The headline says it plainly and truthfully: Anthony Edwards needs to trust Rudy Gobert.
For all the talk about Donovan Mitchell never passing Rudy Gobert the ball:— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 17, 2022
Mitchell passed to Gobert 4.4 times per game in Utah.
Anthony Edwards has passed to Gobert only 1.7 times per game in Minnesota. They've run 125 pick-and-rolls, Gobert received the ball only four times. pic.twitter.com/OsskLl7TSe
Now, I’d usually be the last person to make a big deal out of a statistic like this one so early in the season, when we all knew chemistry issues would have to smooth themselves out over time. Not to mention there’s plenty of other numerical noise around Kevin O’Connor’s findings here — the Minnesota Timberwolves have more players than just Anthony Edwards to feed Rudy.
But when you dive a little deeper, you see the concern in a sharper image: Edwards has assisted Gobert four times all season, per PBP Stats. That’s a stark difference between Karl-Anthony Towns (25 assists) and even D’Angelo Russell (10, a number that seems to be on its way up).
Many possessions with the ball in Ant’s hands warrant full attention from the defense, especially the rim protector — more often than not, the man guarding Gobert. Edwards has to understand his own importance in helping his teammates capitalize on their strengths.
He also hasn’t shot well enough from the midrange this season to warrant Gobert’s defender stretching out and pulling away from the rim. He’ll have to boost those percentages (25.9% short midrange, 37.5% long midrange, per PBP Stats).
Anthony Edwards outstanding PnR lob pass to Rudy Gobert, hope to see Ant continue to look for Gobert on the roll pic.twitter.com/Epw6nXRHA0— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 12, 2022
These pick-and-roll lob decisions have been too few and far between from Edwards up to this point. He views Gobert as an accessory, not a weapon; a means, but no end.
Gobert hasn’t been as efficient at the rim as in years past, when he led the league in field goal percentage three of the last four seasons. He’s shooting 62.3% from the floor, his worst mark since 2017-18.
But that doesn’t warrant a freeze-out from the most dynamic perimeter advantage-creator on the roster. Even the NBA’s wrongfully favorite poster boy of immaturity, Karl-Anthony Towns, sees between the lines when Gobert isn’t as involved as the situation demands:
Interesting sequence here:— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) November 17, 2022
Rudy is upset that no one will pass him the ball, shows frustration, & then doesn’t rotate to protect the rim.
Seems like KAT kinda notices this, & responds by feeding Gobert on back-to-back possessions.
This is how you build chemistry (and trust). pic.twitter.com/kd3FRCR5Ie
Gobert doesn’t have incredible ball skills, but he doesn’t need them to be effective on offense. Edwards’ ability to attract extra defenders is a gift he doesn’t know the value of — but when he does eventually scan the barcode, it’s pretty clear the Frenchman’s face will appear on the screen.
I have faith that Ant will make the right calls when he needs to offensively. But the jury might still be out on whether his lack of connection with the three-time All-Star is blindness or ignorance.
Everyone wins when this gets resolved: Gobert becomes an option for every important playmaker on the team, Edwards draws more single coverage and the Timberwolves’ collective vibe won’t be stuck on a frustrating yet truthful Tweet from national NBA media every couple of weeks.