"The goal is to win a championship. That’s what I came here to do."
Rudy Gobert said these words in his introductory press conferences as he was welcomed in as the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves and, for once, the statement isn’t likely all that crazy. The addition of Gobert has given the Timberwolves their best roster capable of making a championship run since 2003-2004.
It’s been a while.
Stating the goal and achieving that goal are two completely different things, of course. The fact that the Timberwolves can even throw that possibility around is an accomplishment.
No matter what your opinion is on the trade that brought in Gobert, one thing is clear: the Timberwolves are going all in.
What do the Wolves need to do during the Gobert era to proclaim it a success? Maybe a better framing of the question, through a true Minnesota sports lens, is what do the Wolves need to do to not let this era be declared a failure?
Instant Fail Card: Missing the Playoffs
As long as Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are on the same roster, this team cannot miss the playoffs. A franchise that has made the playoffs twice since Kevin Garnett left, now needs to be a team that never misses it. No excuses.
Disappointing Failure: First Round Exits
Historically, when the Timberwolves make the playoffs, they are really good at one thing, exiting in the first round. Even as someone who has been a Wolves follower for as long as I can remember, it is still mind-boggling that the franchise has only made it past the first round once in team history. That shouldn’t be, and frankly can’t be, the case for much longer.
Shrug-Your-Shoulders Failure: Second Round Exits
The West is good and being one of the four best teams in the conference is not a bad place to be, but, let’s be honest, only making it to the second round would still be a disappointment and a failure. It’s completely possible that this is as far as the experiment will ever go, but it would still be short of checking off the success box.
Probably Most Realistic Result: Western Conference Finals
Here is where it gets tricky. The Wolves need to at least make it to the conference finals to avoid any sort of failure talk. In the grand scheme of things, getting to the conference finals is probably the realistic expectation that we can put on this team (as currently constructed) during this run.
The High Bar: Finals Appearance
Personally, I’ve been debating where I think the line of failure/success should be drawn. I think it’s somewhere between the Conference Finals and an appearance in the NBA Finals. I am leaning towards I’d be disappointed if this core doesn’t get to the Finals at least once together. It’s weird having expectations as a Wolves fan again.
A Plain Success: Champions
Every pick the Wolves just sent to the Utah Jazz could turn into studs and Jarred Vanderbilt could turn into Dennis Rodman and Michael Jordan, but that’s all white noise if the Wolves can win the whole darn thing. Yes, it’s a lofty dream, but a dream that doesn’t seem too outside of a possible reality.
The goal is to win a championship with this core and it should be. Too many times we’ve seen the Timberwolves fall over themselves in the basketball doldrums to not at some point finally put some expectations on what they really want to accomplish. The Wolves have three All-Stars on their roster and the player who might end up being the best on the team when all is said and done hasn’t been given that honor yet. This is one heckuva good core of basketball players not to mention this roster will likely get tweaked a handful of more times to place them in an even better position.
Rudy Gobert won the press conference. Now the Timberwolves need to go win and win a lot.