Even though Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert played only 33 games together last season, both Timberwolves coach Chris Finch and President Tim Connelly said there was enough evidence when the pair did play together they could coexist.
But there were problems that cropped up when they did — the Wolves often got "cooked" in transition, Finch said, and their offense, which was one of the best in the league in the second half of the season two years ago, lagged in efficiency with Gobert on the floor.
Can the Wolves iron out these issues headed into year two of this double big experiment? Here are some things to watch with the Wolves:
All about rebounding
The Wolves have the personnel to be one of the best half-court defensive teams in the league. Their issues on defense were twofold a season ago — their height led to transition for opponents if the Wolves didn't put an emphasis on getting back, and they didn't close out possessions at a high enough rate. Their defensive rebounding percentage of .703 was 26th.
Finch has said it will be on the guards to grab long rebounds, which he said the Wolves were terrible at getting in 2022-23.
On the offensive end, the Wolves didn't take advantage of their height on the offensive glass. They were also 26th in offensive rebounding percentage (.258). That's because Finch "punted" on crashing the glass, he said, in favor of getting back in transition. This year, he wants the Wolves to lean into their big identity and crash the glass more.
More structured offense
Finch likes to have a free-flowing, unpredictable offense, and that worked two seasons ago before Gobert arrived. But one of the conclusions Finch came to in the offseason was that the Wolves needed a more structured approach with more play calls, especially at the beginning of possessions, to get into the offense. The Wolves will be more predictable because opponents will learn those sets, but if it ignites the more free flowing offense later in the possession, it could be a needed change.
Something Finch wants to see from the offense is a higher volume of three-point attempts. The Wolves attempted 33.3 per game (15th) a season ago after they were first in attempts two seasons ago. Towns' presence on the floor should help with this, because not only will he space the floor and allow the offense to function at a higher level, he will take around six threes per game.
When Towns was out, Kyle Anderson replaced him in the lineup and took just 1.5. They are also hoping for more bench production and shooting from the newly acquired Shake Milton, a career 37% three-point shooter. They have also encouraged Mike Conley to keep being aggressive to hunt his shot, which is smart because Conley shot 42% from three-point range after joining the Wolves last season.