The 2021–2022 campaign was a successful one for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After making the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-2018 season and for just the second time in the past 17 years. The Wolves lost a highly competitive 7 game series to the Memphis Grizzlies, and if not for a couple of late-game collapses, they could’ve won the series.
What was even more encouraging was the rise of their young second-year star, Anthony Edwards, who looked the part of a future superstar in the making. The team looked like it had a bright future; they had an All-Star center, an up-and-coming wing, and a solid mix of veteran and young role players that fit perfectly around their cornerstones.
This all changed this past off-season when new President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly decided to start off his tenure by making a blockbuster trade to acquire Rudy Gobert.
Trading for Rudy Gobert was always a risky proposition for the Timberwolves.
In order to acquire the former Defensive Player of the Year, the Wolves had to part with Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, a 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), a 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), a 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), and a 2029 first-round pick (top-five protected).
Simply put, it was a bounty. This is the type of move a team makes to go all-in to build a championship contender like the Lakers did for Anthony Davis and the Nets did for James Harden. Yet, this trade wasn’t perceived the same way as the ones previously mentioned. Both Harden and Davis were regarded as being among the top five or ten players in the league at the time of their respective trades.
This was not the case with Gobert. Although recognized as one of the league’s best defenders, if not the best, Rudy is nowhere near a top-10 player in the NBA. Aside from his defensive acumen, Gobert is a very limited offensive player, he is mostly a rim runner who is unable to punish mismatches in the post.
Even though he is a great rim protector in a drop coverage scheme, due to his lack of scheme versatility, his defense has also been exposed in the postseason when teams decide to go five out. This is why many pundits were quick to criticize the trade, especially at such a hefty price. Meanwhile, some were optimistic about the trade, stating that Gobert was the perfect fix for what ailed the Wolves last season, which was rim protection and defensive rebounding.
The results of the trade have been lackluster so far.
Five months after the trade and having played a third of their games, the Gobert trade does not look promising for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The two-center lineup has been a clunky fit and has proven to be every bit as problematic as skeptics thought. What is even more worrisome is that their young third-year star has voiced his displeasure over the lack of spacing and the awkward fit of the starting lineup.
According to NBA.com stats, the Wolves’ starting lineup for the 2021-2022 season was one of the best in the league with a 12.8 net rating. Meanwhile, this year’s starting lineup has only a +4 net rating. Currently, the Wolves are .500 and ranked 12th in the Western Conference.
Needless to say, they are falling very short of expectations. To add insult to injury, they will be without Towns for at least one more month, which could cause them to drop even more in the standings.
Even when he comes back, they still have a lot of work to do in order to fix his fit next to Rudy Gobert. The early returns on the trade do not look good, and after paying such a hefty price to acquire him, it could very well be the case that the Wolves have buyer’s remorse over the Rudy Gobert trade.