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In NBA blockbuster trade, Timberwolves land Rudy Gobert from Jazz

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is joining the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The long-anticipated breakup of the Utah Jazz’s star partnership finally arrived in blockbuster fashion.

Utah agreed to trade all-star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package of players and draft picks, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed Friday.

The Jazz will receive four first-round picks, 2022 first-round pick Walker Kessler, guards Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley and forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Leandro Bolmaro for the three-time defensive player of the year. Minnesota will send out unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027 and a top-five protected pick in 2029. ESPN.com first reported the terms. The Athletic reported that the Timberwolves also would include the right to swap first-round picks in 2026.

Gobert, 30, averaged 15.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season, earning his third straight all-star selection. However, chemistry concerns between Gobert and all-star guard Donovan Mitchell contributed to Utah’s lackluster exit in a first-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and longtime Jazz coach Quin Snyder announced his resignation last month after eight seasons.

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For Utah, which recently hired former Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy to be the NBA’s youngest coach at age 34, the return package signals a long-term rebuilding plan. The Jazz didn’t receive an impact-making veteran or a proven starting-caliber center to replace Gobert. Instead, Utah collected quality draft assets, surpassing the three first-round picks that the Atlanta Hawks sent to the San Antonio Spurs for all-star guard Dejounte Murray earlier this week.

In the Jazz’s first major move since it hired Danny Ainge as CEO, the former Celtics executive constructed a package that is reminiscent of his famous 2013 trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. While Mitchell, 25, is now in place as Utah’s undisputed franchise player, constructing another trade around the three-time all-star guard or dealing veteran guard Mike Conley would allow Utah to plunge deeper into a full-scale teardown. As constructed, the Gobert-less Jazz project as a lottery team after a six-year run of making the playoffs.

The Timberwolves, influenced by aggressive new owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore and guided by new president Tim Connelly, now have an intriguing pairing of all-star big men in Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Gobert’s arrival will shift Towns to power forward, where Minnesota can use his elite scoring ability and three-point shooting. On defense, Gobert will cover up Towns’s limitations as a rim protector, though Towns will now be asked to cover more ground on the perimeter.

While twin tower alignments have largely fallen out of favor in the modern NBA, the Timberwolves are betting that Towns and Anthony Edwards can drive an elite offense while Gobert can captain a top-10 defense as he did for years with the Jazz. Plenty of complications could arise: Gobert’s paint presence will alter Minnesota’s offensive spacing, Towns could struggle to defend smaller matchups and the massive investment in big men could lead to holes on the wings. Gobert also complained at times in Utah about his offensive role, and he probably will be even further down the pecking order in Minnesota. There’s also a sharp clash in style that will need to be sorted out: Minnesota played at the league’s fastest pace last year, while Utah ranked 23rd with Gobert, who thrives as a half-court player on both ends.

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This is no small philosophical gamble for the Timberwolves, who will be paying Gobert and Towns more than $71 million next season. Towns, 26, inked a four-year supermax extension worth $224 million on Friday, but the three-time all-star is still seeking the first playoff series victory of his seven-year career. Gobert is entering the second year of a five-year, $205 million extension and has never reached the Western Conference finals since his 2013 arrival to the NBA.

Minnesota, which also signed versatile forward Kyle Anderson on Thursday, could still search for trading partners for guard D’Angelo Russell, but Beverley’s departure would make him more difficult to replace.

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