In 2013, Tim Connelly took over as general manager of the Denver Nuggets and in his first draft, he officially selected center Rudy Gobert, who was on his way to the Utah Jazz via a draft-night trade.
Connelly has been on the job for the Timberwolves less than two months, but his first franchise-altering move in Minnesota — and one of the most seismic trades in recent team history — involved the 7-1 Gobert, as he dealt multiple players and multiple first-round picks to Utah to land one of the NBA's most decorated defensive players, a source confirmed.
As part of the massive deal, the Wolves are sending Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, recent first-round pick Walker Kessler and an abundance of draft capital — four future first-round picks (unprotected 2023, 2025, 2027 picks and a top-five protected pick in 2029) along with a pick swap in 2026, a source confirmed.
The trade package was also significant for who was not included in it. Point guard D'Angelo Russell, who has been rumored to be on the trading block this offseason, is still with the Wolves, as is Jaden McDaniels, the promising young forward the Wolves see as a big part of their future and who has drawn interest from teams around the league.
The Wolves wanted to bolster their frontcourt, and they did so in about as big a way as they could. Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, will be in the second year of a contract that pays his $205 million over five years and is signed through 2026. He will now pair with Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns in a modern twin towers lineup. Towns agreed to his own large contract, a four-year extension that will keep him in Minnesota through 2028 and pay him an estimated $214 million.
The trade will slide Towns to the four while Gobert will primarily handle rim protection, something he excels at perhaps better than anyone in the league, though one of his new teammates had thoughts on that matter when they faced each other earlier this season.
"I don't get why we couldn't finish on Rudy Gobert," Anthony Edwards said after a Wolves loss to Utah in December. "He don't put no fear in my heart. I don't know why."
But Gobert usually makes players think twice as they head to the rim.
Gobert, who just turned 30, is now the oldest member of the team. He has made six All-Defensive first teams and three All-NBA teams. Last season he averaged 15.6 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. Gobert led the league in rebounding while the Wolves were the third-worst team in defensive-rebounding percentage a season ago. He will provide a huge upgrade in an area of need for the Wolves.
Gobert, a native of France, has played all nine of his NBA seasons with the Jazz, which appears to be shaking up its core after failing to get past the second round of the playoffs with Gobert playing alongside Donovan Mitchell.
In March, 2020, he tested positive for the coronavirus and the NBA quickly suspended its season. Gobert apologized for making fun of the issue and donated a half-million dollars for those affected by COVID-19.
For all of Gobert's accolades on the defensive end of the floor, teams at times have taken advantage of his lack of quickness in the playoffs. That is something the Wolves will have to address should they get there. To compete in the Western Conference, they have a projected starting lineup of Russell, Edwards, McDaniels, Towns and Gobert.
The trade shakes up just who will be coming off the bench for the Wolves.
Beverley provided a dose of leadership and defensive intensity in his single season with the Wolves, who signed him to a one-year extension during the season. He started 54 of 58 games and sometimes took over lone point guard duties when Russell either didn't play or was on the bench.
"Always business," Beverley said on Twitter. "Wolves thank you. Time to take another team 2 Playoffs."
The Wolves acquired both Vanderbilt and Beasley from Connelly and the Nuggets in 2020. Vanderbilt developed into a starter on a team-friendly deal (two years, about $9 million left) thanks to his defensive intensity and rebounding ability. Beasley was stuck out of the rotation in Denver before getting his chance at significant playing time with the Wolves. His three-season tenure included legal trouble.
He pleaded guilty and served time in a workhouse for threats of violence against a family near his home in 2020. His time served affected his start to last season, but he returned to form later in the year, as he finished the season shooting 38% from three-point range.
Bolmaro is a 2020 first-round pick who will continue his development with Utah after appearing in 35 games this season. Kessler is gone before his Wolves tenure even starts.
Beasley's departure likely opens up more minutes off the bench for Jaylen Nowell, who coach Chris Finch cited as an important part of the Wolves' future this week. Also coming off the bench, the Wolves still have center Naz Reid, Taurean Prince and recently signed veteran Kyle Anderson.
They also have one of their first-round picks this season, Wendell Moore Jr., along with one of their two second-round picks, Josh Minott. Their other second-round pick, Matteo Spagnolo, will remain in Italy.
The Wolves drafted Kessler, the 7-1 defensive specialist out of Auburn, with the 22nd pick in June's draft. Gobert's acquisition rendered Kessler's presence on the roster a redundancy.
With Edwards and McDaniels still on their rookie deals for the next two seasons, the Wolves have a window to compete before those two figure to get large second contracts. Connelly wasted no time in his Wolves tenure striking big to try and seize on that window and past it.
Likely no move he makes in the next few years is likely to be as consequential as the one he made Friday. Fans might worry about those draft picks for years to come, but for next season, the Wolves have one of the best defensive players in the league on a team that appears to be in a better position to compete in the Western Conference.