Bill Simmons had Wosny Lambre and his buddy Joe House on his latest podcast to draft the worst NBA contracts. Naturally, players like Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal, and Duncan Robinson went early. But then they mentioned a familiar name for Minnesota Timberwolves fans.
“Alright House,” Simmons prompted, “you’re on the clock. Fifth pick.”
House’s pick? Rudy Gobert.
This, to me, wasn’t very challenging. And I want to give kudos, I want everybody to make sure to listen to this week’s podcast with Bill Simmons featuring Kevin O’Connor. Because there is a very interesting conversation about the return and resurgence of the big man in NBA basketball.
And it’s a curious moment, and it was a very thoughtful moment, and I enjoyed it very much. It made me feel very confident in this next pick, and that is Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves now. A contract of four years and $170 million left on it. And I will tell you this, Bill Simmons, while I listen to you and KOC run through ten or 12 or 15 different centers and the attributes that the modern center offers, and the most successful modern centers [have] – Rudy Gobert is a specialist and not a very good one.
It is as though, in the NFL, using a first-round pick or a second-round pick, or a third-round pick on a punter or a kicker. He has one specific skill that’s only translatable and worthwhile from a competitive standpoint in a singular context, which is regular-season around-the-hoop defense. And we have seen from the early indications of the relationship between he and Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota an inability from this guy to get along from a playing standpoint.
Now, I don’t know whether or not, personally, what the story is. Because he arrived, then KAT got hurt in fairly short order. But Minnesota is right on the cut line here of missing out on the playoffs. And the best they can hope for is making the play-in, and I don’t have them making the playoffs, even in the play-in situation.
Simmons liked the pick.
You know what’s crazy about Gobert? The advanced metrics still don’t mind him. Like, the offensive, defensive ratings, all that stuff, they basically like him more than the eye test does. I agree with House, I had Gobert in the top five or six, Wos, because not only is it a bad contract. Not only is it a constant reminder that you gave up all this stuff for this guy who might not make you a first-round playoff team.
But he’s 30, and I don’t see his game aging well, which was the other issue with the trade. What’s he gonna look like when he’s 33? If he gets a tad slower and a tad more mummyish every year, which is what we’ve seen over and over again with bigger centers – what is that gonna look like in two years? Then they’ll have two years left on the deal.
Lambre called Gobert a poor man’s Brook Lopez.
So, a couple of things on Rudy. I think he’s being paid as if the thing he was very special at, he’s still special at, which is defense. Defensive Player of the Year-level production. I don’t think he – he’s no longer special. He’s still a very good defensive player, defensive big, but he’s no longer special. To be paid the way that he is, to be a one-dimensional guy, and not be outstanding at that dimension is tough.
And two, he makes me think of another player. He makes me think of Brook Lopez. Because Brook Lopez, I don’t think he has any better foot speed or even defensive instincts, and he’s been that plodding drop defender sort of big man. But he’s changed over the past couple of years. He’s been willing to come up to the level move, even do a little bit of switching out more. He’s just gotten better at what the modern demands are. I don’t see why Rudy couldn’t do that.
But Brook, on the other end, is providing you with all this spacing while punishing switches. It’s just tough. I don’t know how Rudy sorta regains his value, even if he starts to adjust his game going forward.
Then Simmons dropped the dagger.
“I think we would all like his contract if it was four for $60 [million],” he offered, and they all laughed. “But when you throw in the extra $110 million, that’s when I take pause.”
“That’s where you draw the line!” House responded.
“I like that pick, House,” Simmons concluded.
Gobert’s contract often is an overlooked aspect of the trade. He’s on the wrong side of 30, and the Timberwolves owe him a lot of money still. Meanwhile, Walker Kessler is on a rookie contract and arguably outplaying Gobert. Fun times in Minnesota.