MINNEAPOLIS - It took Tim Connelly less than two months to make arguably the biggest move in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Connelly was hired as the new president of basketball operations in late May. Less than two months later, the Timberwolves introduced Rudy Gobert as their newest star edition on Wednesday at Target Center after making a blockbuster trade to acquire the All-NBA center.
They paid a price for the top defensive center in the NBA, and it’ll be worth it if the result is multiple deep runs in the playoffs. Here are takeaways from arguably the biggest trade acquisition in Timberwolves’ franchise history.
KAT GETS A TWIN TOWER
We saw it in the NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies. Too many times, Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones got in the lane without much resistance. Karl-Anthony Towns struggled to defend without fouling in key moments. The Timberwolves also struggled clearing defensive rebounds at times. Now, Towns and Gobert are Twin Towers for the Minnesota front-court. Gobert is 7-1, Towns is 6-11. They are arguably now the best big man combo in the NBA.
Gobert is a four-time All-NBA pick, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and is one of the best rebounders in the league. He’s the best defensive center in the league, and Towns can shift to the power forward spot. Gobert is the physical, long and athletic defensive presence that Towns needs to stay on the court. His highlight reel ahead of Wednesday’s news conference at Target Center was filled with dunks, rebounds and blocks, everything the Timberwolves need to take the next step in the Western Conference.
TRADING AWAY DRAFT PICKS
Getting Gobert involved dealing four future first-round picks, and swapping a first round pick in 2026. Utah gets Minnesota’s first round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and a top-five protected pick in 2029. On the surface, that sounds like a lot, especially when you add in the five active players in the deal. When you look at the economics of it, the Timberwolves felt the deal was worth it.
Gobert said Wednesday the goal is to win championships in Minnesota. The Timberwolves have made the playoffs twice since their 2004 run to the Western Conference Finals. If you’re consistently making deep playoff runs, those picks are late in the first round. The odds that they’re difference-makers for the Jazz are low, assuming the Timberwolves stay healthy and make multiple playoff runs. It was a risk Connelly felt was worth taking.
GETTING GOBERT WITHOUT LOSING TOP PLAYERS
The Timberwolves were able to get Gobert without dealing Towns, Anthony Edwards or Jaden McDaniels. Reports emerged after the trade that Danny Ainge pushed for McDaniels in the deal. Connelly wouldn’t put him in the trade package. The Timberwolves sent Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Jarred Vanderbilt and Walker Kessler in the deal. Losing Beverley and Beasley aren’t franchise-altering, nor is Vanderbilt, Bolmaro didn’t play meaningful minutes and Kessler hasn’t played an NBA game yet. It’s rare to get Gobert without losing a franchise player, and the Timberwolves did just that.
WOLVES STARTING 5 AMONG BEST IN WEST
The Timberwolves feel they laid a foundation last year, getting into the playoffs with a corps led by Towns, Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. On paper, getting Gobert gives them a starting five that can play with any team in the Western Conference. Russell and Edwards in the backcourt, McDaniels at small forward, Towns at power forward and Gobert at center.
The Timberwolves will have a bench that includes rookie Wendell Moore Jr., Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell, Taurean Prince and Naz Reid among key depth pieces. They’ve also added Bryn Forbes, and Kyle Anderson in free agency. It’s a group that, if it stays healthy, can do damage in the Western Conference.
TIMBERWOLVES LOOK TO BUILD OFF PLAYOFF APPEARANCE
The Timberwolves and the NBA Playoffs haven’t been connected for the better part of the last 18 years. Connelly is taking a chance, a big swing, to change the standard in Minnesota. He called Gobert "as professional as it gets" and when you can trade for a player like him, it’s a move you have to make. Chris Finch called it "the perfect fit at the perfect time for our organization."
Gobert wanted to play for a team committed to winning, and said coming to Minnesota was "probably the best and most exciting situation" to advance his basketball career. It’s a franchise-altering move to make the playoffs the standard, and be a top-four seed.
They’ll have to address the futures of Russell and Edwards at some point. With Gobert, the current expectation is contending in the Western Conference.