Are Timberwolves Better Without Towns and Gobert?
The Minnesota Timberwolves scored more points on Sunday night, in their 150-126 victory over the Chicago Bulls, than any other game in franchise history. And it didn’t even take overtime. Crazier yet? Two of their three best and highest paid players didn’t play a single second.
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert both out with injuries, Anthony Edwards (37 PTS, 7 REB, 11 AST) and D’Angelo Russell (28 PTS, 8 AST, 7/10 FG) and Nathan Knight ( led the Wolves to one of the most efficient offensive nights in their 23-years as an NBA organization.
he's 1️⃣ of a kind.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 19, 2022
37 PTS / 7 REB / 11 AST / 2 STL pic.twitter.com/WSGA79rWtL
28 points for our floor general last night. 🥶 pic.twitter.com/dluyCYimj0— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 19, 2022
Two nights earlier, with Towns, Gobert and Russell nursing injuries and unavailable, Anthony Edwards (19 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST), Naz Reid (28 PTS, 9 REB, 3 STL) and Austin Rivers (20 PTS, 5 STL, 4/5 3PT) led the Timberwolves to a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both victories were necessary to get the Wolves back to .500 (14-14).
Sharing is caring
What has stuck out most in these wins is a newfound willingness to share the ball and run the offense like Chris Finch has been asking them to. Suddenly, shooters were wide open and driving lanes parted like the Red Sea. And the “undermanned” Wolves took advantage.
After the game last night over Chicago, DLo talked about trusting the offense, Ant said he’s having the most fun of his career and surprise hero Nathan Knight talked about “sharing the pill” and everyone being happy.
“It’s trusting the offense. I’ve been saying it, when we do that, it can be anybody’s night. Tonight, we saw it as a collective group.” — D’Angelo Russell (via Star Tribune)
“Now I’m on the ball every time, so I get to see everything,” Edwards said. “It’s pretty dope. It’s actually fun, like I’m having the most fun I ever had playing basketball.” — Anthony Edwards (via Star Tribune)
“Share the pill,” Knight said of the Wolves’ big night. “The ball was moving. Everybody was touching the ball. Everybody was happy.” — Nathan Knight (via Star Tribune)
Are Timberwolves better without KAT and Rudy?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are now 5-4 since Karl-Anthony Towns left the lineup with his injury, 2-0 since Gobert went out. While those sample sizes are small, it’s worth asking: Are the Wolves better without their two big men? It sure felt like it last night and the quotes you read above tell us the team felt the difference.
Obviously, Chris Finch and new PoBO, Tim Connelly, thought they could make the modern two tower approach work with Towns and Gobert. But we’re yet to see those visions play out in reality. KAT looks lost on both sides of the floor and Rudy’s offense seems to have taken a step back from what we saw in Utah.
Without them on the floor the last couple of nights, the Timberwolves have been free flowing, yet methodical. The offense is spread out, lanes aren’t clogged and the pick-and-roll isn’t slowing tempo. It’s for these reasons that much of the NBA has chosen to go smaller, instead of bigger.
Time will tell.
In the short term, the answer is probably “yes”. Without their two max-contract big men, the Wolves are currently better than they are with them. But that’s a mirage because they aren’t going to be out long. Gobert should be back any night and Towns will return sometime in the next few weeks.
So this team doesn’t have a choice but to figure out how to be more effective with those two in the lineup. Trading either of the two is out of the question. Gobert’s stock has plummeted since the season started and Towns’ contract says he can’t be moved until the offseason.
But if the Minnesota Timberwolves cannot turn things around by season’s end, the writing will be on the wall. Trade KAT, trade Rudy and look forward to a future called story called “Anthony Edwards & Co.”
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan