Reason I: Players and picks are still in play for both teams
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ future is tied to that of the Utah Jazz for many years now. In fact, the last draft pick that is due to the Utah Jazz is currently a first-round draft pick in 2029 (with limited protection). While that may be the sole focus of fans right now, there are some events over the course of the next five years or so that continue to link these two teams.
The Jazz own the biannual first-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. That means that they will use the Timberwolves’ first-round pick in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029 NBA Drafts. But there is one more wrinkle, and that is a 2026 NBA Draft pick swap. In short, the Utah Jazz possesses the option to swap their first-round pick in the 2026 NBA Draft if the Timberwolves’ first-round pick in that draft holds more value. If the Minnesota Timberwolves struggle in 2026, the Jazz siphons off a bit of the NBA compensation.
A more attractive alternative
But while all of that is going on, there is the matter of NBA players. Right now, the Timberwolves are prohibited from trading for any of their former players who were traded away as part of the Gobert trade this season. At the end of the 2022-23 NBA season, that restriction relaxes, and former players can either re-sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves as free agents or be traded back to the Timberwolves.
Right now, one player who could return to the Timberwolves is shooting guard Malik Beasley. Of course, he is red hot right now, and it’s quite likely that the Utah Jazz will exercise their option to extend him for the cost of $15 million. But the following year, 2024, will find that both Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley will be unrestricted free agents. If the Jazz struggle, it’s less likely that talented players like Beasley and Vanderbilt will be a done deal. If the Minnesota Timberwolves are successful, the team has the opportunity to lure either or both players back.
No, this isn’t a randomly selected hit piece. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz are linked by the Rudy Gobert trade for years to come. As long as the Jazz flourish, or even outplay the Timbewolves, that will be part of the national narrative that fans must face each year. The only way to avoid that unpleasantry is for the Utah Jazz to fall, and stay down, for many years.