Well, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offseason just got a whole lot more interesting.
The Wolves have acquired three-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, the draft rights to 2022 first-round pick Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and the rights to five first-round picks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The picks going to Utah, per sources: unprotected 1sts in 23, 25, 27, a swap in ‘26 and a top 5 protected in ‘29— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) July 1, 2022
Gobert, 30, is a generational defensive talent, but giving up three unprotected picks, a top-five protected pick and a pick swap in 2026 is playing with fire come to life, especially considering what we have seen happen with the Brooklyn Nets in the last six months.
Objectively speaking, trading potentially five first-round picks for a center on a supermax contract — less than 24 hours after you agree to a supermax contract extension with another big man — can only make become anything other than a strong overpay if the Wolves deliver a championship. You get one shot at a franchise altering move. Mortgaging Anthony Edwards’ future on Gobert, a six-time All Defensive Team member, is certainly a bold move. A bold move that also signals that new ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax.
But what this trade signals to me more than anything else is that President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and Head Coach Chris Finch feel that Edwards is an MVP-caliber player in this league, and are extremely confident in the internal development of Jaylen Nowell and Jaden McDaniels. Keeping McDaniels, which is a win, must have come at a price of multiple first-round picks.
Connelly and Finch are moving in lockstep to create a championship window starting before Anthony Edwards’ rookie maximum extension hits the books, but will ultimately have to consolidate when that time comes in two years.
It will be interesting to see how Edwards and Gobert get along from the jump, too, considering Edwards’ previous comments about Gobert.
Anthony Edwards said the best rim protector in the league is Kristaps Porzingis. On Rudy Gobert, Ant was honest ...— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) December 9, 2021
'Anytime I go against Porzingis, I don’t get no layups. I don’t get why we couldn’t finish on Rudy Gobert. He don’t put no fear in my heart. I don’t know why."
On paper, the Wolves now stack up as one of the best teams in the West with an intriguing starting five of D’Angelo Russell, Edwards, McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert.
Offensively, the fit is a bit clunkier given that KAT likes to play in the post, but Gobert is actually a perfect fit with Russell, who excelled playing alongside a rim-running big — Jarrett Allen — in Brooklyn. Given that Towns and Edwards are already two of the most explosive scorers in the entire league, this is again another bet that the Wolves’ offense will maintain its potency while pairing it with a walking top-10 defense.
Since 2015-16, Gobert’s first full-time season as a starter, Utah’s defense has average ranking of 4.9 and an average defensive rating of 106.6, including No. 1 defenses in 2020-21 and 2018-19. Utah finished without a top 10 defense only once, in 2019-20, when it finished 11th because Gobert played only 68 games. If Finch and his staff can figure out the offensive spacing, retain a top 10 offense, and turn up the defense from 13th in the league up into the top five, which are all extremely plausible, you’re looking at a team that can make some serious noise.
Given that the Wolves do not have one of the worst defensive back-court in the NBA, like the Jazz did for much of Gobert’s tenure there, you could make an argument that Gobert, who has a 7-foot-9 wingspan, will be even more effective when deployed alongside long defenders in Russell (6-10) Edwards (6-9), McDaniels (7-0) and Towns (7-4).
When you combine that with a rock solid bench group of Jordan McLaughlin, Nowell, Taurean Prince, Kyle Anderson and Naz Reid, that’s a nasty 10-man rotation for the time being with players playing in their natural positions.
Minnesota only has 11 on the active roster, so the work is not finished. That will kick up to 12 with the signing of Wendell Moore Jr. and potentially 13 if the Wolves roster Josh Minott or Nathan Knight on a rookie minimum deal.
The only Western Conference teams I can say confidently are better than the Wolves are the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. Outside of that, especially if the Phoenix Suns are unable to acquire Kevin Durant, I’m not sure there are any teams who are definitively better than Minnesota.
The Wolves sit roughly $9.5 million below the luxury tax line, so they have some wiggle room. Minnesota still has its bi-annual exception of $4.1 million, as well as $1.5 million in mid-level exception money to play with, so expect those to be used if Russell is not traded in the coming days.
Fasten your seatbelts, though, because this Wolves’ offseason is far from over.