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T-Wolves Insider: Rudy Gobert's Play Failing to 'Inspire Faith from His Teammates'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 27, 2022

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 26: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Minnesota Timberwolves prepares to shoot a free throw during the game against the Miami Heat on December 26, 2022 at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Minnesota Timberwolves spent a small fortune to acquire Rudy Gobert this offseason in a trade with the Utah Jazz, the expectation was that his defensive and rebounding prowess would turn a playoff team into a true contender.

But that simply hasn't been the case. The Timberwolves have limped to a 16-18 record, and Gobert has struggled to make the impact the team was expecting.

In particular, Gobert has struggled to have much of a positive impact on the offensive end at all. Part of that has stemmed from the team's difficulty in getting him easy looks near the basket, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported, though his play in general hasn't helped:

"[D'Angelo] Russell and Anthony Edwards seem to have trouble finding him in the halfcourt against smaller defenders, and the team turned the ball over 22 times on Monday night to short-circuit so many of their possessions practically before they even started.
"But Gobert's struggles with catching passes from his teammates in traffic, securing rebounds that are contested and blocking shots to intimidate opponents have made it difficult for him to inspire faith from his teammates. The ball moves better on offense and the defense is more active, though not as effective, when Gobert is off the floor. The Timberwolves simply cannot afford for that to be the case."

Gobert, 30, is averaging 13.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game this campaign. All of those marks are down from a season ago. The Wolves score 106.0 points per 100 possessions when he plays and 116.2 points per 100 possessions when he sits, per NBA.com, a drastic shift in offensive productivity.

Worse, the team has a net rating of minus-2.7 when he plays and plus-2.4 when he sits. To this point, the Wolves have been better when he's on the bench.

There are plenty of other factors to consider, including his fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns in an NBA that is progressively shifting to less traditional centers and more versatile wings up and down the lineup. But it's clear that, at least to this point, the Gobert experiment is going poorly.