Tim Connelly: Wolves Expected “Growing Pains” With Rudy Gobert Trade

President of basketball operations Tim Connelly admits the Rudy Gobert trade hasn’t been an immediate success for the Timberwolves, but he never expected it to be, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Connelly explains that Minnesota made the deal with Utah with the understanding that it would take time to adjust to a unique player like Gobert.

“We didn’t have expectations it was initially going to hit the ground running. We kind of expected a lot of growing pains there,” Connelly said. “So I think, individually, Rudy’s been fantastic. When we’re fully healthy, we’ve got to figure out how to most effectively employ all those guys. It’s a win-loss league. If we had three or four more wins right now, it would be an emphatic positive.”

Instead, the Wolves are in 11th place in the West at 11-12 and have rarely looked like the energetic team that raised expectations in last season’s playoffs. Gobert is averaging 11.2 PPG, his lowest scoring numbers in seven years, and his rebounding is down to 11.4 per game after he led the league last season at 14.7. Most alarming is that he’s averaging just 1.3 blocks per night, about half of what he did in his best seasons in Utah, after being brought to Minnesota as a rim protector.

Connelly believes the statistical decline has a lot to do with getting used to a new set of teammates, and he expressed confidence that Gobert will eventually bounce back. He also stressed that the team’s perimeter players have to do a better job of clogging the lane and not relying so much on Gobert.

“There’s not a rim protector in the world who can just face live-ball dribbles all game,” Connelly said. “It’s not going to work. We have had moments of that where, ‘Hey Rudy’s back there so I can play olé defense.’”

Connelly paid a high price to acquire Gobert, so he understands why fans are impatient. The Wolves parted with three players who were instrumental to last season’s success — Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley — along with a collection of draft picks that stretch all the way to 2029.

One of the issues raised by those who questioned the trade was how Gobert would fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and whether having two big men on the court at the same time could be effective in today’s NBA. Krawczynski notes that Towns was adapting to Gobert as well as anyone before being sidelined with a calf strain. Towns has more assists to Gobert than anybody else on the team does, and his enthusiasm for making the pairing work is one reason that Connelly remains optimistic.

“We’re not going to bury our head in the sand and pretend it’s been flawless,” Connelly said. “We never expected that. When we made the trade, it wasn’t done without a lot of conversation, a lot of watching of tape.”

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