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 a little time to think over the move.
“I told him I needed one or two days to think about it,” Gobert said. “After one day, I told him it was probably the best, most exciting situation in terms of basketball for me.”
A day later, Gobert said, the trade was done, and on Wednesday, the 7-1 center was in Minnesota, posing for all the photographs and shaking all the hands he could at Target Center.
The trade represents a massive shift for both Gobert and the Wolves organization. Out the door went some of the players who helped turn the Wolves into 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 he’s just a very unique core of young guys and a really good coach [Chris Finch] that complained about my screens all the time,” Gobert said to laughter. “So now we’re on the same side. 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 just how much they will fit together, and can the Wolves play two big men on the floor in an NBA that has gone smaller and quicker over the past decade.
Gobert said he took some time to think about his fit with Towns.
“When I was going to bed, I was thinking about it more and more,” Gobert said. “And actually that was probably the best, most exciting challenge for me, to pair with a guy like KAT.”
Towns’ ability to shoot, handle the ball and pass should complement Gobert on offense — and make teams decide which player they want to double in the post — while Gobert’s ability to protect the rim will allow Towns more freedom defensively and potentially keep him out of foul trouble.
“If you would’ve told me that a year ago, I would’ve told you I didn’t think it could happen,” Gobert said. “But now that it came to life, I’m super excited and just allow him to be himself even more, be even more dominant.”
The Wolves paid a premium, and maybe even more than a premium, to get Gobert to Minnesota. National analysts and reporters largely panned the trade and what the Wolves gave up for the 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 paid too steep a price.
“In this industry it’s very public and I think we deserve all the praise and criticism, it’s the fun part about being a fan,” Connelly said. “Time will tell. When you make a trade, you hope it’s a win-win. You’re not trying to get over on 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] that complained about my screens all the time. So now we’re on the same side. I’m excited.”
But the opportunity to get Gobert was too good to pass up.
“It’s an inexact science,” Connelly said. “But when you look at players of Rudy’s abilities, they don’t become available very often.”
The timing worked well for where the Wolves are as an organization and with the Jazz looking to turn the page after not getting out of the second round with a Gobert-Donovan Mitchell core.
“It seemed more of a dream than a reality,” Connelly said of acquiring Gobert. “As the discussions ramped up and we thought there was a chance we could add Rudy, the excitement level collectively for Chris and the front office was, ‘Wow, we got to get this done.'”
There’s a lot more yet to do. Gobert said he noticed the Wolves were beginning to build a winning foundation last season. That was one reason he felt comfortable with the trade. The pieces are in place for a winning team to take off.
“Their will to win was different, their culture and the way they were approaching the games, I felt like something had changed,” Gobert said.
The Wolves are changing again, and Gobert is hoping everybody will get to a place neither he nor his teammates have reached in their careers.
“The goal is to win a championship and I came here for that,” Gobert said. “I didn’t come here just to be a good team. I came to try and take this team to the finals and accomplish that.”