The Tundra Tax in the Gobert Trade

If you are a Minnesota sports fan - you have likely heard of the "Tundra Tax" concept.

In essence, the basic premise is this: In order to acquire blue chip talent via free agency, Minnesota would have to beat the high offer by a more desireable franchise/geographical locale by an order of magnitude. That is the only realistic way to sign an elite FA to the Timberwolves. I don't have any hard evidence of this other than, ya know - the Wolves never having signed a true needle moving FA in team history. I am a believer in this concept.

If you will stipulate to the above idea - I hope you would be willing to go a step further.

Let's say that BP and Shell were the only two companies from which you could buy gasoline. Let's also say that for what ever reason, Shell knew that it was virtually impossible for you to acquire gas from BP. It would be an understandable (but gross) business practice for them to squeeze you on the price as they know you have no alternatives if you want gas. You can't procure it from one source (FA), so by extension, the price to acquire from the only other outlet (Trades) will also be artificially high. I'm sure some 2nd year Econ major can assign a proper name to this idea - but I believe that in a free marketplace - this is a thing.

If you will stipulate to BOTH of the above (If you just can't bring yourself to stipulate to both - I suggest you stop reading now, hit rec for the effort and crack open a Calvin and Hobbes compendium.) Let's unpack this trade through these two lenses.

Q) What are the Wolves getting?

A) A blue chip, bonafide All NBA Team, DPOY and potentially needle moving franchise cornerstone player. Gobert is the best single player or asset in this trade by an order of magnitude. The best possible player to address the most glaring needs the team had last season: rim protection, defense (specifically when high wall wasn't working) and rebounding. This player is very hard to find and even harder to acquire.

Q) What are the Jazz getting? Reportedly:

A) 5 individuals, (4 if you want to count Kessler as a FRP - Editor's Note: we will count Kessler as an individual player in this exercise as the pick has already been spent).

In order of how bad they sting to lose: (This is where I have been told we can be fairly criticized for being subjective as opposed to objective. The below are my opinions. Your mileage may vary. Disagreement is OK.

"The author is an idiot if they really consider losing ______ to sting more than _______. What a ninny - I bet he has to carry a drool rag in his right hand all day long." (Saving some time, now people don't have to post this in the comment section.)

1) Stings the most:

Jarred Vanderbilt

Yes, he is completely redundant with Gobert and yes he has his limitations and shortcomings. He is 22 years old, was a damn near full time starter on a playoff team in the end and is on a VERY team friendly deal. It is also impossible not to cheer for a dude who treats the first minutes of a game with the same effort as the last minutes of the game. This is a quality that all players do not possess and quite frankly can't be coached. Ignore his stat line and obvious pros and cons for a second and just answer this honestly (No need to actually speak the words aloud):

"Would your team like a long, switchable wing that can credibly guard 1-4 who can both start and come off the bench with equal effort and output for $4M per season on a multi year deal?"

Every team in the league says yes to that right now.

(Even with the dearth of shooting and scoring that is very transparent with JV right now. He is athletic, works hard and you can safely bet on those kind of players who improve.)

2) Stings the 2nd most:

Pat Bev

I don't know how to accurately describe the Pat Bev experience to a fan that hasn't had it over a full season yet. I can tell you I came to acknowledge he is an overall net positive to the team and contributes to the team winning in both statistically trackable and statistically untrackable ways. (Spell check claims untrackable isn't a word with it's squiggly red line below the word. I won't allow a jagged crimson underline bully me into not using it.)

He is still a well above average defensive PG that is probably just an average offensive PG at this point. On the whole, he is a slightly above average rotation PG and by definition those guys don't grow on trees. His impact on team culture, effort and "Swag" (My teenage daughter just stormed out of the room with tears in her eyes after screaming I was not allowed to use that word in this post.) were tangible. He is an expiring that is also a valuable deadline chip. Hell, if legal - I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see MIN ask about reacquiring him. That's the best I can do other than say go watch a season of Pat Bev for yourself. He has his warts, age and injury concerns. Would I include two SRP in the deal to keep Pat Bev from going to Utah? Unequivocal yes. (I think for salary matching purposes - he had to be included in the deal.)

3) Stings the 3rd most:

Three-way tie. Malik Beasley is the strangest elite shooter I have even seen over the course of a season. He is a career 38% shooter and there was a great deal of handwringing when he opened the first half of the season stinking up the joint shooting a horrific 31% at one point. Then the law of averages kicked in - Beas was a FLAMETHROWER for the 2nd half and finished the season at... 38%. If you want your shooting specialist to go 3/8 every night for 38% - then Beas is not the droid you are looking for. If you can take some 2-13 nights in exchange for a large handful of 7-11 and 10-18 type nights where he almost provides the margin of victory singlehandedly - then you will love him. (Editor's Note: my disdain for the 2-13 nights where he would essentially shoot the team out of the game trumped my vigor for the red hot evenings - but YMMV)

Leonardo Bolmero

I briefly thought about faking a Bolmaro profile with made-up analytics then I realized I misspelled his name on the sub-heading to this paragraph. I think I'm going to try anyways. Here goes:

Bolmaro has some intriguing advanced stats. He is in the 88th percentile in offensive NOZZL rating and he is also incredible when looking at D-NOZZL comps. (I'll stop and show myself out now...)

TLDR: Bolmaro is a G-League lottery scratch off ticket who has some promising playmaking highlights but was almost completely ineffective in the limited garbage minutes he got with the NBA team.

