Thoughts on Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves
When the Minnesota Timberwolves make a blockbuster trade, usually they’re moving a disgruntled star. Aside from the moves that brought in Sam Cassell and Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves have typically been the sellers. That is just two trades in 20 years.
Kevins Garnett and Love are two that come to mind.
Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell was another large deal under different circumstances.
Friday’s trade for Utah’s Rudy Gobert in exchange for rookie Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley and four first-round picks was arguably the first time since the Butler trade the team has made a move to get over the hump.
Beasley and Beverley are fine role players, but were inconsequential to the team’s future.
Vanderbilt and Kessler are interesting prospects, but they don’t stop you from trading for a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in his prime.
Where the Giving Starts to Hurt
Timberwolves general manager Tim Connelly manage to move five players the team could stomach parting with for Gobert. What may come back to bite the franchise is the draft picks. This is the arrangement:
- 2023 unprotected first-round pick
- 2025 unprotected first-round pick
- 2027 unprotected first-round pick
- 2029 top-5 protected first-round pick
Look, if the team was on the precipice of a championship, the picks are whatever. But this is likely a team still a couple of pieces away. Gobert likely makes this better as Anthony Edwards continues his development and Karl-Anthony Towns continues in his prime. If all goes to plan, the Timberwolves will give Edwards a large contract in the next couple years.
It’s also curious because 2029 could have the Wolves conveying a first-round pick to the Jazz for Gobert in about his 16th year in the league. Alternatively, Gobert could be off the team already or retired. Towns would be entering his mid-30s, too. The value of the move would likely have depreciated before 2029.
A hefty payroll is worth it to win, but draft picks are crucial in helping cap-strapped teams find affordable young talent. Again, everything going to plan, the Timberwolves will likely be in that position, only with half as many picks as they would normally have for the next seven years.
How the Timberwolves manage to sustain a pipeline of young talent will be interesting with fewer darts to throw. Mining the undrafted free agents market will be essential, if not vital.
It may also force their hand in trying to move D’Angelo Russell, whom they may have already been trying to move. But do teams feel good enough about Russell to give a first-round pick or two after seeing how Memphis schemed him out of Minnesota’s first-round series with them this spring? Plus, the team receiving Russell would have him on the books next season for over $30 million as an expiring.
The writing seems to be on the wall that Minnesota’s future is Towns, Gobert and Edwards. I could be wrong but it seems clear Russell is likely the odd man out.
Paying The Cost For Winning
Maybe the price for Gobert is just what teams like the Timberwolves have to do to address their needs. It seems the team was tired of trying to find a reliable defensive scheme for Towns and found one of the best safety nets for him in the league on that end of the floor.
There are certainly questions whether history will repeat itself for Gobert in big game situations or the playoffs and being a non-factor offensively. Granted, Gobert is a relatively better player than Ricky Rubio ever was, but we saw how complicated things became with Rubio — especially in late-game situations — when you have a non-scoring threat on the floor.
Head Coach Chris Finch will need to once again prove his coaching genius and find a way to make Gobert a consistent threat, and punish teams who slough off him.
While I ultimately dislike the price the Timberwolves paid because of the picks, it’s hard to say the team is worse. It’s also refreshing to see the team take a big swing and you can see how it helps them possibly win a playoff series. Can they win more than that? Maybe but with the Clippers and Nuggets at full strength, plus a potential Kevin Durant move back west, nothing is guaranteed.
It’s still refreshing to see the Timberwolves respond to this by going all-in themselves in what will be a loaded Western Conference next season.