It’s not often that the Minnesota Timberwolves stun the NBA world, but days into free agency that’s exactly what happened when the organization completed a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert. In exchange for the all-star center, the Utah Jazz got back Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Leandro Bolmaro, Jarred Vanderbilt and four future first-round picks, three of which are unprotected.
In addition to being one of the steepest prices ever paid for a star in a trade, and throwing the entire trade market out of whack in an offseason where Kevin Durant is also expecting to be dealt, the move created serious expectations for the Wolves, both internally and externally.
“It’s go time,” Towns said. “The [Rudy Gobert] trade happens. There’s no more time. There are no more excuses. We’ve got to get it done now. It’s championship now or bust. Got to go out there and get the job done.”
Towns added that he and Gobert will complement each other well.
“I expect a lot of winning, for sure,” said Towns of his squad that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004. “I want to win. I’m not up here just blowing smoke. I really want to try to bring a championship right here to Minnesota. I think Rudy adds a huge component to that. He’s gonna be a massive part of us being a championship team. My job is to help him as much as he’s going to help me. His strengths are my weaknesses and his weaknesses are my strengths, so we’ll be able to play off of each other.”
Much of the conversation regarding the trade has centered on how much the Wolves gave up, and there’s a large school of thought that they massively overpaid. But wherever you fall on that argument, there’s no question the team will be better on the court with Gobert. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is one of the best rim protectors in the league, and will single-handedly improve the team’s defense and rebounding — both of which were an issue last season.
But there’s a big difference between improvement and competing for a title for a team that finished seventh in the Western Conference last season and had to win a play-in game to get into the playoffs. For what it’s worth, here’s a look at SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh’s projections for the Wolves after the Gobert trade. As you can see, not much hope to even make the Finals.
The Wolves had some impressive moments in their first-round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, and arguably could have won that series. Even so, they weren’t going to win the title last season, and there remains a gap between them and the other teams at the top of the West, especially now that the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets are expected to return key starters who were missed last season with injuries. Of course, that doesn’t even take into account some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
You can’t fault Towns for the ambition — he’s not going to get up there and say he’s happy just to make the playoffs — but both he and Wolves fans will likely be disappointed this season if they’re actually expecting a title.