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It’s not often the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves are the center of the NBA universe, but they may be multiple times during the upcoming 2022-23 campaign.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported the Timberwolves will host the Jazz on Oct. 21 and then travel to Utah for a rematch Dec. 9.
That is notable because the two teams completed arguably the biggest trade of the entire offseason when the Jazz sent big man Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and multiple first-round draft picks.
The Jazz have been stuck in neutral of late with six straight playoff appearances during the Gobert era that all ended in a first- or second-round loss.
Throw in the apparent tension between the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and Donovan Mitchell and head coach Quin Snyder’s decision to step down, and the Jazz may have seen this offseason as the ideal time to change directions.
Moving Gobert helped them do just that, and Mitchell has been included in plenty of speculation this offseason as well.
For now, the guard is still leading the show for the Jazz, and the matchups between Gobert’s Timberwolves will be appointment viewing. It remains to be seen how the crowd in Utah will react to the big man’s return, and there may even be playoff implications during the head-to-head games if some of the pieces from the trade help the Jazz stay afloat in the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves could be legitimate factors in the West after they reached the playoffs for just the second time since the 2003-04 season.
Anthony Edwards is one of the brightest young stars in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns is a three-time All-Star and D’Angelo Russell is a capable scorer who can provide a spark from the perimeter.
They now have the league’s best defensive big man in Gobert behind them, which could help the franchise take the next step and actually reach the second round.
It will have to figure out ways to beat perennial contenders like the Jazz along the way if it is going to accomplish that task, giving these games additional importance outside of the trade context.