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Rudy Gobert, Kyrie Irving, and dire circumstances

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Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Two trades aging like milk.

Neither Minnesota’s Tim Connelly nor Dallas’ Nico Harrison, the head of these two organizations’ respective front offices, are feeling particularly good about their most recent big trade splashes, given how their seasons unfolded. Dallas pulled the plug on any attempt to make the postseason with two games to go in an attempt to hold on to their top-10 protected pick this year. On the other hand, Minnesota managed to eke out the eighth seed and are down 1-0 to Denver after getting steamrolled in their opener.

The question has now become, which trade is worse, Rudy Gobert to the Wolves or Kyrie to the Mavs?

As a refresher, here are the details to these trades:

Timberwolves Get

Rudy Gobert

Jazz Get

Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley

Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt

2023 first-round pick (unprotected), 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 first-round pick (unprotected),

2029 first-round pick (top-five protected)

Mavericks Get

Kyrie Irving

Markieff Morris

Nets Get

Spencer Dinwiddie

Dorian Finney-Smith

2029 first-round pick, 2027 second-round pick

2029 second-round pick

Let’s break it down into three categories: The immediate value of assets exchanged, the team’s short-term outlooks, and their long-term positions after the trades.

The immediate value of assets exchanged

The massive price Minnesota shelled out for Rudy Gobert makes for worse viewing than the pennies on the dollar Dallas had to send to Brooklyn for a superstar like Irving, and it’s not particularly close.

Walker Kessler is a lock to make first-team All-Rookie and will likely finish third in Rookie of the Year voting. He’s proved to be an efficient offensive center and projects to be an elite rim protector–he’s fourth in the NBA in blocks as a rookie. Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley are all rotation players who would certainly earn minutes for the Wolves if they were still in Minneapolis.

The big loss, though, is of course all those picks that Minnesota relinquished. That’s a big chunk of their future out the door.

As for the Kyrie deal, losing Dorian Finney-Smith hurts given that one, the team-friendly deal they had him on (4 years/56 million), and two, the fact that he was their best and most versatile defender. Dinwiddie is a good combo guard, but Kyrie’s arrival more than makes up for his departure. Overall, the pick haul Brooklyn got is paltry compared to what Minnesota sent to Utah. This one isn’t close

Loser: Minnesota Timberwolves

Short term outlooks

Here is where the comparison gets more interesting. Besides his off-court and injury issues, the other factor that contributed to Kyrie’s discounted move to Dallas is the fact that he is out of a contract this summer. Who knows where Irving will go next and what kind of a contract he’ll command. Perhaps Dallas has the inside track to re-sign him? Maybe?

It’s been heavily rumored that he has an interest in a reunion with Lebron James and could go to the Lakers, who will have the ability to sign Irving to a sizable deal this summer. Kyrie running it back with Kevin Durant in Phoenix has also been floated. Who knows? He could retire to run for president and nobody would be shocked. That’s the Kyrie business.

Minnesota has a far more stable immediate future. Newly minted All-Star Anthony Edwards will likely sign a max deal this offseason. Karl-Anthony Towns already inked a 5 year/158 million deal. They’ll also bring back veteran point guard Mike Conley, utility man Kyle Anderson, and all-defense level wing Jaden McDaniels next year at least. While they will probably lose Naz Reid, they have a solid amount of talent on the books to return next year.

Meanwhile, Dallas has Dwight Powell and Christian Wood both heading toward free agency. Combine their potential departures with Javale McGee and Davis Bertans both severely underplaying their sizable deals, and the immediate future could be ugly for Dallas.

Loser: Dallas Mavericks

Long-term position

Really when it comes to long-term planning after bad trades, it’s about having outs.

Even if Irving stays this summer, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and is, at best, an average defender. Add in his off-court issues, and he’s not bringing back any kind of haul in a trade.

Building a team around Luka Doncic and Irving was always going to be a difficult task given how vulnerable playing those two heavy minutes leaves a defense. It’s an especially difficult task given that Dallas has limited assets going forward.

If their pick this year lands in the top ten or higher (79.8% chance of occurring), they keep it. The upside of holding onto it is that that pick immediately becomes their best tradable asset. The downside is that the protection on their first-round pick owed to New York rolls over for two more years, meaning that until it conveys, they are limited in what picks they can deal. They’ve also sent a host of second-round picks out the door already.

Minnesota is significantly better poised to pivot. Even if Gobert never returns to his DPOY level and his contract becomes a weighty anchor dragging down their roster, they have the players to recoup some of the assets they gave up. The most obvious move is trading Karl-Anthony Towns. Anthony Edwards is straight-up better than KAT on both ends of the floor and is younger. If someone is out the door, it’s ANT.

A good bellwether for Towns’ value on the open market will be Trae Young, who could be heading out of Atlanta this summer. Both KAT and Young are generational offensive talents with defensive liabilities whose stock around the league has heavy variance.

While the Rudy Gobert trade will continue to be the butt of more jokes on Twitter, the fact is that Dallas’ gamble on Kyrie could be a major domino in Luka’s eventual exit from Dallas on account of the Mavericks inability to surround him with a competitive roster.

Loser: Dallas Mavericks

Conclusion

There are no winners here. Both trades set these teams back after notable postseason appearances last year. The Wolves’ return to the playoffs for only the second time since 2004-2005 affirmed that the team was on an upward trajectory. Meanwhile, Doncic carrying Dallas to the Western Conference Finals felt like evidence of his ability to overachieve and carry under talented rosters like a young Lebron in Cleveland.

Given how big of a hole Dallas now finds itself in, I’m inclined to judge their acquisition of Kyrie as worse than Minnesota getting Gobert. That being said, the haul Minnesota doled out will go down in NBA infamy.



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