Brian Windhorst predicted something fishy was going on with the Utah Jazz on ESPN's "First Take". The NBA analyst delicately painted a picture of how strange Utah trading guard Royce O'Neal to the Brooklyn Nets was, becoming a meme in the process. Mere hours later, Windstrodamus' picture crystalized. The Jazz traded All-Star center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the biggest haul I can remember for a single player. What all did the Wolves give up to strengthen their defense? Only Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, FOUR first-round picks and a 2026 first-round pickswap . As a Wolves fan, there are few, if any, single players in the league who are worth this haul. I was convinced this could've landed former Brooklyn Net and current Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant — you know, one of the best NBA players of all time. The Rudy Gobert trade was now a part of NBA History, for better or worse.
That being said, Jon Krawczynski, Minnesota's beat writer for The Athletic, tweeted the franchise had been eyeing Gobert for weeks and were ecstatic to land the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year despite the steep price tag.
The hopes for Tim Connelly and the T-Wolves were that Gobert would elevate Minnesota's struggling defense and give franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns more room to operate on the perimeter. Additionally, Gobert projected to be a valuable pick-and-roll partner for budding superstar Anthony Edwards. Still, the Wolves not only gave up heaven and Earth to land Gobert, they're also taking on his massive contract. So far, in his first year with the T-Wolves, the Gobert contract has forced Minnesota to send teammate D'Angelo Russell packing, only to fall to the Lakers in their NBA Play-In Tournament matchup.
The Timberwolves wanted KAT and Gobert to lead them to the NBA Playoffs not an early offseason start that was preceded by a Kyle Anderson-Gobert in-game altercation. But then again, when the Sacramento Kings are ahead of you in the standings, it's possible that this year was just a fluke, right? Right?!
The Minnesota Timberwolves Went All-In, But Was It Worth the Cost?
Before the 2020-21 season, Utah inked Gobert to a five-year, $205 million contract extension — the largest for a big man in NBA history at the time — to pair him and franchise cornerstone Donovan Mitchell for the foreseeable future. The timing was hilarious, considering only nine months prior, Gobert made a mockery of COVID-19, which infuriated Mitchell. But, the duo played two more seasons together, headlining a Jazz team that performed well during the regular season but could never materialize in the playoffs.
The writing was on the wall when longtime head coach Quin Snyder resigned in June. Utah was due for a reset, and newly minted CEO Danny Ainge is just the guy to do it. As President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, Ainge famously hired Brad Stevens away from Butler in 2013, the same year he dealt Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets. Things worked out for Boston in the form of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and horrendously for Brooklyn. If Danny Ainge calls, hang up.
Now, as Windhorst predicted, Ainge appears to be doing the same in Salt Lake City. Hiring a first-time head coach in Will Hardy mirrors the Stevens move and dealing Gobert for an insane price mirrors how he dismantled the Nets. In Minneapolis, we Wolves fans are praying to the basketball gods what happened to the Nets doesn't happen to us. More importantly, Gobert immediately becomes the highest-paid player on the team. Is he worth it?
For a franchise like the Minnesota Timberwolves, as uninspiring as the move is to fans, the risk is worth taking. I have a group chat with some friends who are also Wolves fans. We all were stunned by the move. One, because of what it took to acquire Gobert. I still cringe thinking about it. Two, because a player like Gobert isn't a sexy acquisition. Sure, he's a mean 7-footer who's the best defensive player in the league and catches lobs, but he's not someone who can lead a championship team. However, he's a great complement to someone who can.
The move tells me the Wolves are banking on Towns and Edwards taking big leaps. Gobert holding down the paint frees Towns to work his magic from beyond the arc, where he does his most damage. But, he dreadfully shrunk in this year's first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. My hunch is the Wolves are fully betting on Edwards. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick has proven he has all the makings of a superstar in his first two years in the league. He should surpass Towns as the team's top scoring option, and I predict he'll be an All-Star next season. An Ant and Gobert two-man game is delicious to think about.
However, the timing, along with the gigantic price, is a big risk. Gobert is 30 and Ant would have to quickly elevate his game to maximize Gobert's time in Minnesota. As for Towns, him and Gobert will share the court for the next four years at the minimum and it won't be cheap. The two will make $71 million by themselves next year while Edwards will be due for pricey a rookie extension. That's not even mentioning how vulnerable a Gobert/Towns frontcourt will be to smaller lineups come playoff time. Man, and I still can't get over how much we gave up for Gobert. The Wolves effectively shifted the free agent market, and that's bad news for teams looking to trade for Durant.
It doesn't look pretty in the books, but this is a franchise that hasn't won a playoff series since 2004. It can't get much worse than it's been for the past 18 years, so a move like this shows they're going for it. The Wolves are now in the mix among the Western Conference's top teams like the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns. The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers will also be returning to full strength. The Wolves should be a solid regular season team, and I predict they'll end up in the 4 to 6-seed range. But, the goal is to obviously win playoff games, and Gobert's lack of experience with deep postseason runs is another blemish on the deal. The addition of a four-time All-NBA player should help the Wolves escape the opening round, though. Anything more is overachieving.
That being said, if the Gobert experiment fails, Minnesota will be screwed for a long time — a feeling us Wolves fans are all too familiar with. I like the idea of playing for championships instead of draft picks, but an arm and leg for Rudy Gobert of all players? Is that what it takes to get someone to Minnesota? I'm feeling queasy about the whole thing.
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