There was an element of the Timberwolves offense that was present two years ago in their return to the playoffs that was missing for most of last season.
It was missing because Karl-Anthony Towns was out 53 games because of a calf injury, but even when he was on the floor, it still wasn't quite present the way it was the previous season.
The offensive chemistry between Towns and Anthony Edwards wasn't quite what the Wolves thought it might be, based on the results they saw in 2021-22.
As the Wolves go through training camp, recapturing the je ne sais quoi of the Towns-Edwards pairing is high on the to-do list for coach Chris Finch.
"The key for us is to recapture the chemistry that Ant and KAT have always had," Finch said. "I'm not overly concerned about that, but because we played in a very different rhythm for most of the season, when Karl came back, that two-man game between him and Ant wasn't as prevalent as it needs to be or should be."
A look at the numbers shows an obvious reason for that: the two were still trying to figure out how to play with Rudy Gobert.
When Edwards and Towns shared the floor together with Gobert off the floor, their offensive rating (128.3 points per 100 possessions) ranked in the 99th percentile, according to the advanced statistical website Cleaning the Glass. That happened on a total of 322 possessions. Two seasons ago, the two were on the floor together for nearly 2,300 possessions, and their offensive rating of 115.5 was in the 75th percentile. All very good to excellent numbers for the Wolves.
But insert Gobert into the mix, and the offensive numbers take a sharp downturn.
When Gobert was on the floor with them and Towns shifted to power forward (which happened on 900 possessions overall), their offensive rating was 108 — in the ninth percentile. By contrast, their defensive rating was among the best in the league (99th percentile) with Gobert playing as opposed to the ninth percentile when he wasn't.
The challenge for Finch will be to thread that needle of keeping Gobert on the floor, since he helps the Wolves defense so much, while making sure Edwards and Towns can function at an above-average level on the offensive end.
The good news for the Wolves was that in the playoff series against Denver, Edwards said he felt like something unlocked in his head, and he finally figured out how best to operate with Towns and Gobert on the floor together. Gobert felt the same way.
"We figured out some things last year, especially in the playoffs," Gobert said. "We still have a lot of things to figure out, but those things are going to take care of themselves."
Edwards said the thing that excites him the most playing with Towns is how well Towns can shoot from three-point range.
"We're going to see it this year, man," Edwards said. "KAT, he's super healthy. He's feeling good. I'm feeling good, so I think it should be fun. As long as we stay healthy, I think it should be super fun to see how we start to jell together, try to get back to where we was probably two years ago."
One thing Finch wants to do this season is incorporate more structure into the offense, and structure can sometimes come at the expense of having a more free-flowing, unpredictable offense. But when it comes to Edwards and Towns, assistant Micah Nori said they should be to operate in that dynamic with a lot of freedom, especially if one or the other is bringing the ball up the floor and the other can play a "trail" role, or having quick actions before the other team is set.
"It's just having more actions where the two of them are together rather than just straight side pick and roll, or top of the floor pick and roll," Nori said. "... Then you've got more options you can do instead of straight coming off a ball screen."
Edwards, as he typically does, projected a deep well of confidence he and Towns would get back to where they once were. He has high hopes for Towns, and as long as everyone is healthy, he said they can figure out how best to play with each other.
"[The chemistry] got cut short when KAT got hurt, and you seen little glimpses of it when we be playing good when KAT got back," Edwards said. "But it was just hard for him to find his rhythm. I think this year he's going to be a monster."