A few days before the Timberwolves and Jazz agreed to send Rudy Gobert to Minnesota to pick up players and draft picks, Gobert told his agent Bouna Ndiaye he wanted a little 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 for me it was probably the best and most exciting situation in terms of basketball.”
A day later, Gobert said the deal was done, and by Wednesday the 7-1 center was in Minnesota posing for all the photos and shaking all the hands he could at the Target Center.
The trade represents a massive change for both Gobert and the Wolves organization. Out the door walked some of the players who helped transform Wolves into a playoff team last season – along with four future first-rounders -Picks and another pick swap.
Gobert is now joining only the second team he has ever played for in his 10-year career.
“So it’s just a very unique core of young people and a really good coach [Chris Finch] who have been complaining about my screens the whole time,” Gobert said, laughing. “So now we’re on the same page. I’m excited.”
Gobert was also excited about the potential pairing he and Karl-Anthony Towns will form. Two of the biggest questions about this trade are how much they match and whether Wolves can play two big men on the floor in an NBA that’s gotten smaller and faster over the past decade.
Gobert said he took some time to think about his fit with Towns.
“As I went to bed, I thought about it more and more,” Gobert said. “And actually, working with a guy like KAT was probably the best and most exciting challenge for me.”
Towns’ ability to shoot, handle the ball and pass should complement Gobert on offense – and let teams decide which player they want to double up at the post – while Gobert’s ability to protect the rim should give Towns more freedom in lets the defensive one and possibly keep him out of foul trouble.
“If you had told me that a year ago, I would have told you I didn’t think that could happen,” Gobert said. “But now that it’s come to life I’m super excited and just allowing it to be even more himself, to be even more dominant.”
The wolves paid a bounty, and maybe even more than a bounty, to get Gobert to Minnesota. National analysts and reporters have widely analyzed the trade and 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 could say to people who felt the price paid by wolves was too high.
“It’s very public in this industry and I think we deserve all the praise and criticism, it’s the fun part of being a fan,” Connelly said. “The time will tell. When you make a trade, you hope it’s a win-win situation. They don’t try to get over teams. … We gave up a lot to get a lot and ideally it’s trade that works well with the Jazz and the T-Wolves.”
“So it’s just a very unique core of young people and a really good coach [Chris Finch] who have been complaining about my screens all along. So now we’re on the same page. I’m excited.”
But the opportunity to get Gobert was too good to pass up.
“It’s an inaccurate science,” Connelly said. “But if you look at players with Rudy’s abilities, they don’t become available very often.”
The timing worked well with the Wolves standing as organization and the Jazz trying to turn the page after failing to get out of the second round with a Gobert-Donovan Mitchell core.
“It seemed more like a dream than a reality,” Connelly said of the Gobert acquisition. “As discussions intensified and we thought we could add Rudy, the excitement shared by Chris and the front office was, ‘Wow, we’ve got to get this going.'”
Its a lot to do. Gobert said he noticed that Wolves had started to build a successful foundation last season. That was one of the reasons he felt comfortable with the trade. The pieces are in place for a winning team to take off.
“Their desire to win was different, their culture and their approach to the games, I felt like something had changed,” said Gobert.
Wolves are changing again, and Gobert hopes each will reach a point 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 to be a good team. I came here to try and lead this team to the final and to achieve that.”