A few days before the Timberwolves and Jazz agreed to send Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for a cache of players and draft picks, Gobert told his agent, Bouna Ndiaye, that he wanted some time to think about the move.
“I told him I needed a day or two to think about it,” Gobert said. “After a day I told him that this was probably the best, most exciting situation for me in basketball.”
A day later, Gobert said, the trade was done, and by Wednesday the 7-1 center was in Minnesota, posing for all the pictures and shaking all the hands he could at Target Center.
The trade represents a huge shift for both Gobert and the Wolves organization. Out went a number of players who helped make the Wolves a playoff team last season – along with four future first-round picks and another pick-swap.
Gobert now joins only the second team he has ever played for in his 10-year career.
“So it’s just a really unique core of young guys and a really good coach [Chris Finch] who complained about my screens all the time,’ said Gobert, laughing. “So now we’re on the same side. I’m excited.”
Gobert was also excited about the potential combination he and Karl-Anthony Towns will form. Two of the biggest questions about this trade are how much they fit together, and can the Wolves play two big men on the floor in an NBA that’s gotten smaller and faster over the past decade.
Gobert said he took a moment to think about his match with Towns.
“When I went to bed, I thought about it more and more,” Gobert said. “And actually that was probably the best, most exciting challenge for me, to mate with a guy like KAT.”
Towns’s ability to shoot, handle the ball and pass should complement Gobert on offense – and let teams decide which player to double up on the post – while Gobert’s ability to protect the edge makes Towns more defensive. freedom and possibly keep him out of dirty trouble.
“If you had told me that a year ago, I would have told you I didn’t think it would happen,” Gobert said. “But now that it’s come to life, I’m super excited and I’m allowing him to be even more himself, to be even more dominant.”
The Wolves paid a bounty, and perhaps more than a bounty, to get Gobert to Minnesota. National analysts and reporters have largely panned what the Wolves gave up for 30-year-old Gobert, who has four years left on a $205 million deal. President Tim Connelly initially said, “I don’t know,” when asked what he might say to people who felt the wolves were paying too high a price.
“In this industry it’s very public and I think we deserve all the praise and criticism, it’s the fun of being a fan,” said Connelly. “Time will tell. When you make a trade, you hope it’s a win-win. You don’t try to switch to teams. … We gave up a lot to get a lot and ideally it’s the trade that will work well for the Jazz and the T-Wolves.”
“So it’s just a very unique core of young guys and a really good coach [Chris Finch] who complained about my screens all the time. So now we’re on the same side. I’m excited.”
But the chance to catch Gobert was too good to pass up.
“It’s an imprecise science,” Connelly said. “But if you look at players with Rudy’s abilities, they don’t come around very often.”
The timing worked out well for where the Wolves are as an organization and with the Jazz looking to turn the page after failing to make it out of the second round with a Gobert-Donovan Mitchell core.
“It seemed more like a dream than a reality,” Connelly said of acquiring Gobert. “As the discussions progressed and we thought there was a chance we could add Rudy, the enthusiasm for Chris and the front office together was, ‘Wow, we need to get this done.'”
There is much more to do. Gobert said he noticed the Wolves started building a winning base last season. That was one of the reasons he felt comfortable with the profession. The pieces are in place for a winning team to take off.
“Their will to win was different, their culture and the way they approached the matches, I felt like something had changed,” Gobert said.
The Wolves are changing again, and Gobert hopes everyone gets to a place neither he nor his teammates have reached in their careers.
“The goal is to win a championship and that’s what I came here for,” said Gobert. “I didn’t come here just to be a good team. I came to try and get this team to the final and achieve that.”