There are few things in life I love more than gambling.
Most view it as a degenerate pastime. I would counter that any pastime in the wrong hands leads to degeneracy, and most of them don’t offer the electric upside of a well-placed sports wager. Those of you who have sweated out a Tuesday night MACtion battle or a February Senators-Penguins game know exactly what I’m talking about! However, if you expand the world of gambling beyond the sportsbook window, you realize life is merely a series of calculated risk/reward scenarios and by engaging with it, everyone must become a gambler.
This leads us to the biggest NBA news of free agency so far: the Minnesota Timberwolves, in a gamble that will define their franchise for the next few years, have acquired Rudy Gobert for a boatload of players and a boatload of draft picks. The gambler inside me looks at the transaction with equal parts hope, fear, and apprehension because I understand what it’s like to risk a large portion of your life on the belief that odds are in your favor.
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The Timberwolves are betting on size, a counter to what the rest of the league currently values. The NBA has fallen in love with switchable wings, 5-out offense, and defensive malleability, a far cry from the days of old when centers like David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon were foundational pillars of the league. Minnesota is zigging while everyone else zags, trading virtually every asset they posses for Gobert, a center with clearly-defined flaws (see: offense) and clearly-defined virtues (see: defense), and pairing him with Karl Anthony-Towns, a center with clearly-defined flaws (see: defense) and clearly-defined virtues (see: offense).
This is obviously an immense risk for a Timberwolves franchise that, one week ago, had a variety of team-building options around KAT and Anthony Edwards. Now they are locked into a three-person core that includes Gobert, and will be pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the center position for the next half-decade in a league that clearly believes centers are not integral to success. It represents a clear, cold calculation by GM Tim Connelly that teams will not be equipped to play against a two-tower lineup with a budding superstar in Edwards as the north star. Connelly is betting against the rest of the NBA and he paid a hefty price to do so. It mirrors a traditional sports wager, one gambler against the house, and just like any transaction conducted at the sportsbook window, the only thing that matters is who wins.