In the biggest blockbuster move of the NBA’s trade-deadline day, the Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly acquired All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for a package that includes Andrew Wiggins and a lightly protected future first-round pick.
Details of the trade were first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The first-round pick from Minnesota is top-three protected in 2021. It becomes unprotected in 2022 if it does not convey. In addition to Wiggins and the first-round pick, the Warriors will receive a 2022 second-round pick.
Golden State will also send Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman to the Timberwolves.
What the trade means for Minnesota
More importantly, the Wolves get their man in Russell. Minnesota general manager Gersson Rosas pursued him in free agency before he agreed to join the Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets in July. Russell is a close friend of Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, and his arrival comes a day after Towns expressed frustration with the direction of the team.
Russell fills a gaping hole at point guard for the Timberwolves, who had only two-way player Jordan McLaughlin on the roster following the recent trades of Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier. The trade comes a day after Minnesota completed a four-team deal centered around Robert Covington that returned Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and Brooklyn’s top-14 protected first-round draft pick.
Beasley, 23, got lost on Denver’s crowded bench, but he is an intriguing potential backcourt partner for Russell. Over the past two seasons, Beasley has averaged 17 points (on 45/39/86 shooting splits), 3.8 rebounds and two assists per 36 minutes for the Nuggets. He will be a restricted free agent this summer after reportedly turning down a three-year, $30 million extension offer in Denver.
Russell signed a four-year, $117 million deal with the Warriors after submitting an All-Star campaign with the Nets last season. He averaged 23.6 points (on 43/37/79 shooting splits), 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 32.1 minutes over 33 games in Golden State. The Timberwolves now have Russell and Towns together under their financial control through 2023. (Towns is signed through 2024.)
Russell does little to solve Minnesota’s defensive woes, but he should be a massive upgrade for the NBA’s 23rd-ranked offense. The Timberwolves also unload the four years and $122 million left on Wiggins’ extension. That contract was a mistake from the start for the Wolves, who traded Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for their No. 1 overall pick in 2014. After a promising start to this season, Wiggins reverted to his inefficient self.
What the trade means for Golden State
The Warriors, meanwhile, will try to tap the potential the Wolves never could with Wiggins. With the 24-year-old no longer bearing the offensive load of a first or second option, perhaps he can thrive in the slashing space created by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson whenever they return from injury.
It is undoubtedly a risk for Golden State, even if Wiggins on the wing is a better positional fit than Russell as a third guard next to Curry and Thompson. The Warriors seemingly acquired Russell with the intent of trading him, salvaging value from Durant’s exit. Surely, they planned on turning Russell into more than one of the league’s most cumbersome contracts and a single first-round pick.
Still, the first-rounder from Minnesota holds significant value for Warriors general manager Bob Myers. Golden State owns the league’s worst record in this injury-riddled campaign, and there is no guarantee the Timberwolves make the playoffs in a crowded Western Conference the next two seasons. That potentially gives Myers a pair of lottery picks to shop for more reinforcements this summer. The Warriors surely still envision themselves as contenders in the 2020-21 season.
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