Winners, losers from the Rudy Gobert trade to the Timberwolves

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This blockbuster trade does not fit neatly into the “winners and losers” paradigm we use to measure trades on this site.

It is possible for the Timberwolves to have gotten better by landing three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and still to have overpaid for his services. It’s also fair to question how this roster plays out in the regular season vs. the playoffs.

And while the Jazz bring home a treasure chest of draft picks, this is just the first move in Utah — they say they are going to rebuild on the fly around Donovan Mitchell, but plenty of people around the league think Mitchell could be on the move and a full rebuild is coming. How we ultimately view this trade will depend on the moves that follow.

That said, let’s try to break down this trade, which looks like this:

Timberwolves recieve: Rudy Gobert.

Jazz recieve: Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, four first-round picks (unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and a top-five protected first round pick in 2029).

WINNER: Rudy Gobert

This new setting will better show off what a defensive game-changer he is. There had become a complacency about how he anchored a team of primarily poor perimeter defenders in Utah — even his new teammate Anthony Edwards got in on the act, saying he feared Kristaps Porzingis more as a defender than Gobert.

This new setting — and covering up Edward’s youthful defensive errors — will better show off what a force Gobert is as a rim protector and defensive quarterback in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns is is a passable defender when focused but now will have to guard more on the perimeter, where he will be a turnstile against some fours. D'Angelo Russell is not a good defender. Gobert will have a lot to clean up — he landed on a team that needed exactly what he brings to the table. Gobert could be in line for a fourth DPOY this season, and this trade will end up being good for his perception among fans.

WINNER: Timberwolves in the regular season

Adding Gobert makes Minnesota better. Flat out. Towns is an offensive force, Anthony Edwards is not only on the rise but is about to be the best player on the Timberwolves, and Gobert is good as a role man or coming out of the dunker’s spot. Minnesota had a top-10 offense last season and should be good again this season.

And this trade should improve their middle-of-the-pack defense as well. This sets up the Timberwolves — the No. 7 seed a season ago — to be a top-six team in the West and avoid the play-in (even with a healthy Clippers, improving Pelicans, and generally deep conference). This is a good team.

Whether being “good” and “a playoff team” is worth the haul of picks they just gave up is a different question. This wasn’t the Lakers adding Anthony Davis or the Bucks adding Jrue Holiday at a high price and becoming contenders. Which brings us to…

LOSER: Timberwolves playoff versatility

Gobert’s playoff struggles are somewhat overstated: He was still an outstanding defender in the postseason. However, Utah’s lack of good perimeter defenders left him in a difficult spot vs. five-out offenses — should Gobert protect the rim after a Jazz defender was just blown by, or stick with his shooter in the corner who can knock down that 3?

Teams will put the Timberwolves in the same position, and with Towns playing the four things could be a little bit worse. More and more the trend is to play small in the playoffs — both Boston and Golden State relied on smaller lineups to make the Finals — and the Timberwolves are going to be tested in a way they may not be able to answer. It could be tough to keep Gobert and Towns on the court together during key playoff minutes.

Will the Timberwolves have the kind of flexible roster that thrives in the postseason? There are more tweaks coming, but it is hard to see.

UNDETERMINED: The Utah Jazz

It’s simply too early to say if the Jazz won or lost this trade because we need to see what is next. Because clearly there will be a next. More moves are coming.

That doesn’t mean they will trade Donovan Mitchell. Yet. My guess is even if they are thinking of trading him and stripping it all the way down for a rebuild, CEO Danny Ainge and Jazz ownership will not okay that before the 2023 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, where Mitchell would be the host and star. A more likely scenario is this season plays out in Utah, and both Mitchell and Ainge come to an understanding, and then Mitchell is traded next summer (smart money has him going to the Knicks).

Or maybe Ainge can thread the needle and execute a rebuild on the fly around Mitchell and make this team a bigger threat in the West under new coach Will Hardy. There certainly are some big names floating around on the trade market.

We need more information before calling this for the Jazz.

WINNER: Jaden McDaniels

The second-best young player on the Timberwolves and a lock-down defender, he is now a starter at the three after this trade and will be put into the spotlight on the wing next to Edwards. More McDaniels is a good thing in Minnesota, but he needs to develop a catch-and-shoot 3.

LOSER: Minnesota’s future flexibility

The Timberwolves do not seem very nimble anymore.

Part of that is payroll. Towns just signed a $244 million contract extension, Gobert makes $170 million over the next four years, and Anthony Edwards’ max contract extension is just a couple of years away. Right now, it’s Russell’s $30 million a year clogging the books. This is an expensive roster.

And they don’t have any first-round picks they can trade going forward now.

The best organizations try to stay flexible and agile. Boston has done a pretty good job of it, and it let them sign Danilo Gallinari and trade for Malcolm Brogdon after coming off the NBA Finals. The Clippers, the Raptors, and even the Suns have built in some flexibility allowing them to go after a star such as Kevin Durant if they want. Minnesota is not that team now, and they may regret it down the line.

Wembanyama scores 37 Scoot Henderson 28, both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?

Collin Sexton expects to start for Jazz once he gets back to full speed

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After the blockbuster trade that was centered around Donovan Mitchell sent Collin Sexton to Utah, the immediate expectation was that he would start for the Jazz and have the ultimate green light.

However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.

It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.

Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.

The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.

Ben Simmons looks fine in return, is ‘grateful just to be able to step on that floor’

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Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.

It’s preseason, sure, but the Nets rolled out their likely starting five — Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton — and had Simmons initiating a lot of the offense early.

The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.

The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.

Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”

Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.

The 76ers sat Joel Embiid and James Harden for the night, but Tyrese Maxey was the best player on the floor with 20 points in 14 minutes and showing a confident 3-point stroke.

Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.

Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.