3 Instant Reactions After Rudy Gobert Trade to Timberwolves

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 1, 2022

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The balance of power in the Western Conference may have experienced a seismic shift Friday with the reported trade of All-Star center Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t ESPN's Tim MacMahon), the T-Wolves are sending unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027, a top-five-protected first-round pick in 2029, and Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Patrick Beverley and 2022 No. 22 overall pick Walker Kessler to Utah for Gobert.

Now, a Timberwolves team that reached the playoffs last season as the No. 7 seed, is poised to take a huge leap forward in 2022-23.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the blockbuster trade and how it will impact both the T-Wolves and Jazz.

Timberwolves Boast NBA's Most Dominant Frontcourt Duo

The Timberwolves already had one of the best centers in the NBA in Karl-Anthony Towns, but with Gobert joining the fray, it can be argued that they boast two of the top five.

Towns is best known for his offensive excellence, dropping 24.6 points and 2.0 three-pointers per game last season, while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. He also averaged nearly a triple-double with 9.8 rebounds per contest.

Gobert's offense is a bit more modest with 15.6 points per game last season, but he also averaged a league-high 14.7 rebounds per night to go along with 2.1 blocks, further cementing his status as an elite defender.

The Frenchman is a three-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, making him the perfect complement to Towns.

Gobert is 7'1" and Towns stands 6'11", making them forces on the interior at both ends of the floor.

What should make the combination truly special, however, is Towns' ability to step out and knock down shots from the mid-range and beyond the arc, while Gobert does the bulk of his work in the paint.

The NBA has largely turned into a guard-driven league, but given how much of an interior advantage Minnesota has over every other team in the NBA, though, the T-Wolves should give their opponents fits.

T-Wolves are Now Dark-Horse Championship Contenders

Even without Gobert, the Timberwolves surprised a lot of observers last season by going 46-36 and taking two games from the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

They were already a team on the rise thanks to the presence of Towns, as well as the dynamic backcourt duo of Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell.

With Gobert arriving in Minnesota, the T-Wolves have a "big four" that can compete with any in the league provided they stay healthy.

Edwards, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, took a big leap forward last season, finishing second on the team with 21.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Russell put up 18.1 points per game and led the team with 7.1 assists per contest.

The biggest area of concern for Minnesota may be a lack of depth, although Taurean Prince, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Jordan McLaughlin are all capable of providing quality minutes if they remain in the fold.

Also, the Timberwolves have suddenly become a destination for veterans looking to potentially chase a ring.

Many of the Western Conference playoff teams from last season are losing pieces, such as the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Jazz, but the Timberwolves are getting better.

If Minnesota can stay healthy, it has a chance to be a top-three team in the West next season and a contender to win it all.

Mitchell Now Utah's Unquestioned Leader

While there's nothing but excitement in Minnesota, there's likely a feeling of apprehension and uncertainty in Utah after the Gobert trade.

One thing is for sure, though, and that is the fact that All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell is the unquestioned leader of the franchise in the wake of Gobert getting traded and Quin Snyder stepping down as head coach.

The Jazz have undoubtedly gotten worse by trading Gobert, but it is tough to argue against the decision given that they never made it past the second round of the playoffs during their six-year playoff streak.

A change was needed, and aside from Mitchell, Gobert was always going to bring the biggest return.

Utah didn't get a slam-dunk star back, but Vanderbilt and Beasley are both solid pieces, and all of the draft capital it received could be used for other moves.

Along with Mitchell, the Jazz still possess a solid core with Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson all under contract.

Utah could move out more of those pieces and enter a rebuild, but a better plan may be to pool together some assets and move them for another star who may be a better fit than Gobert was.

Whatever the case, the team's success will rely primarily on Mitchell's play and development.


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