The Jazz and Timberwolves have agreed to a deal that we will be talking about for a long time.
Like, years. Perhaps even a decade.
The trade: Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt and a total of four first-round picks — an unprotected 2023 first-round pick, an unprotected 2025 first-round pick, an unprotected 2027 first-round pick and a top-five protected 2029 first-round pick.
There’s no question the Timberwolves got the best player in the trade, but those picks could turn out to be incredibly valuable for the Jazz. Just look at how much better Houston’s return for James Harden looks now that Kevin Durant wants out of Brooklyn. With how quickly things change in the NBA, there’s no way of knowing how good the Timberwolves are going to be in 2025, mind alone 2027.
By giving up that many unprotected first-round picks, the Timberwolves are banking on Gobert being the key to them taking the next step and, one would assume, competing for a championship.
Is it a good gamble? Let’s take a closer look.
TRADE GRADES: Timberwolves acquire Gobert in blockbuster deal with Jazz
The optimistic view of Timberwolves trading for Rudy Gobert
First and foremost, the Timberwolves are going to be much more difficult to score on in the paint.
Gobert has racked up three Defensive Player of the Year awards and six All-Defensive First Team selections to this point of his career on the strength of his rim protection. He’s a massive presence at 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, he has excellent timing when contesting shots at the rim and he doesn’t get into foul trouble often.
Gobert’s blocks should spark plenty of transition opportunities for the Timberwolves, particularly Anthony Edwards, who is already one of the league’s premier scorers in the open court.
The Timberwolves had a slightly above-average defense this season, an impressive achievement given their personnel. With Gobert now patrolling the paint, they should be stingier on that end of the court.
That will, of course, require Karl-Anthony Towns to be on the perimeter more. That’s not ideal defensively (more on that in a minute), but it shouldn’t take much of an adjustment for him offensively.
Towns is coming off of a season in which he attempted 4.9 3-pointers per game and connected on them at a 41.0 percent clip. He can spot-up, pick-and-pop, even run off of screens like a guard. He’s capable of putting the ball on the floor when defenders press up on him or run him off the 3-point line as well.
This is the sort of touch that makes Towns such a unique player:
The spacing Towns will provide at the four should give Gobert all the room he needs to continue playing to his strengths on offense as a cutter, roller and offensive rebounder. Gobert should also benefit from playing alongside D’Angelo Russell, who is among the better passers at the guard position. Pick-and-rolls between the two of them with Towns spotting up should pack quite a punch.
Worth noting: Russell has experience playing next to a lob threat, having played next to Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn. That could come in handy.
The pessimistic view of Timberwolves trading for Rudy Gobert
The Timberwolves should be better defensively in the regular season. In the playoffs, they could run into some issues.
Not only have teams had success putting Gobert in space in the postseason, but Towns isn’t someone who has ever been known for his defense. Expecting Gobert and Towns to keep up with teams when they downsize is a lot. Ideally, Gobert and Towns would complement each other like Robert Williams III and Al Horford do in Boston, but Towns isn’t as adept as Horford is at switching onto perimeter players.
It’s not the cleanest fit offensively either.
Gobert isn’t a high-usage player, but his inability to score outside of the restricted area means he’s usually hanging in the dunker spot when he isn’t screening and rolling. It helps that he’s being paired with someone who might go down as the greatest shooting big man in NBA history when it’s all said and done, but Towns does generate a decent amount of scoring in the post.
Jarred Vanderbilt isn’t a shooter either, but Towns often had plenty of space to work with when he shared the court with him this season.
With Gobert now in the fold, there’s going to be a 7-footer and whoever is defending him — likely another 7-footer — eating up valuable spacing around the basket.
That could hurt Edwards as well. While Edwards shoots a decent amount of jump shots, he’s an athletic freak who can finish through and over almost anyone. It’s not like Gobert is a zero on offense, but the paint won’t be as open going from Towns playing the five to Gobert.
If Gobert and Towns run into some issues defensively and the Timberwolves can’t quite figure out how to make all of the pieces fit offensively, this team could have a clear ceiling.
Did the Timberwolves or Jazz win the Rudy Gobert trade?
TSN’s Steph Noh gave the Timberwolves a B- and the Jazz an A for the deal.
This is a massive haul to give up for Gobert. The Wolves are making a bet that they’ll stay a playoff team through 2029. Ask the Nets how that same bet is going for them.
Nothing is for sure in the NBA, and the lack of protections on the first three of those picks could pay huge dividends down the line. The Jazz had to make a trade to break up the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell pairing, and they got great value back.
TSN’s Kyle Irving saw it slightly differently, giving the Timberwolves a B and the Jazz an incomplete grade.
It will take time for Towns and Gobert to mesh, but it does form an extremely talented trio along with star guard Anthony Edwards.
The draft capital they gave up is overwhelming and the fit isn’t clean, but the Timberwolves got better from this trade.
The fun part of this deal? It’s going to take a while before we know the definitive answer for who came out on top.
Like, years. Perhaps even a decade.