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The Big, Bad Minnesota Timberwolves Are At It Again

How are other markets and front offices supposed to compete with the firepower of Minneapolis?

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Minnesota Timberwolves Introduce Rudy Gobert Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Minnesota Timberwolves sent up a boatload of draft capital, along with useful role players, to the Utah Jazz in order to bring three-time All-Star center Rudy Gobert into the fold, it was quite obvious that that haul could impact other negotiations, namely the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

The Wolves overpaid based on basically every historical precedent, which is why their trade has caused a disruption in the market.

That was to be expected.

What I did not expect was for the other teams in the league to whine about the Wolves using their draft capital and role players on short-term deals to get significantly better.

Here’s the latest report from Matt Moore of The Action Network:

There’s some wondering in league circles about who exactly pushed hard enough for the Wolves to trade four picks and a swap for Rudy Gobert. Was it was Tim Connelly looking to make his stamp immediately or (eventual) new ownership in Marc Lore looking to reshape the team in his (and A-Rod’s) image? Either way, the deal has gotten a lot of shorts in a bunch around the league. “How are we supposed to establish a market after that?” one executive commented. “It was one thing when Milwaukee (traded five firsts for Jrue Holiday), they were in a specific spot. If you want an All-Star, it starts with six picks, plus good rotation guys? It’s going to poison the market for a while.” Picks have become more liquid in recent years. For more on that, read this from ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

But if there is one takeaway from the conversations about how teams are trying to build, it’s frustration at what the Hawks gave up for Dejounte Murray and what the Wolves gave up for Gobert. If part of your betting involves “they might trade this player” or “they might trade for this player,” you should proceed with caution. The market is severely damaged at the moment and sellers will be holding up unreasonable standards of return relative to what most teams are willing to give. This is an inherent issue when you have 30 teams actively competing against each other while also being responsible for market stability. The Wolves’ primary responsibility is not to the market, but to themselves. If it makes things harder for other teams, that, in fact, is a feature, not a bug. As one executive said: “Yeah, Minnesota screwed us if we look to move one of our key guys. But isn’t that what they should want?”

In response to this making every other team in the league upset that they now have to pay up for stars, let me turn it over to Ron Burgundy.

I mean, seriously, the other teams being upset that the Wolves paid what they did for Gobert is genuinely hilarious. I feel very badly that teams can no longer get great players for peanuts. Just terrible, who could ever do this!

What is most funny to me is that teams are acting as if this is the first time a team has gotten a haul for a great but non-superstar level player. The Jrue Holiday trade is literally mentioned in the report, and while the circumstances are not the same, is Holiday better than Gobert? I’d say no.

The Wolves traded a haul, but managed to vault themselves into contender-ish status at the top of their roster with a legitimately deep team as well. For example, Austin Rivers is a perfectly capable role player in the NBA who will only play significant minutes on this team in case of injury. Maybe the timelines really end up ruining this experiment as some people have suggested. Much of that comes from skepticism that Anthony Edwards is ready for that leap already. Fair, I guess. But, doubt Ant at your own peril.

Ultimately, what is funniest about these complaints is that the Wolves are just trying to compete. This whole trade was about making their team good enough to be a legitimate force of will that other teams now must deal with. They correctly recognized that they probably hit their ceiling as a group last year, especially defensively, so they acted on it. Now they have the best rim protector of this era who also happens to hit beautifully with the other players on the roster. God forbid front offices or ownership groups actually do that.

The Wolves have kept their own picks for years to the tune of two playoff appearances in the post-Kevin Garnett era. Now, they’re cashing them in to form what should be a really damn good team. Shame on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Between the complaining about this trade package and the reports of angst over the spending power of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, maybe this will just be remembered as the off-season where we found out which teams were serious about trying to win, and which ones are only trying to turn a profit. My sincerest apologies to Robert Sarver that he may not be able to trade high-end role players and draft picks in exchange for one of the 15 or so greatest players in the history of the NBA (he still will be able to, anyways) to add to your 60-win team. Your franchise has openly stated that they don’t really care about the draft or value draft picks at all. If I had to guess, that might be hurting your power in these negotiations as well, but what do I know!

Also, my deepest condolences to the Los Angeles Lakers for potentially needing to add two first-round picks to Russell Westbrook to move him for an All-NBA level player. I feel very badly for the Miami Heat that Tyler Herro isn’t as valuable right before he’s due a huge raise as he was a year or so ago, and boo-hoo for the New York Knicks that the Jazz are asking for them to send over an astronomical amount of picks for the player they’ve been stalking out in the open for the past year-plus.

Best of luck to those teams on competing with the big, bad Minnesota Timberwolves.