When the Rudy Gobert trade was announced on July 1, it sent shockwaves through the NBA landscape.
The massive deal to bring the four-time All-NBA selection to the Minnesota Timberwolves from their division rival Utah Jazz was a move that sent NBA Twitter ablaze. Sporadic reports of Minnesota’s interest in Gobert floated around, but few thought the Timberwolves, or anyone, really, would meet Utah’s astronomical asking price for the French Rejection.
That was until the details of the deal were announced. Minnesota agreed to send Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, four first-round picks, and a pick swap to the Jazz for Gobert.
The most prevalent national reaction centered around the picks the Timberwolves sent to Utah, but Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly including Beverley in the deal leaves the Wolves without a perimeter player to lock down the opposing team’s best guard.
Mr. 94 Feet became a folk hero for Minnesota last season as a key member of the Wolves' first playoff team since 2018, helping to breathe long-term life into the franchise for the first time since the fabled 2004 season that ended in the Western Conference Finals.
In terms of leadership, Beverley and Minnesota legend Kevin Garnett have a lot of similarities. Despite not having the natural talent of Garnett, Beverley has the same trash-talking, gritty, intense on-court flare that Garnett famously possessed, and it has helped him carve out a long NBA career. It should come as no surprise that Beverley, who grew up in Chicago, wears number 21 in honor of Garnett.
The Timberwolves’ defense will be on another level with Patrick Beverley this year pic.twitter.com/ekiYTtpwcb— Timberwolves Nation (@TWolvesNationCP) October 5, 2021
Along with head coach Chris Finch, Beverley played an integral role in improving the Wolves’ defensive effort last season. Even players who were previously tagged as poor defenders, such as Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, bought in last season playing in a more aggressive, suitable scheme, alongside a firecracker like Beverley leading the team.
Finch has convinced all 9 rotation players to buy-in on defense, a rarity in Minnesota Timberwolves history.— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 23, 2021
This energy is contagious. pic.twitter.com/Np9ukesfzQ
Despite his contributions to the team and the place he will always hold in revitalizing the Timberwolves, the team correctly felt that Gobert gives them a chance to compete for an NBA finals appearance.
It will be a challenge for Minnesota to replace the leadership and competitive fire that Beverley gave the team, but it doesn’t hurt to look at a few people who could attempt to do so.
His resume speaks for itself. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is the analytical fan’s dream.
Gobert is easily the best interior defender of the last five years in the NBA, and his “struggles” on the perimeter are totally overblown. He is on the same level as Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the heartbeat of the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, on the defensive end. Gobert adds to any team an undeniably high value on that side of the floor.
RUDY GOBERT— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 27, 2021
I love the fact Ja Morant tested him. What a block by the DPOY pic.twitter.com/XgbuA3KI29
Gobert surely raises the ceiling defensively to a much higher degree than Beverley, but he may prove as a hindrance to the offense.
While he fills in and then some for Beverley on the defensive end, Gobert could at times weigh down the Timberwolves' offense, something that was not a concern with Beverley.
Beverley shot 34% from 3 last season, scoring a majority of his nine points per game from behind the arc. He also averaged four rebounds and four assists per game last season, proving valuable as a do-it-all role player.
Gobert, despite leading the NBA in shooting percentage each of the last two seasons does not provide much beyond dunks and layups offensively, and his presence in the paint could prove detrimental to the ability of Anthony Edwards to get to the rim at will if the Timberwolves are unable to effectively utilize Gobert’s vertical spacing in the half-court.
So, while Gobert can definitely replace Beverley defensively, on the offensive end, it’s tough to peg just how much the Frenchman will move the needle one way or the other. Minnesota will have to look elsewhere to replace Beverley's long-range production this season.
During his first two seasons in Minnesota, Edwards primarily provided offensive value. Edwards has by no means been bad defensively, he was actually exactly league average in terms of defensive rating in 2021-22, posting a rating of 112.4 per StatMuse.
The difference between Edwards and Gobert lies in their respective upsides. While Gobert is likely at the peak of his powers today, Edwards has the potential to be one of the most dominant forces in the whole NBA, and that dominance could spread to the defensive end of the floor, too.
First off, Edwards has the physical profile of a game-changing defender. Standing right around 6-foot-5, having the muscular frame of a 10-year vet, and being perhaps the most dynamic athlete in the NBA, the tools are plentiful for Edwards if he wishes to become a top-tier defender.
With all that being said, Edwards is not the defensive player that Beverley is yet. The key word is yet, because Ant has the potential to make the leap from average to spectacular whenever he wants to, as he has shown at times when he really applies himself defensively. Consistency will be the name of the game for him.
