There are a lot of “fit” questions whenever a team makes an acquisition, especially a large one. These questions – which often sound more like concerns – were voiced aloud across the basketball world after the Timberwolves paid a hefty price to obtain Rudy Gobert’s services.
Can Gobert play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns? How will a great team fare in the playoffs when many of the best teams are going small? Isn’t it a lot of money to pay for a couple of centers?
It might be. We’ll see. And yes.
There are many other layers to the Gobert trade from a Minnesota perspective, including the way in which the All-NBA center could help the development of young star guard Anthony Edwards. But in terms of the immediate future on the court, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly seems to have a concrete answer to all questions: Chris Finch will find out.
Here are a few separate excerpts from Connelly’s comments about the Timberwolves manager at Gobert’s introductory press conference on Wednesday:
“Chris is an elite coach so when you have great depth, top elite talent and you add a guy like Rudy, it’s hard not to get excited. It’s hard not to be overly risk-averse and kind of play your chips a little bit.”
“Rudy’s best basketball is in front of him, and we’re adding him to a group of really, really talented guys, we have an incredibly creative coach.”
“We are very lucky to have Chris as a coach because Chris is very creative.”
Basically: Rudy Gobert is great, and Chris Finch is great, so how could that not be great?
And frankly, that basic math adds up. Because elite talent and elite training is the relatively simple and consistent formula used to achieve top-notch success in the NBA, just like any other league.
Finch has already shown what he can do with less than the best talent in this league during his short tenure with the Timberwolves.
Minnesota’s roster frankly didn’t do very well in the spring of 2021 when Finch took over and led the Timberwolves to a 9-7 final. Last year’s team lacked defensive acumen, but finished 13th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. There was one night in late December when the COVID-ravaged cast of the Timberwolves left the team with a starting lineup of Jordan McLaughlin, Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie and Nathan Knight.
That night, the Timberwolves beat a team from Boston, albeit also with few players, which still had the likes of Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard. Minnesota’s stars in that game were Jaylen Nowell and new signing Greg Monroe, who arrived just hours before the game.
From his early years of training in Europe to his time joining new formations at any time in the G-League, Finch has learned to do more with less. Now he can do more with more.
Regardless of what positions they play or if it’s the NBA trend, top talent is top talent, and Finch is clearly excited to have it. When Connelly and the coach first discussed the idea of potentially adding Gobert, Finch grabbed a whiteboard and got to work diagramming how certain formations would look in action.
“What we love is that the dynamic between him and KAT will now force teams to choose a little bit more about how they want to defend one or the other, and then we’ll have to figure out how to explore that, and that’s the fun part,” Finch said. “That’s what the rest of the summer is for.”
Finch was already looking forward to the Summer League action this week in Las Vegas, where he and his team could gather to put preliminary plans into action.
“The coach will be able to do a lot of cool things,” said Gobert.
With a lineup that is sure to outnumber its opponent every night, Minnesota is ready for a season full of chess matches. Finch proved to be good at this game. Everything the team designs, he said, will be kept “simple and highly executable.”
The instinctive reaction when an opponent gets small is to do the same to even out, especially in the playoffs. Finch has already stated that it will not be the Timberwolves approach.
“We’re not doing that,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure out a way for all these things to work.”
The Timberwolves are counting on their coach to do just that.
“We’re very confident in our ability to do it,” Finch said, “and, more importantly, our players’ ability to do it.”
The Timberwolves have announced the signings of forward Kyle Anderson and rookie Wendell Moore Jr. on Friday. Moore, a first-round draft pick, signed ahead of his Summer League debut Friday in Las Vegas.