax.

About Joey J. Hott

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