The Minnesota Timberwolves came to the conclusion that it was worth giving up the farm for Rudy Gobert, but also decided “Heck, we can probably sell them the house too.” It was a bold move by a future ownership group that consists of Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, not to mention new Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.
To say the least, Gobert is one of the best defensive players the NBA has ever seen, but coupled with his age and contract, will the Wolves live to regret this trade?
In total, the Wolves gave up Patrick Beverly, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Bealsey, Walker Kessler, Leandro Bolmaro, unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027, a pick swap in 2026 and a top-five protected first-rounder in 2029 (It’s ok if you need to take a breath after all that).
Gobert will undoubtedly help the Wolves rack up more regular-season wins, but I question if they’ll be available to avoid the problems that Gobert and the Utah Jazz had in their playoff runs. At most points, the Jazz faced teams who had run a five-out offense and it ultimately led to the Jazz’s demise.
The Jazz lacked any perimeter defenders besides forward Royce O’ Neale, and it put Gobert in tough spots to the point where he had to stay in the paint or close out on shooters on the perimeter. This isn’t to say Gobert doesn’t have his deficiencies on defense, but some of them could be patched up with better perimeter defenders. At this point in time the Wolves don’t have any great perimeter defenders either. Guard Anthony Edwards is a solid defender, but after him, it goes downhill.
Like we saw in the playoffs this year, teams are also shying away from playing centers unless they can confidently guard every position. Gobert is only getting older and his mobility hasn’t been the greatest, so investing in two bigs who aren’t the most mobile may cost the Wolves.
Not to mention, the Wolves are lacking perimeter shooting that you would ideally like to have with Gobert as your center. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is moving to power forward and is one of the best shooting bigs we’ve seen, so he’ll help out the most. Edwards and guard D’Angelo Russell shoot around 35% from three, which is solid, but like the perimeter defense, it gets worse after them.
The Wolves have 10 players on their current roster and still have about $10.5 million left of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception to use on players that could help them in those areas. However, most of the perimeter players left on the market don’t fill those holes the way the Wolves would probably like them to.
Even if the Wolves solve some of their depth issues, I don’t know how feasible it is that they make it out of the West. There are at least five teams that will be favored over the Wolves and with their cap restrictions, it remains to be seen how they fix their issues.
Mortgaging their future
In an article I wrote five days ago, I mentioned how uncommon it is now for teams to give up unprotected first-round picks due to the history surrounding it. The Wolves decided to disregard any of that history and gave away three unprotected first-round picks.
On one hand, it’s easy to see why the Wolves chose to give up all of those assets. The franchise has made the playoffs twice in the last 18 years and the current roster has shown they have what it takes to make it to the postseason. However, it’s reasonable to think that this was the wrong time to push almost all your chips in for this one acquisition.
For the next four seasons, the Wolves will owe Gobert and Towns between $72 and $108 million combined. It’s a big price to pay for a 30-year-old center in Gobert who has routinely failed to punish smaller matchups in the playoffs. Towns has also had his fair share of issues in the playoffs, being consistent as the main one.
The Wolves will also have to worry about Edwards’ rookie extension that he’ll be eligible for after next season. The salary cap will go up, but Edwards is going to garner a good chunk of that which will further restrict what the Wolves can put around their star players.
Edwards took a big step last year and most think he’ll take another step next season, but with this move, they’re hoping Edwards takes a Jordan-like leap this year so he can lead them into Finals contention. It’s a big ask of a third-year player, but Edwards was the Wolves’ best player this past postseason and showed signs of brilliance.
On top of all that, who knows if the Wolves will look the same two years from now? The NBA is an ever changing league of rosters. Players request trades all the time and that’s no different in Minnesota.
Whether it be injuries or a player(s) asking for a trade, the Wolves can’t afford for this thing to turn upside down because their future depends on it.