The Minnesota Timberwolves disturbed the basketball universe
when they paid a premium price for Rudy Gobert,
sending back a package to the Utah Jazz that did not include
Karl-Anthony Towns, who plays the same position.
Immediately, most people had questions. How will Gobert and
Towns fit together on the court?
The short answer? Better than you may think.
In a world where small ball is king, Minnesota is going to join
a handful of teams in the league that feature two 7-footers in
their starting lineup — the Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers
and Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are obviously an anomaly due since
one of their 7-footers is two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo,
but both the Grizzlies and Cavaliers had surprising seasons last
year due in large part to the size in their respective
Looking at last season as a blueprint, the pairing of Jaren
Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams demonstrates the most comparable fit
for KAT and Gobert. And going back to the 2019-20 campaign, the Los
Angeles Lakers playing Anthony Davis with either Dwight Howard or
JaVale McGee also shows it can work. The one caveat is that
Minnesota will have two All-Star big men on the floor at the same
time; neither the Grizzlies nor Lakers could claim that.
In this article, we're going to forecast how Gobert and KAT's
roles will look on both ends of the floor while both are sharing
Offensively, Gobert will likely function in the same role as he
did in Utah, with some more time in the dunker spot. Towns will
almost definitely see an uptick in three-point attempts, as he'll
find himself floating around the perimeter more often.
On this possession, JJJ sits on the perimeter while Adams is in
the same-side dunker spot. Jaren's ability to shoot prevents Aaron
Gordon from overhelping on the Ja Morant drive, while the
positioning of Adams puts Nikola Jokic in no man's land. Will
Barton also has to choose between cutting off the passing lane out
to De'Anthony Melton on the perimeter or sealing off Adams.
Whether it is D'Angelo Russell or Anthony Edwards attacking off
the drive, placing KAT and Gobert in this kind of set will generate
easy buckets for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves were limited with their spacing when Towns was
the screener due to Jarred Vanderbilt's inability to shoot from the
perimeter. On this possession, JJJ can overhelp and force a
kick-out to Vanderbilt. Jaren does not have to close-out and sags
in the paint defensively as Vanderbilt dribbles up.
This season when Gobert is the primary screener, teams will not
be able to help off KAT on the perimeter, creating the space for a
drive or an open three, making Minnesota's offense even more potent
than it was a season ago.
Picture KAT setting a screen and popping to the perimeter, while
Gobert hides out on the weak-side dunker spot and Edwards makes
like a freight train down the lane. Ant has not operated as a lob
passer in the pick-and-roll, but neither did Mike Conley Jr. before
he teamed up with Gobert in Utah.
Let Edwards and Gobert connect just a few times, and we'll wish
the rest of the league luck as they attempt to defend that
While KAT may not be the lob threat that AD is, Minnesota now
has the ability to run the above set with Russell or Edwards as the
ball-handler getting downhill. There is potential for Gobert to be
the screen-and-roller and KAT hiding out in the dunker spot. Either
way, the gravity of the big-man duo, plus a few perimeter shooters
around them, will put a lot of stress on opposing
This is an example of the lethal offensive potential the
Gobert-KAT pairing creates.
Not only does Gobert commit devastating screens, but he is also
an elite roller/lob threat. His gravity is going to force KAT's
defender to be in the paint for help. In the video above, Avery
Bradley's defender even steps in to chip McGee, leaving LeBron
James plenty of space to hit a wide-open AD in the corner. KAT
should get plenty of open corner threes off of Gobert rolls to the
Defensively, the opportunity for either Gobert or KAT to be the
weak side rim-protector is tantalizing.
Losing Patrick Beverley and Vanderbilt will surely impact the
Timberwolves' perimeter defense this season, but, with the addition
of Gobert, there simply needs to be a shift in defensive philosophy
and game-planning. Teams with an elite shot-blocker tend to funnel
the opponent toward that rim-protector. Lacking the perimeter
prowess of Beverley, Minnesota still should not worry too much, as
a three-time Defensive Player of the Year is anchoring the defense
Here's an example of one of Gobert or KAT being able to play
help-side defense and the value that provides. JJJ is defending his
opponent on the block, while Adams is on the weak-side block. Both
Gobert and KAT are better rim-protectors than Adams, and are likely
to deter opponents from even attempting this shot.