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Minnesota Timberwolves 2022-23 NBA preview: Gobert plus Towns plus Edwards could equal start of something big

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The Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs last season for the primary time in 4 years, then followed that up by pulling off a surprising blockbuster trade to land three-time Defensive Player of the 12 months Rudy Gobert. Gobert’s impact will likely be felt immediately for the Wolves, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With Gobert in tow, along with the newly-extended Karl-Anthony Towns, a rising star in Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, things are looking up for Minnesota. 

On the very least, the Wolves will definitely be in the combo for a play-in spot. And if things go extremely well with adding Gobert to the lineup, the expected ascension of Edwards, and the continual All-Star play of Towns, then Minnesota could possibly be jockeying for a top-six spot, and avoid the play-in altogether. It won’t be easy within the at all times loaded Western Conference, however the Wolves are finally fully built to make some noise within the postseason.  

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, here’s a fast breakdown of Minnesota’s offseason, and a preview of some key storylines to look at for when the season suggestions off in a number of weeks.  

Key changes

Roster

Player

Position

Age

Kyle Anderson 

Forward

29

P.J. Dozier 

Guard

25

Anthony Edwards 

Forward

21

CJ Elleby 

Guard

22

Bryn Forbes 

Guard

29

Luka Garza 

Center

23

Rudy Gobert 

Center

30

Nathan Knight 

Forward

25

A.J. Lawson

Guard

22

Jaden McDaniels 

Forward

22

Jordan McLaughlin 

Guard

26

Josh Minott 

Forward

20

Wendell Moore Jr. 

Forward

21

Jaylen Nowell 

Guard

23

Eric Paschall 

Forward

25

Taurean Prince 

Forward

28

Naz Reid 

Center

23

Austin Rivers 

Guard

30

D’Angelo Russell 

Guard

26

Karl-Anthony Towns 

Center

26

Top of the important thing: What Gobert’s arrival means

Gobert’s impact will likely be most felt on the defensive end of the ground, acting as the very best last line of defense within the league. There is a reason Utah struggled so heavily on defense when he was on the bench, allowing 8.4 points per possession more when he was sidelined in comparison with when he was on the court. Unsurprisingly, Gobert ranked first amongst centers in defended field goal percentage (41.6 percent), making teams think twice about testing him within the paint. 

Nonetheless, Gobert’s impact will extend past what he alone can do. The 7-footer’s presence will allow someone like Edwards, who was making strides on defense a season ago, to be more aggressive on the wing knowing that Gobert is behind him to choose up the slack. Having Gobert within the frontcourt will even take some defensive pressure off of Towns, who struggled to remain out of foul trouble last season, specifically within the playoffs. Towns often committed lazy fouls to make up for miscues on defense, and because of this he averaged over 4 fouls in Minnesota’s first-round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. But having Gobert alongside him to speak where he must be on that end of the ground should hopefully help with that glaring issue in Towns’ game.

But let’s step away from what Gobert can bring to Minnesota’s defense because, frankly, his resume speaks for itself. His offensive fit is what will likely be way more interesting to look at with the Wolves this season. Gobert’s offensive limitations are well documented as a middle who cannot space the ground or dribble, and on this era where teams are on the lookout for bigs who can do those things, Gobert may seem like a negative on that end of the ground. But that is not precisely the case. 

Gobert will likely be an excellent lob threat for D’Angelo Russell in pick-and-roll situations, and he’s perhaps the very best screening big man within the league, especially as an off-ball screener, where he acts like a brick wall to unencumber his teammates for spot-up jumpers. His fit alongside Towns will likely be the trickiest part to work out on offense, because while KAT is amongst the very best — if not the very best — scoring big man in the sport immediately, using him as a glorified spot-up 3-point shooter could be a poor use of his abilities. Head coach Chris Finch may have to work out learn how to balance KAT and Gobert on offense in order that each players get their touches within the spots they need, and if he’s capable of manage that, then Minnesota will likely be in fine condition. 