Anthony Edwards with some great defense on Luka pic.twitter.com/u6diowI2oh— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) December 18, 2020
With Beverley’s departure, Edwards will now usually be sharing the backcourt with Russell, who, for all the great things he brings to the Timberwolves, is not the biggest help on the defensive end on the ball, meaning Edwards will now have to pick up some slack that he did not last season.
Offensively, Edwards is obviously a far superior player to Beverley. Averaging 21 points a night to go along with five rebounds and four assists in only his second season, Edwards is a budding star on that side of the court.
The former No. 1 overall pick will only continue to grow as a player in all facets, and he, heading into just his third NBA season, is already a much better player than Beverley has ever been and that is not said lightly.
His infectious personality also strengthens his already strong candidacy to replace Beverley as the vocal leader of the team. There is not anyone quite like Beverley, but Edwards has a chance to bring a lot of similar things on the defensive end if he wants to, and while the vocal leadership Beverley brings is unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA, Edwards could replace it in some capacity.
Patrick Beverley has been a franchise changing guy for the Timberwolves. His leadership really brought that team to the next level.— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) April 23, 2022
A great mentor for future superstar Anthony Edwards. You can't teach toughness and dedication the game like he has.#RaisedByWolves pic.twitter.com/ltBFKj6mVt
Yes, the untouchable one makes the list of potential high-end defenders currently residing in Minneapolis. We went in-depth on McDaniels’ defensive ability in our season review, but revisiting the young wing’s defensive upside won’t hurt.
McDaniels posted a similar defensive rating to Edwards last season, with 112.9 per StatMuse, but at 6-foot-10 with a long, lanky frame, he has the potential to guard big wings like Kevin Durant and Paul George at an even higher level than Edwards.
McDaniels has shown special defensive skills at time early in his career, and if he can do so more consistently he can become not only a dominant on-ball defender, but he could be a menace as a weak side shot blocker.
Ok, this is actually just creepy defense by Jaden McDaniels— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) March 5, 2022
Just put Jaden McDaniels on an All-Defensive team now. Absurdly special solo weak side defense. pic.twitter.com/wsABxTKWpI— Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11) October 28, 2021
When McDaniels flashes, he FLASHES. In the clips above he displays all the skills that are paramount to being a successful defender in the modern NBA. In the first clip he forces the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the NBA’s most prolific at-the-rim threats at the guard position, to pass to an inferior teammate, which for most defenders would be enough to say they did their job on that possession. McDaniels however, rotates to Aleksej Pokuševski and blocks his shot, no easy task with Pokuševski being a seven-footer.
In the other two clips, McDaniels stops a dunk by Ivica Zubac of the Los Angeles Clippers from behind, along with showing insane recovery ability to steal a pass from Bobby Portis that would have led to an open three for Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen.
Defensively, McDaniels has truly limitless potential in every facet. He could be a dynamic shot blocker, on-ball, and off-ball defender if he builds upon what he has done early in his career.
Offensively, McDaniels projects as a perfect high-end role player alongside the big three of Towns, Edwards and Gobert.
McDaniels’ offensive role will be very similar to Beverley’s. While he does not yet pose the ball-handling or passing threat that Beverley did, he was identical in the scoring and passing columns, averaging nine points-per-game along with four rebounds.
While McDaniels only shot 31% from 3 last season, he shot 36% on only half an attempt less per game in his first year, so McDaniels is a capable floor spacer, similar to Beverley.
McDaniels, like Beverley, could thrive off of catch and shoot opportunities from Edwards drive and kicks. Edwards spectacular athleticism will inevitably draw defenders off the wings to try and help stop a layup or dunk, leaving players like McDaniels, Beverley, and even in some cases Towns open for threes.
All that to say, McDaniels will have a similar role to Beverley offensively, minus the facilitating.
Defensively, McDaniels, like Edwards, possesses the physical traits to become a high-level defender. With some weight added and more fundamental discipline, McDaniels and Edwards could create a scary tandem of wing defenders going forward.
McDaniels will continue to grow into himself a player for a few more years, and with his physical tools his defensive upside is limitless, and he, like Edwards, has a chance to replace a lot of the on-court production that Beverley left behind.
What It Means
Beverley will by no means be an easy teammate and player to replace, but the Timberwolves are fortunate to have players that are capable of filling in for him. McDaniels, Gobert, and Edwards can replace his production offensively and defensively. Edwards will have to emerge as a vocal leader if his team truly wants to be a contender, and based off what we know about the personality of Minnesota’s prodigal son, a vocal leadership role will fit him like a glove.