BY MASON BISSADA
In the final hours before the NBA’s annual trade deadline, the Golden State Warriors agreed to trade point guard D’Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for forward Andrew Wiggins and the Wolves 2021 first-round pick and 2021 second-round pick. In addition to Russell, Golden State will also send guard Jacob Evans and forward Omari Spellman to Minnesota.
The Timberwolves, who are currently the 14th seed in the Western Conference ahead of only the Warriors, have top-3 protected the 2021 first-round pick, meaning it will only transfer to Golden State if it falls between #4 and #30. If it does not convey in 2021, the Warriors will receive the Wolves 2022 first-round pick completely unprotected.
By making the move, combined with yesterday’s trade of Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks to Philadelphia in exchange for three second-round picks, the Warriors have officially fallen under the luxury tax line and avoided the dreaded repeater tax–something ownership clearly prioritized in what is otherwise a lost season. Golden State now only has nine players on their roster, and must fill out the remainder of it while avoiding the luxury tax line.
Wiggins is still owed $94.7 million dollars over the next three seasons. Though he is still just 24 years old, he has shown little improvement in his skillset since winning Rookie of the Year back in 2015. His career averages of 19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists leave something to be desired from a former #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft who was once heralded as “Maple Jordan” as a native of Toronto.
This trade illuminates two of the Golden State front office’s opinions: 1) They believe Wiggins still has untapped potential that their coaching and player-development staffs can unearth. Whether it be his shaky jumpshot (33% from three for his career), his unwillingness to pass the ball or his underwhelming defensive effort, they believe they can mask his deficiencies and highlight his athletic strengths. Playing alongside elite shooters like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and a brilliant passer like Draymond Green should help as well. And 2) They believed D’Angelo Russell was not a good fit next to the above Big 3. Despite putting up some flashy numbers on the score sheet, Russell’s play did not translate to wins for Golden State through 33 games played. Though he never shared the floor with Thompson and barely did with Curry, something clearly did not sit right with the front office.
With the addition of Wiggins, Curry’s return looming and six players gone from the opening night roster, the Warriors are going to look a lot different for the remainder of the season. It remains to be seen whether or not these differences will mean a more uplifting ending to what has been a depressing year.
Golden State returns to Chase Center for a nationally televised game against the Lakers Saturday night followed by a visit from the Miami Heat on Monday, a game that will likely feature the return to the Bay Area of Andre Iguodala.