Next up: Edwards’ third-year leap

Edwards is in line for a monster season, one that might end with an All-Star selection. He was already on the verge of becoming an All-Star last season, however the depth within the backcourt within the West held him out. Nonetheless, if he manages to construct off his playoff performance, where he averaged 25.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, three assists and shot 45 percent from the sphere and 40 percent from deep, the voters may have no selection but to call him to the roster. The advance we saw from Edwards in his sophomore yr was night and day, improving in every statistical category across the board. However the part that stands out essentially the most is his efficiency. 

Edwards’ rookie season

41.7%

32.9%

Edwards’ sophomore season

44.1%

35.7%

The three-point shooting is essentially the most impressive, and as he enters his third season it’s going to be much more crucial for him to knock down those shots as he’ll receive a few of the very best looks of his young profession with Gobert setting deadly screens for him to fly around. Edwards has already proven to be some of the electric finishers on the rim, consistently outdoing himself when he meets an enormous man on the rim only to show him right into a viral video. So if he continues this upward trajectory along with his shooting, it’ll only make him a good more terrifying threat on offense. 

Apart from the scoring, his ability to get his teammates involved was one other area where he took a leap last season. He ranked within the 88th percentile amongst guards with a 17.3 assist percentage, a number that is bound to climb as he runs multiple pick-and-roll sets with Gobert this season. And I have never even gotten to his defense, where he showed the willingness to enhance and remain engaged on that end of the ground last season. I already noted that Gobert’s presence will help Edwards on that end of the ground to be more aggressive in playing the passing lanes to attempt to provide you with steals. You place all of that together and you have got what needs to be an All-Star season from Edwards. 

Yet another thing: Let’s have a look at what McDaniels can do

A part of the rationale the Gobert trade took so long was that the Jazz insisted on Jaden McDaniels being included of their return. However the Timberwolves held firm on keeping him, as an alternative throwing in one other first-round pick to sweeten the deal. It shows that Minnesota has an excellent deal of religion in McDaniels, a third-year player who averaged just 9.2 points and 4.2 rebounds last season. It is also quite a little bit of pressure on McDaniels to prove to the organization that he was price haggling over, something that he’s definitely able to showing.

In McDaniels’ second season he proved to be a two-way player with tremendous upside, which is a highly wanted archetype across the league. He’s a flexible defender who has great footwork out on the perimeter to remain in front of guards, and standing at 6-foot-9 he’s able to being a small-ball big, too. He struggled to make 3s last season making just 31.7 percent of them, but he heated up within the postseason, pulling down 50 percent of his attempts over that six-game series with Memphis. The Wolves hope that his hot streak within the playoffs is more indicative of what he can do as a shooter. 

With Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt each gone, McDaniels has an actual shot at cracking the starting lineup, though he’ll have some competition with Kyle Anderson, who the Wolves signed this summer. But regardless if he starts or comes off the bench, he’ll have a more distinguished role this season to point out exactly why the Wolves were so relentless in keeping him.

Key games

Nov. 30 vs. Memphis: In what was some of the entertaining first-round matchups within the playoffs a season ago, the Timberwolves will get a likelihood at a measure of regular-season revenge against the Grizzlies at home, and this time they’ll have some added muscle within the frontcourt with Gobert. It’ll be an excellent test against a Memphis team that has a sensible shot to be best within the West.

Dec. 9 at Utah: It’ll be Gobert’s first game back at Utah since being traded by the franchise this past summer. Surely he’ll get a warm welcome from Jazz fans given he didn’t attempt to force a trade out of Salt Lake City and the way integral he was in Utah’s success over the past few years.

Dec. 14 at Los Angeles Clippers: I’m sure by now we have all season the video of the Wolves celebrating making the playoffs after beating the Clippers within the play-in round. They celebrated like that they had won the championship and were mocked mercilessly for it. Beverley won’t be here to face his former team as he’s now suiting up for that other L.A. team, but my guess is a totally healthy team of the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will need to attempt to quiet the Wolves during this game.

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