Winners and Losers from Jazz-Timberwolves Rudy Gobert Mega Trade
Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell certainly have their arguments for co-headliner status, but three-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert has been the face of the Utah Jazz for over half a decade.
As of Friday, he's now a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The full parameters of the deal, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, are an eyeful.
- Timberwolves receive: Rudy Gobert
- Jazz receive: Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick, a 2027 first-round pick (all unprotected) and a top-5 protected 2029 first-round pick
There's a lot to sort through there, and we'll do so with the tried and true "winners and losers" formula.
Winner: Rudy Gobert
This move has the potential to bring Gobert's defensive impact into sharper focus than it ever received in Utah.
Since he became the Jazz's full-time starting 5 ahead of the 2015-16 season, they've surrendered a league-best 106.7 points per 100 possessions. With the players coming back in his place, it's hard to imagine that number doesn't balloon in 2022-23.
He's not just a winner for points of pride he may gain over the next couple years, though. Gobert is heading to a team on the rise that needs exactly what he can offer.
Karl-Anthony Towns is already a star on one end of the floor (he's 14th all-time in career offensive box plus/minus), and Anthony Edwards (who averaged 25.2 points in his playoff debut this season) is headed in that direction.
But Minnesota was still around average defensively in 2021-22, and we have more than enough of a sample to know Towns probably won't ever become a strong defensive anchor.
Gobert adds instant credibility on that end and gives every other player on the team a safety net. Even Towns, who figures to spend more time defending the perimeter now, can have some confidence that a blow-by outside won't automatically lead to two points. Getting by the first line of defense just means you have Gobert to beat, and that's often a losing proposition.
On the other end, Gobert might have even fewer attempts than he did in Utah. Edwards and Towns both have No. 1 option ability as scorers, but he'll still be an ultra-efficient rim-roller and offensive rebounder (an underrated form of shot creation). And D'Angelo Russell is far more distribution-minded than Donovan Mitchell.
Loser: Utah Jazz (in the Short Term)
It's hard to imagine this deal making Utah better next season (or for one or two after that).
Kessler has upside as a rim protector, but he's 20 years old. It'll take time for him to develop into something. Everyone else headed to Utah in that deal is a role player. Plugging them in for the biggest driver of Utah's success over the years will probably lead to some losses.
Since Mitchell joined the Jazz, Utah is plus-7.5 points per 100 possessions when he and Gobert are both on the floor, plus-10.3 when Gobert plays without Mitchell and plus-0.1 when Mitchell plays without Gobert.
Beverley, Vanderbilt and Beasley are all varying degrees of solid, but they're not making up that gap.
But this trade has to be less about now than it is about the future for Utah.
With Gobert in his prime and in Minnesota, those first couple first-round picks figure to be mediocre, at best. There's no telling what could happen between now and 2027 (or even 2025).
Those selections could turn into younger, more adaptable, positionless stars. They could be a part of future trades. There's far more long-term flexibility now.
And speaking of that, getting out of Gobert's contract (he has a player option for $46.7 million in 2025-26) might be a plus down the road too.
Gobert will be 33 years old then. There's no guarantee he'll be the player he is now. And if Danny Ainge has his sights set on a more modern core, like the one he built with the Boston Celtics, it'll be easier to find and build it without that much cap space committed to one player.
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns
KAT was 7-14 against Gobert during his career. And the Jazz big man held Towns below his career averages for points, rebounds and assists in those matchups.
Now, he not only gets to avoid those head-to-heads, but he'll also get plenty of help from Gobert on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, Gobert's rim-running will force defenses into a pick-your-poison scenario. If they collapse inside, Towns will bury them with jumpers. If they stay home, they'll surrender plenty of dunks to Gobert.
And his new teammate won't take many opportunities away from him. Among players with a career average of seven or fewer shots per game, Gobert's 12.4 points per game ranks first (and the distance between his mark and second place is the same as the distance between second and 178th).
On the other end, Gobert will do a lot of what Vanderbilt did last season (only he'll do it better).
He's not as switchable, but Gobert is the best rim protector in the league. Towns doesn't have to worry near as much about that criticism going forward. And with Gobert dominating the defensive glass, KAT might get a few more easy opportunities in transition too.
Winner and Loser (Somehow): Donovan Mitchell
This is, presumably, what Mitchell wanted.
For years, reports of tension between he and Gobert have crept up every couple months. At one point, the relationship was reportedly "unsalvageable."
Now, (assuming a Mitchell trade isn't next) he'll get his chance to be the unquestioned face of the franchise. Public reporting suggests that's where this is headed.
And in theory, that's a path that makes sense.
The Celtics that Ainge built just made the Finals with a thoroughly modern starting unit that featured five players who could switch all over the floor. With Mitchell at the 1 and the other four slots filled by those kinds of positionless players, Utah might have a higher playoff ceiling. Eventually.
The thing is, it doesn't really have those players yet. Getting there could be a long haul. And if things don't go well right off the bat, the pressure will be on Mitchell.
Is he willing to stick it out? Or will this eventually lead to a wandering eye?
Earlier this month, the Action Network's Matt Moore wrote, "league sources do feel that it’s a matter of 'when and not if' with Mitchell eventually asking to go to a 'glamour market' like New York or Miami."
Winners: Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell
KAT isn't the only member of the Wolves who figures to benefit from the arrival of Gobert.
D'Angelo Russell was an All-Star in 2018-19 when he had Jarrett Allen as a lob threat. That season, nearly a fifth of his total assists went to the big man.
Now he has another vertical threat to operate with in that middle-of-the-floor funnel that pick-and-rolls often create.
And rising star Anthony Edwards should now get a chance to attack more disadvantaged defenses as a flanker for those sets. With the attention Russell and Gobert will generate inside, Edwards should get plenty of open catch-and-shoot threes on kickouts.
And if defenders are able to force him out of those looks, he'll have closeouts to attack off the bounce.
Losers: Utah's Role Players
Gobert made everyone on the Jazz look better.
Over the course of his seven years as a starter, Utah both scored more and allowed fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor.
His rim runs gave shooters extra time on catch-and-shoot opportunities. His defense was the ultimate safety net.
Now, holdovers like Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic (assuming one or both aren't traded) will have to perform without the help of one of the league's best "do all the little things" players.
Conley, Bogdanovic and Beverley are all in their 30s, and it just became significantly more important for them to contain their matchups on the outside.
Everyone on the roster will have to think more about boxing out. The easy bail-out pass to Gobert in the dunker's spot or above the rim for an alley-oop is gone.
New coach Will Hardy may have some tricks up his sleeve, but they would've been easier to pull off with Gobert on the roster.
Winner: Quin Snyder
When he walked away from the job with a year left on his contract, "philosophical differences" were cited by ESPN's Tim MacMahon. Now, we may have a better idea of what those were.
Whether he knew a trade like this was on the way or not, Snyder got out just in time to avoid a short-term step back while maintaining a little mystique around his own value as a coach.