Rudy Gobert’s trade with the Timberwolves should be formalized this week, followed by a press conference. At this point, the spotlight will be firmly on one of the best centers in the game, who comes to Minnesota to help move the Timberwolves from playoff team to potential NBA title contender.
Gobert’s official arrival will also mark the official departure of a pair of players who helped lift the franchise to a level where it finally made sense to homer – Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt.
These two have quickly established themselves in the Timberwolves starting lineup and in the hearts of many Wolves fans. As much as the win helped bring fans back to Target Center, so has the presence of two athletes possessing the fire and vigor that Minnesota basketball fans have loved since Kevin Garnett took center stage downtown. of Minneapolis decades ago.
Beverley has displayed a not-so-subtle moxie replicated multiple times in this franchise’s history. He had confidence in himself and his teammates, a trait that permeated the entire roster.
Sure, at times he probably tipped — OK, maybe even flew over — the line into “too brash” territory, but his claim was far more beneficial than harmful. Beverley’s boldness seemed to help rising young star Anthony Edwards strengthen his voice and gave Karl-Anthony Towns the push to find his own.
The veteran playmaker was the leader needed to be in place last season as his most prominent teammates worked to transition into such a role. Perhaps no moment was more impactful last season than when Beverley pushed teammates aside after a loss in a rocky start to the season and forced each of them to spell out their role within the club. crew.
It was an empowerment session for all, the boost the young guns needed to finally realize their long-discussed potential.
Someone with a certain stature and volume had to vocalize that this was no longer the Timberwolves of old, that a new era was dawning. Beverley matched this bill from the start – when he announced his intention to bring the team back to the playoffs – until the end, when he planted his feet atop the Target Center scorer board after having carried out his previously declared intentions.
His words were backed up by deeds. Beverley maintained his status as a top perimeter defender, often taking on difficult individual assignments to relieve backcourt teammate D’Angelo Russell.
The identity of the Timberwolves heading into last season was defined by offensive production. Wolves manager Chris Finch hinted as much. The roster leaned heavily towards that side of the ball.
The reason Minnesota so far exceeded expectations and won 46 games is entirely because it didn’t turn out to be the case. Wolves finished with a defense that finished in the top half of the NBA after keeping the team afloat for the first half of the season. Minnesota flew over, making up for a lack of defensive acumen with strenuous efforts that created chaos few opponents were used to playing against.
Beverley and Vanderbilt were the heads of the snake, with Beverley providing the peripheral ball pressure that is king in basketball and Vanderbilt flying to do just about everything else. Among Minnesota’s top 25 most-played two-man combinations, the duo of Beverley and Vanderbilt sported the second-highest defensive rating.
These two were always willing to do the little things that actually won games.
For so long, these intangibles were lacking in Minnesota, which was reflected in the win-loss record. Talent matters, especially in the NBA, but it is so often wasted because the ability to make shots isn’t properly balanced with the willingness to dive on a loose ball or box in an opposing offensive player. Rosters and rosters require balance to win in this league.
A problem for so many teams is the inability to bring consistent energy and effort throughout an 82-game schedule. It was rarely a problem for Minnesota. Because even on slow-starting nights, Vanderbilt would make a remarkable third or fourth effort to steal or grab an offensive rebound that ignited the crowd and his team.
It’s no coincidence that Edwards’ rise to young superstardom and perhaps the best season of Towns’ career has coincided with the presence of two teammates who have done everything outside of ball possession. basketball to impact winning games.
That’s not to say Minnesota made any mistake in trading Beverley and Vanderbilt, among many other draft players and assets, to acquire supreme talent in Gobert. The defensive superstar center has the ability to elevate the Timberwolves to a level that may not have been possible before his arrival.
But his acquisition is the kind of move a team only takes once they are confident they have the culture and direction to capitalize on the talents of such a player over the last few years of the season. Gobert premium. It’s certainly fair to say that Minnesota has it now, but only after players like Beverley and Vanderbilt helped reshape the Wolves and redirected them out of the mud and onto the path to relevance and success.