Walker Kessler continues to haunt Minnesota Timberwolves fans

Walker Kessler, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Walker Kessler, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The further we get into the NBA season, the more the Minnesota Timberwolves are left Monday morning quarterbacking their trade for Rudy Gobert. Sure, it looked like a move that could work at the time, and it still could. But there have unquestionably been some convicting and frustrating moments this season that have made them question their decision.

The latest of these moments came on Monday afternoon during the Timberwolves’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day contest against the Utah Jazz at Target Center. In what seemed like the 47th straight one-possession game the Jazz have played in this season, Utah came out on top after Jaden McDaniels’ corner three-pointer rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.

Contests with the Jazz this season were always going to be emotional and filled with over-reactions due to the Gobert trade and its ramifications, but this one stung particularly hard for the Timberwolves because of one player in particular: Walker Kessler.

Walker Kessler put up a career night against the team that traded him

The Utah rookie (who Minnesota traded away in the deal for Gobert) had a career night, putting up 20 points and 21 rebounds en route to a 126-125 win. Kessler became just the second rookie with a 20-20 game since Tim Duncan in 1998, and the first since former Timberwolf Gorgui Dieng in 2014.

His performance was the latest in a rookie season that has him looking like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, much to the dismay of Timberwolves fans. After being shipped out of Minnesota for Gobert, Kessler is now averaging more blocks this season (2.0) than Rudy (1.3).

This is certainly a hard pill to swallow for the Minnesota Timberwolves. While Gobert re-aggravated his groin injury early in the contest on Monday and was not able to finish the game, Kessler put up a dominant defensive performance and helped lead his team to a win.

Of course, one game like this is not necessarily indicative of what is to come. In all likelihood, Rudy Gobert will not have to worry about Walker Kessler usurping him as the most dominant defensive center in the NBA. But in the short-term, knowing they could have had a monster defensive anchor without trading for Gobert makes fans of the Timberwolves a little too uneasy for comfort.

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