Fans will remember the fateful loss on game 82 that sent the Nuggets home and booked the Wolves a trip to the playoffs for the first time in eight consecutive seasons. On top of that, Connelly recently made a blockbuster trade for former Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, a natural rival of Nikola Jokic.
Both the Nuggets and the Wolves will be aiming for a top-four seed in the Western Conference this season and both will be disappointed if they can’t make at least the Conference Finals. So how do the two stack up against one another?
Are the Denver Nuggets better on offense?
In the 2021-22 regular season, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the seventh-ranked offense while the Denver Nuggets were two spots behind at nine according to Cleaning the Glass. This was, of course, without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for most of the season.
When both teams are at full strength, a Nikola Jokic-Jamal Murray pick-and-roll with shooters around them should be pretty unbeatable. I mean, the league’s MVP and one of the best shooters off the dribble is hard to beat.
However, the Wolves are gaining a slight edge on the offensive side with the addition of Gobert. He’s not known for his ability to score, in fact, it’s his inability to score in the playoffs which has been a major issue with the past few Utah Jazz teams.
Despite this, Gobert is one of the best screeners in the league and is a vertical spacer at all times. His screening will come in useful for D’Angelo Russell who works best in screening actions with a rim-running big while Anthony Edwards will be able to play with a great screener for the first time in his NBA career.
Still, a healthy bunch of shooters and finishers around Jokic might be the most potent offense on the planet right now.
Are the Denver Nuggets better on defense?
Rudy Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate when he’s on the court and he should paper over all of Karl Anthony-Towns’ issues on that end.
Towns has shown a willingness to get up to the level of the ball handler in the past, he just hasn’t been great at defending the rim. The idea behind the trade is that KAT can keep his intensity running after smaller players but rest easy knowing that there’s one of the best defenders behind him most of the time.
Nikola Jokic has routinely cooked Gobert when the Frenchman is defending him one-on-one, but shots will be harder to make for the other mortals on the roster. Also, it’s worth mentioning the story Jamal shared of Rudy trying to stop Jokic:
"“Joker’s got 47 right at this point, right against Gobert. He catches the ball on the block and they’re trying to send like half help, trust in the double team, right. And Gobert goes, ‘No I got him, I got him.’ Jokic has the ball and he goes, ‘Brother I have 47.’ I was like ‘Oh, you’re a savage brother.'”"
One of the main reasons why Connelly gave up so many valuable first-round picks is because he wanted to keep Jaden McDaniels, the young 3-and-D wing. Tim believes that McDaniels has a major role to play on the wing and parted ways with more future assets to do so.
Regardless of Jaden’s impact, the big difference-maker here is Rudy. Outside of losing to Jokic in one-on-one settings, his rim protection is just too elite during the regular season and he should be bringing the Timberwolves into a top-five defense next season.
Are the Denver Nuggets better in the playoffs?
The Denver Nuggets have bucketloads of playoff experience including a major come-from-behind victory over Rudy Gobert’s Jazz after being down 3-1 in the Bubble. This iteration of the T-Wolves with KAT and Anthony Edwards at the top have only been to the playoffs once and lost in six to the Memphis Grizzlies.
This section will be pretty short, the Nuggets are the far superior playoff team. Not only do they have more experience and experience going against Rudy, Denver has several players that are known to step up in the big games including Jokic and Murray.
But that shouldn’t be the end of it, it’s looking like these two teams will be fighting for a top-four seed in the Western Conference next season and if they face each other in the playoffs, it might be closer than Denver fans expect. Only time will tell.