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Before the draft, Timberwolves President Tim Connelly was addressing the media and talking about what he learned from watching this year's playoffs. The first sentence he spoke on the topic was: "It's going to be really hard to get to that level where we think we can get to."

It's easy in hindsight to look at that sentence and say it foreshadowed the kind of big move Connelly made Friday a mammoth deal for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in a move that included four players from last year's team, four future first-round picks (2023, 2025, 2027 unprotected, 2029 top-five protected), a 2026 pick swap and one of this year's first-rounders, Walker Kessler.

The Wolves have no regrets for the kind of price they had to pay to get Gobert, with one member of the organization saying the mood was "ecstatic" after the trade went down. The Wolves now feel like they are positioned to be a top-four team in the Western Conference for a while. The NBA is a league where elite talent wins, and the Wolves cashed in a lot of their assets for someone they believe raises the ceiling of the franchise in a big way, given the other players they have as part of their core.

They were thrilled to keep Jaden McDaniels, the young forward they have high hopes for, and they sacrificed some extra draft capital to make sure McDaniels was a part of the foundation moving forward.

One of the biggest questions around the Gobert move is: How is this all going to work, not just on the court, but on the books as well? Here's a breakdown.


The projected starting lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert means Towns is going to slide to the 4, or power forward, position when the two share the floor. At least in the regular season, this shouldn't be much of a problem on the defensive end. Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the preeminent rim protector in this generation of the NBA.

The Wolves defense, even with Towns guarding power forwards, can operate knowing it has the best backstop in the NBA waiting at the rim — and someone who was the leading rebounder in the NBA last season to clean up misses. Gobert will improve the Wolves on the glass by leaps and (re)bounds, their biggest area of need from last season.

Gobert can empower McDaniels and Edwards to be aggressive with their on-ball defense on the perimeter, for Towns to be aggressive if he has to guard players along the perimeter, which he did a lot of in the Wolves' high-wall scheme last season, and it can allow Russell to be the roaming presence he was last season that seemed to suit his limitations on defense.

The move also means McDaniels will be the starting 3, small forward, a position he likely more suited for, than the 4, which is where he had to play for a good chunk of his two seasons.

Teams will likely try to go small to combat the Wolves, but not everyone is going to have the personnel to pull it off. Who knows what might happen deep in the playoffs when individual matchups become more critical, but the Wolves have a whole season to figure out how to make this work before getting to that hill.

The Jazz never dipped out of the top half of the league in defensive efficiency and were often in the top three during Gobert's tenure.


This is where it's important the Wolves have Chris Finch. If anybody in the NBA is equipped to design and offense that involves two bigs, it's Finch, who helped do it around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins when he was an assistant in New Orleans.

Finch was there when the Pelicans advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2018 with 6-10 stars Davis and Cousins leading the way. The two combined to average more than 53 points per game that season. Overseeing that team was General Manager Dell Demps, now a member of the Wolves front office. Demps also worked in Utah as an assistant coach with Gobert.

Gobert is one of the NBA's leaders in the statistic of "screen assists," or when a screen a player sets leads directly to a basket by a teammate. Expect Gobert to be operating with that a lot with either Russell or Edwards. Gobert's presence and efficiency scoring inside should keep Towns from seeing too many double-teams when he ventures inside. Too often last season, teams (like the Jazz) doubled off Jarred Vanderbilt with their center and limited Towns' effectiveness. The Wolves even called that scheme the "Utah defense." Gobert is more of an offensive threat than Vanderbilt was.

Towns' ability to score outside will keep the floor spaced and prevent a logjam inside. If teams go small because they are trying to score on the offensive end, the Wolves should be able to punish them inside on the other end.

Salary cap

Gobert has four years left on a supermax contract, meaning he is making 35% of the salary. That will pay him more than $38 million this season. It's the same contract Towns will have in two years when his current deal (which is 25% of the cap) expires.

For the next two years, the Wolves also have Edwards and McDaniels on their rookie deals before both are likely to see lucrative extensions. In Edwards' case, that could also be a maximum contract.

Without getting too deep into the numbers, the Wolves have two years where they can play limbo with the luxury-tax line and try to stay below it before Towns' extension kicks in and Edwards and McDaniels start to make more money.

They are doing that by signing Kyle Anderson to most of their mid-level exception, on a two-year, $18 million deal in this window. They gave Taurean Prince a two-year, $16 million contract with a team option for the second year, signed guard Bryn Forbes to the minimum and picked up cheap team options on Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell ($1.9 million each) for this coming season.

If this new core is successful, the Wolves are looking at venturing into the luxury tax to keep the band together in two years. That will be a decision Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez will have to make after they assume controlling ownership of the team in 2023.

Right now, the Wolves have a two-year window where they can try to compete in the upper echelon of the Western Conference while possibly avoiding the luxury tax.