Last year’s Minnesota Timberwolves had one of the most exciting seasons for the franchise in over a decade. Though they exited in the first round of the playoffs, they competed in a fierce series against a talented Memphis squad. In the months since, a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert and a solid draft class has left the Minnesota fans with something they haven’t had in years: expectations.
Rudy Gobert has been one of the league’s best centers since entering the league from France in 2013. He’s made a name for himself on defense, winning defensive player of the year three times while playing for Utah, demonstrating his value.
For the Timberwolves, who have won only three playoff games since 2003, acquiring Gobert is a big deal. Minnesota gave up a lot for Gobert – four first round picks and five players including guards Patrick Beverly, Malik Beasly and Leandro Bolmaro, as well as forward Jarred Vanderbilt and the rights to rookie center Walker Kessler.
Many have said that the Timberwolves paid too much for the elite French center. Either way, the result is a top notch starting five that now contains one of the most exciting frontcourt duos in the game: Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns and Gobert are each elite big men in their own right. Both are top-five centers in the league and now they’ll be playing together. Though they each play at the highest pedigree, their style of play couldn’t be more different. Karl-Anthony Towns, or “KAT”, has been one of the best offensive big men in recent history. He shoots a high percentage from three and even won the three-point contest at All Star Weekend this past year. Gobert has made a name for himself on the defensive end. He is feared throughout the league and is known as one of the top shot blockers around.
Gobert and Towns will complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. Towns played well last year, but he struggled both defensively and with foul trouble. Now the burden of being the defensive anchor is off Towns and onto Gobert, who has played that role his entire career. The Timberwolves organization will move KAT to the power forward and play him in a more offensive role, where he thrives. With Gobert down low, Towns will have an opportunity to play from the perimeter and put up more shots. At the same time, he will stay healthier without having to muck up his game in the paint and struggle for rebounds, also adding to his fatigue. Gobert has that covered. On defense, Gobert will protect the paint the way he always has. This will create fewer situations in which Towns descends into foul trouble. All while providing the team with energy and momentum.
Aside from the two all-star big men, The Timberwolves have an exciting starting backcourt with former all-star D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. Russell has struggled with consistency throughout his career, but when he plays well, he’s as good as the league’s other premier point guards. Edwards is entering his third year in the league. In his first two, he has developed into one of the most exciting players to watch. He has taken a major step since he was drafted first overall in 2020. Edwards has some of the rawest talent in the league and though he is not quite there yet, fans and analysts can’t help but envision a Dwyane Wade type career for the young star.
Beside the talented backcourt, Minnesota has another young, athletic piece with forward Jaden McDaniels. McDaniels came to the Timberwolves in the same draft as Edwards and has improved in the same fashion. McDaniels has become a top three-point option for the team. He can play either the three or the four and when he is on the court, he brings a great intensity and good athleticism to the lineup.
Though the Timberwolves traded away the rights to rookie center Walker Kessler, they were able to keep their other two young studs from this past draft. Minnesota drafted the athletic forward Wendell Moore from Duke, as well as a talented Joshua Minott from Memphis. Though Minott was drafted a round later than Moore, it was the second rounder who showed out in the summer league and looks to make a large immediate impact.
Though the Timberwolves lost some nice depth pieces in the trade with Utah, they were able to keep their entire starting core with the team and even gave themselves an upgrade. The starting five they boast: D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert, is a group that could challenge any other starting five in the west. What they lack in experience, they make up for with raw talent. If Minnesota can play to their full potential, don’t be surprised if they make a deep playoff run.
Ultimately, the team will be one of the most entertaining groups to watch in the upcoming season. And with the franchise’s depressing playoff history, the Wolves have one edge that separates them from every other team–they have something to prove. Look for Timberwolves to finish as a top–five seed in the west – they have the talent to do it. At the very least, look for some more jaw-dropping highlight slam dunks from Edwards and elite work in the paint from the league’s newest duo.