21 Sports 20 3p02

There were plenty of good reasons for the Minnesota Timberwolves to invest heavily in a two-big frontcourt with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, a yin-yang pairing of 7-footers who excel in exactly the ways the other lacks. The Wolves saw other teams succeed amid the NBA’s downsizing trend and figured they could do the same.

Things have not gone quite as planned. The Wolves are 7-8 against a pillow-soft schedule, having experienced prolonged bouts of bewilderment on both sides of the ball. For all their defensive blunders, they actually rank a respectable 13th in points allowed during time of possession, which is exactly where they finished last year.

While that still registers as a disappointment given that Gobert was brought in (at immense cost) to improve the defense, the team’s struggles on the other end of the court are more notable.

The Wolves were built to rack up points and finished seventh in offensive efficiency a season ago. But before they lashed out at the rebuild, the Magic came up short on Wednesday, sitting in 19th place.

Rudy Gobert

The starting lineup of Gobert, Towns, Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell has been particularly anemic, producing an offensive rating of 105.7 that barely beats the Lakers’ league-worst mark (105.4).

Minnesota has scored much more efficiently when Towns plays without Gobert (117.3) but has dropped points defensively in those minutes (119.1 vs. 110.6 with both on the floor), according to PBP Stats. The opposite problem has occurred when Gobert plays without Towns.

Defense in Towns’ exclusive minutes will continue to be a challenge, but offense with Gobert on the floor should be better.

For one thing, even successful high ball teams often have a hard time scoring because getting bigger usually means sacrificing shooting and ball skills for rim protection and rebounding.

But between Towns’ elite passing, driving and shooting ability, and Gobert’s gravity and finishing above the rim, the Wolves frontcourt has more offensive juice than most. So why isn’t that confirmed?

The Gobert-Towns are self-adjusting, though far from perfect, that hasn’t been the problem. In fact, Towns has been better than anyone on the team, by far, targeting Gobert and using his finishing ability. Nearly half of Gobert’s assisted baskets came from his field partner, many coming from high and low shots, but many more from 4-5 pick-and-rolls and lobs to dunk point.

By: joe wolfond
The Score

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