Walker Kessler

Kessler? I hardly knew her!

(I'm not going to even pretend to credibly write about or value draft prospects).

Unprotected FRP in '23, '25 and '27

I don't think the '23 and '25 FRP should be much more than a Bolmaro or Kessler level draft asset. The Wolves were a 1 and done in the playoffs this year and ended up taking a player very equivalent to Kessler. The Gobert trade should almost certainly guarantee a playoff berth in '23 and '25. The false equivalency here is people freaking out about "OMFG WUT IF THE PICKZ TURN OUT TO BE THE SECOND COMING OF MICHAEL JORDAN!?!?!?!?!?".

Who cares? The trade shouldn't be judged on what the hindsight outcome, but rather the decision at the time.

Would you have bet $10,000 that Greg Oden would have had a better NBA career than OSU teammate Mike Conley? I bet a ton of us would have. I know I would have. Let's say you did make the bet - is it fair to mock you now with hindsight? "HAHAHA what a jagoff - he lost that bet by a mile!!!! I bet he has to carry around a drool rag in his right hand 24/7!!!"

Pick Swap in '26 and Top 5 protected FRP in '29

People are erroneously including the '26 Pick Swap as an additional FRP bringing the total to 4 Guaranteed FRP and one conditional FRP in '29. The fact that you will want to swap is far from guaranteed and I think it is more likely that not that the Jazz do not exercise the swap (Because MIN finishes with a better record than the Jazz in '26). as in '26 MIN will have Towns, Gobert, Edwards and McDaniels under contract. I can't make a case that it is more likely the Jazz will have a better team or record in '26 than the 4 of those players alone ensure. I also see people including the '29 pick as a guarantee bringing the total up to 5(!) guaranteed FRP.

The truth is: the '23, '25 and '27 will convey, but with mostly Kessler level draft prospects. The '26 is a swap, unlikely to convey and the '29 is not guaranteed to convey. The most accurate way to articulate the draft assets going to UTAH (imho) is:

3 Unprotected FRP in '23, '25 and '27

A pick swap in '26 that is less likely to convey than not

A '29 Top 5 protected that may or may not convey

At best, the Jazz get 4 FRP and a swap. At worst the Jazz get 3 FPR, no swap and no '29 FRP.

OK - needed to get that out because my pedantry has been going wild lately seeing talking heads spew out lines like: "If you include Kessler as a FRP because he hasn't played yet - that means Utah is getting an unprecedented 6 FRP for Gobert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Demonstrably false. I think the most likely outcome is the '23 '25 and '27 picks convey and Utah ends up drafting 2 players with the draft equity of Walker Kessler and one player with a bit higher draft equity than Kessler. If I had a gun to my head - I don't think the '26 swap conveys and I don't even know if the USA will still be a sovereign nation in '29 so I don't think it's fair to speculate if it conveys and/or the quality of draft prospect likely to be selected with it.

The bottom line: Cuz' Stone Cold Says So... (sorry - one WWE reference slipped out. Consider yourselves lucky it wasn't 5-6.)

I think it's disingenuous for people to say "But.. But.. But - the Wolves didn't outbid anyone else. They outbid themselves!". Trading takes two parties to assent and for a All-NBA team player with 4 years of team control to be moved the package needs to be enormous. (SMUT) I also believe the Tundra Tax is a real thing in both FA and trade negotiations. Minnesota needed a Godfather offer - plain and simple. Utah was not trading a player of Gobert's caliber for a "fair" package. Or a "good" package. They needed to be bowled over by an offer they couldn't refuse. I choose to believe that this is a barometer of how much Connely, Finch and ownership truly believe in this plan and roster. It could be a terrible outcome - but they truly believe they are betting on Greg Oden here - not Mike Conley.

One way we can aggregate the trade is the Bill Simmons analogy. If Gobert is a "dollar" then how many coins of what value did MIN surrender to get Ainge to say "Yes". I have no idea - except to say that the answer is likely in the neighborhood of $1.50.

Another way we can aggregate the trade is this: We got the best basketball card in the trade: a highly valuable, rare Rudy Gobert SP AUTO PATCH Refractor 1/1. In trade we gave up 5 decent cards and a bunch of unopened packs that have a higher "book" value than the Gobert card. Here's the rub: To MIN - they don't need packs anymore! They have already hit an Edwards, Towns and McDaniels by opening packs! Why would they wait until they can open packs to find a Gobert card when they can just trade a bunch of packs to GUARANTEE a Gobert card? Even fully aware that the packs they traded have a higher "book" value. If you believe in the Tundra Tax - this is a prime example. In order to get an All-NBA player on the Wolves - this is the overpay required.

Is this a Beckett Price Guide "overpay". Yes.

Do the Wolves care? Um... apparently not.

Should the fans care? I choose to focus on these three things:

1) The team has a better shot to win a championship post trade. This is not even debatable to the most staunch trade hater. Vegas odds went from 80-1 to 25-1 post trade.

2) When has a MN team ever spent consolidated assets for a piece that could put them into contender status? Don't we bemoan franchises for not recognizing that if you have a window of contention - spending future assets to try and realize your equity for a title is not only OK - but should be applauded?

3) It's going to be a lot of fun to watch both the unintended and intended consequences of this trade.

Tim Conelly - if this is how you choose to shoot your shot: I both admire and fear for you. The only thing I can say with 100% certainty about the trade:

You will be a deity if you construct a roster that brings the NBA title to Minneapolis.