Jazz is getting back five players and four future first-round picks in exchange for the All-NBA center.
Intrigue had been building throughout Friday that the Utah Jazz was facing a major move, that league executives were beginning to believe the team might be headed for demolition and rebuilding.
When the move finally came, it wasn’t just big. It was seismic.
According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Jazz are trading one of their founding properties, All-NBA center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In return, Utah will get two-way winger Malik Beasley, defensive-minded guard Patrick Beverley, forward Jarred Vanderbilt na dLeandro Bolmaro, rookie center Walker Kessler (ranked No. 22 in the 2022 NBA draft), and four future first-rounder picks.
Those picks will be Wolves unprotected picks in 2023, ’25, and ’27, plus a top-five protected pick in 2029. The Jazz may also elect to do a pick swap in 2026 should Minnesota finish with a worse record should.
It doesn’t appear to be a full rebuild, however, as Wojnarowski reported that the team plans to “retool the roster around All-Star [guard] Donovan Mitchell.”
Gobert and Mitchell have been the focal points of Utah for the past half decade. Although the Jazz have qualified for the NBA playoffs for the past six seasons, the team has never made it past the second round.
The team blew a 2-0 lead in the 2021 Western Conference semifinals against a Clippers team that was without injured superstar Kawhi Leonard, and then in this year’s first round against a Dallas Mavericks team that was without an All-NBA Guard Luka Doncic for three games had the effect of making Utah’s future uncertain.
Would the team try to swap the parts around Gobert and Mitchell? Or do you decide to make a more drastic change?
The movements of the past month now support the latter option.
In early June, head coach Quin Snyder decided to step down after eight years at the helm, saying it was time the team got a new voice.
Earlier this week, the Jazz agreed to a five-year deal with Celtics assistant Will Hardy – a contract believed to be an unusually long one for a first-time head coach, prompting speculation that the team committed to him with a big commitment to the change shortly before arrival.
On Thursday, with the opening of free agency, the Utah front office sent starting forward Royce O’Neale — a powerful 3-point shooter and the team’s top fullback — to the Brooklyn Nets for a 2023 first-round pick. CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik also decided against keeping Juancho Hernangomez and declined to make qualifying offers to Eric Paschall and Trent Forrest.
On Friday morning, ESPN personality and NBA insider Brian Windhorst went on a lengthy and mysterious television tangent that indicated league executives are wondering, “Why would the Jazz do that?”
Hours later the answer came.
Gobert, a three-time All-Star, three-time DPOY, one-time All-NBA Second Team Honoree, and three-time All-NBA Third Team Selection, has been with the Jazz since 2013.
He was drafted number 27 this year by the Denver Nuggets, who traded his drafting rights to Utah. The Nuggets’ general manager this year was Tim Connelly – the man who had only recently assumed a new position as president of the Timberwolves’ basketball operations.
During his career, Gobert has averaged 12.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, on 65.3% field goal shooting. However, he has developed into one of the best players in the league in recent years. In the 2021-22 season, he led the NBA in rebounds (14.7) and FG% (71.3%) while averaging 15.6 points and 2.1 blocks.
While he became popular with fans of the team for almost single-handedly supporting a perimeter-stopperless defense, for his year-over-year development and improvement, and for his resolute underdog attitude, his time in Utah was not without controversy.
He and Mitchell famously feuded in the early days of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The NBA went on hiatus for months after Gobert became the league’s so-called “patient zero” — the first player to test positive for COVID-19. Mitchell became furious when he tested positive in second place the next day and accused his teammate of being reckless and careless.
Though the two eventually repaired what The Athletic called an “unsustainable” relationship, the premise of tension between them never fully went away.
Last season, as the Jazz struggled with injuries, a COVID outbreak that made most of January a lost cause, and a string of inflated double-digit leads, all combined like a black cloud over the team hung, there were additional signs of stress.
When Gobert returned from his COVID-related absence, he blasted the team’s defenses without him and fired a thinly-veiled shot at Mitchell, noting that Phoenix Suns opponent Devin Booker was “playing his ass off” defensively. Less than two months later, Mitchell retaliated after a loss in Dallas. With Gobert missing the game with a leg injury, the guard was emphatic in praising the “guys who fought”.
So where does jazz go from here