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After making their second playoff appearance in nearly 20 years, the Minnesota Timberwolves went into full-on winning mode with a blockbuster trade during the offseason, shipping five players. and: Four first-round picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for superstar center Rudy Gobert. Pairing Gobert with All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns was expected to form a dominant frontcourt and allow the franchise to continue its ascent.

While there’s still a chance that could happen, it still has to be Minnesota’s case (24-25). Just past the midpoint of the season, the team sits in 9th place in the Western Conference and has hovered around .500 for virtually the entire season. While competing in the middle of the pack was seen as a sign of progress for this team last season, that is no longer the case after last season’s success and the acquisition of a prized player like Gobert.

In an interview after the trade, Gober said his goal with this team is to compete for a championship. But how has the trade affected his play on the court? And did his addition actually make the Timberwolves better?

At first glance, Gobert’s performance this season is comparable to what he has done with Utah in the past. He’s averaging a double-double in points (13.3) and rebounds (11.6), while recording more than one block per game (1.3). He’s also shooting 67.8 percent from the field, which ranks second in the NBA. But on closer inspection, you’ll find that this was one of the worst statistical seasons of the big man’s 10-year career.

Gobert’s 13.3 points per game are the second fewest since taking over as the Jazz’s starting lineup in 2014-15. And his 1.3 blocks and 0.8 assists per game are the fewest he’s posted since his rookie season. If that holds, it will be the only season since his rookie year that Gobert hasn’t averaged at least two blocks per game. (It would also be the first year he didn’t finish in the top 10 in the league in scoring.)

Furthermore, Gobert’s impact on the court has been surprisingly limited. After posting a career-best RAPTOR plus/minus of +7.8 from 2020-21 and following that up with a strong +6.9 last year, his RAPTOR has dropped to +1.7 this season, the second-worst of his career. is the index (again, just ahead of his rookie year). And according to NBA Advanced Stats, we’ve never seen a more porous defense under Gobert. Minnesota’s defensive efficiency rating with Gobert on the court, 108.7, is the worst it’s ever been, and his team’s -1.2 net rating when he plays is the lowest since his rookie season.

Those aren’t exactly the results a team is hoping for when trading away a three-time defensive player of the year, especially given what the T-Wolves needed heading into the season.

Minnesota had one of the best offenses in the NBA last year, leading the league in points per game, and the team also posted a top-10 offensive efficiency rating (114.3). But it was also among the worst defensive teams, allowing 113.3 points per night, which was seventh in the NBA last season. One of the main goals of the Gobert deal was to improve that end of the court.

Since trading Gobert, Minnesota has taken a step back offensively, which was somewhat expected. The French big man’s biggest knock was his limited attacking play. Even though the team is scoring nearly as many points per game this year (115.3), which would be tied for fourth-most last season, the league has caught up. Minnesota ranks 11th in points per game this season and has fallen to 20th in offensive efficiency (113.6). But what’s surprising is the lack of improvement Minnesota has shown on defense. Even with Gober playing 40 of a possible 49 games, the team is allowing the league’s 11th-most points per game (115.6), which is only a four-point improvement from last year. And its defensive efficiency rating is actually worse this season, going from 111.2 to 113.4.

With the addition of Gobert, it was thought that pairing a defensive-minded big man with a skilled, big shot like Towns would allow both players to make up for each other’s shortcomings, but that just hasn’t been the case so far. Before Towns was forced to miss time with a calf injury, the two weren’t even among the Timberwolves’ top two players. Of the 19 duos that have combined for 400 minutes or more this season, Gobert and Towns have the worst offensive rating (106.6) and the seventh-worst net rating (-0.7).

Minnesota’s new big man hasn’t been much better with the team’s other young star, Anthony Edwards. the pair also has a net rating of -0.7 when sharing the floor. And in the limited amount of time all three stars have been on the court together, the production has been mixed. Despite being one of the team’s better defensive combinations with a 106.6 defensive rating (second in team three-man scoring this season), the Gobert-Towns-Edwards trio was the second-best offensively of any three. -Men’s lineup with more than 350 minutes combined this season (with a 107.4 offensive rating). That has resulted in the trio’s overall net rating being nearly even (+0.8 points per 100 possessions) despite the abundance of talent.

It’s too early to tell if this fledgling Timberwolves core can eventually be good enough to play at the championship level Gober hinted at before the season. But it’s clearly off to a bad start, and it’s troubling that Gobert’s big-ticket acquisition has yet to make the team much better…if at all.

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