The NBA is currently a guard/wing dominated league, but sometimes you have to go against the norm to win a title. The Minnesota Timberwolves apparently will try to do so. Despite having an All-Star center in Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves have acquired All-Star center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz in a trade. Caesars Sportsbook moved the Wolves from +8000 to +5000 to win the 2023 NBA title and the Jazz from +5000 to +10000.
The Jazz are receiving Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt and multiple first-round picks in the deal: Unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, and 2027, along with a top-five protected 2029 first-rounder and a pick swap in 2026. That's a crazy amount – just think of think what the Nets may get for Kevin Durant.
Three centers in NBA history have signed $200 million contracts. The Timberwolves now have two of them in Gobert and Towns (who just signed his super-max extension).
Clearly, this means two things: KAT will shift to a power forward role most of the time with Minnesota and Utah has kick-started a rebuild after already losing Coach Quin Snyder. It was well-known that Gobert and All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell didn't get along. The move probably means that Mitchell is staying put. It's not often that division rivals agree on such a big trade.
While sportsbooks haven't released 2022-23 win totals yet (they shouldn't be too long after free agency concludes), the SportsLine Projection Model jumps the Wolves from 41.6 wins to 45.9 and their playoff chances from 38.6 percent to 68.2 percent. Model creator Stephen Oh: "Minnesota finished Last season plus-2.6 per game despite shooting the same percentage as their opponents and committing 1.7 fewer turnovers. With Gobert they should go from a minus-1.7 rebound differential to a plus-2 differential or more and that translates to a huge win improvement."
Minnesota's new president of basketball operations is former Nuggets GM Tim Connelly. In Connelly's first draft as Denver GM in 2013, he traded out of the 27th pick -- and the Jazz selected Gobert there. Gobert ranked No. 1 in the NBA this season in defensive rating but finished third in DPOY balloting. Minnesota was middle-of-the-pack in defensive rating during the regular season but exposed quite a bit on that end by Memphis in a first-round playoff loss. Now the Wolves have one of the NBA's best rebounders and shot-blockers -- as the rest of the league generally skews smaller.
On the flip side, the Jazz have gotten six first-round picks in the past 24 hours, including Kessler, the 22nd overall pick this year. According to reports. Utah has no plans to trade Mitchell and instead build around him under new coach Will Hardy.
The model drops Utah from 44.4 wins to 38.8 and now a 38.2 percent chance of the playoffs. The Jazz have made the postseason six straight years.
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