NBA Trade Deadline Roundup: Making Sense of the Andrew Wiggins, D’Angelo Russell Moves

NBA Trade Deadline Roundup: Making Sense of the Andrew Wiggins, D’Angelo Russell Moves article feature image
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via Getty Images. Pictured: Andrew Wiggins (left), D’Angelo Wiggins (right).

It seemed that talks between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors about a trade centering around D’Angelo Russell had stalled — but Thursday afternoon the two sides came to an agreement.

The Wolves traded Andrew Wiggins, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick for Russell, Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman.

This is clearly the biggest move of the deadline, and it fundamentally changes the future of these two franchises. Our NBA experts — WorldWideWob, Justin Phan, Matt Moore, Matt LaMarca and Brandon Anderson — give their immediate reactions below.

Wob: Don’t Write Off Wiggins … Yet

I’m going to be alone here, but ’tis life on the pirate ship. I actually like this Wiggins-Russell trade more for the Warriors than the Timberwolves.

First of all, Golden State just got a VERY good draft pick in exchange for swapping bad contracts.

Second, D’Angelo Russell was never going to fit in with the Splash Brothers. He thrives in the high pick-and-roll, needs the ball in his hands and, oh by the way, is one of the worst individual defenders in the league. Now in Minnesota, TWO of the league’s worst individual defenders are on the same roster.

Third, we’ve never seen Andrew Wiggins in a winning environment. If all of this “potential” his supporters swear by can be unleashed anywhere, it’s with this generation’s dynasty surrounded by the best shooters on Earth.

Why I think this works is because the days of Andrew Wiggins shooting 20 times a game carrying a usage percentage north of 30% are over. He will never see the ball on this team unless he’s slashing to the rim.

This is what made him so great at Kansas and why he went No. 1. If he’s willing to change his mindset — if he’s able to float, cut, wreak havoc on the glass, catch and shoot (gulp) and defend the perimeter (gulp) as his primary responsibilities, he has the potential (key word: potential) to be Iguodala 2.0 more than the mainstream perception of him being Canadian Harrison Barnes.

This man had five different coaches in six years; stability will be the best thing that has ever happened to him. Combine this with the fact that I truly believe his natural basketball talent and offensive prowess is good enough to pivot his style of play, and I think he will adapt to the Warriors’ system on the spot.

Justin Phan: The Warriors Gave Up Leverage

My biggest problem with this isn’t even Wiggins himself, which I’ll get to later. It’s the timing and execution of this deal. The Wolves have been borderline stalking D’Angelo Russell for months now, and it’s been widely known that he was their No. 1 trade target given his relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Warriors had all the leverage in this situation and were under no immediate pressure to quench the Wolves’ thirst, yet they caved now for just one first-round pick (albeit a good one).

Let’s also establish this: Neither Russell nor Wiggins are the long-term solutions for the Warriors. Steph, Klay, Wiggins/Russell, Draymond, Looney, Paschall, Lee, Poole and Smailagic was never going to be enough to contend with the likes of the Clippers, Bucks or Lakers. So then it becomes about asset management, and it seems pretty straightforward to say that Russell has more market value than Wiggins.

Russell was the Warriors’ last big trade chip to improve their core, and they cashed it in NOW for Wiggins and one first-round pick? They couldn’t hold off until the summer to test the waters again, wait the Wolves out and try to get a better offer?

Back to Wiggins … I feel like we’ve been through this song and dance many times, with Melo being the most recent example. When you have a player who’s become accustomed to being the high-usage focal point of an offense, it’s a massive ask to get that player to all of a sudden completely transform his game and take on a totally different role.

Yes, he’ll get cleaner spot-up opportunities and off-ball cuts playing next to Steph and Klay, but let’s not kid ourselves. We have over five full seasons of evidence to suggest he’s an inefficient scorer at best and one of the worst defenders at his position.

Perhaps he can become an above-average player in the aggregate moving to a winning environment, but he’s still a huge liability given his contract ($29.5M, $31.6M, $33.6M over the next three seasons). Any possession where Wiggins has the ball in his hands instead of Steph is an L.

Matt Moore: What the Trade Means for Both Teams

As John Schuhmann of NBA.com wrote, the biggest thing here is that since KD joined up four years ago, the Warriors have turned towards a mid-range-heavy offense. That’s a really bad look to add Wiggins into.

Wiggins actually has reduced his mid-range load considerably this season, and it’s helped make him a more efficient player. The Warriors system provides the players with a lot of freedom. That’s an issue for Wiggins, who needs structure because his offensive instincts are often terrible. He’s also shooting only 33% on 3-pointers this season. That’s a problem.

This is a lot of money. Just a lot of money. Look, there’s no way to really get around this. The Warriors turned Kevin Durant into Wiggins and some picks. Now, the picks might end up super valuable. I think it’s entirely possible that Wolves pick that is top-four protected lands fourth. That is not at all out of the realm of possibility, even if I think Russell makes them better.

But there are very few players who I look at and think of as problems because they’re too good to not play and give the ball to but ultimately make the team worse. Wiggins is one. Steve Kerr might be able to turn that around, but if he does, it’s at the cost of more Steph Curry and Klay Thompson usage.

Does that sound like a good trade-off?

But, hey, if it means they wind up with either two surprisingly great lottery picks in what would have to be a surprisingly great draft (since everyone thinks it sucks right now), or they turn those picks into a legit star, they’ll be Light Years Ahead. Bob Myers has earned the benefit of the doubt, at least a little bit.

The Wolves did great here. Russell is having a great season on an absolutely wretched team due to injuries, and he and KAT get along. The biggest problem with the Wolves was that Wiggins and Towns had zero chemistry. Offensively, defensively, anything. That will improve with how Russell manages the floor, and now that they have a star point guard instead of a combo wing and some athlete-shooters on the edge, their team makes a lot more sense.

The Wolves will probably still be bad and Towns may continue to grow frustrated, but this series of moves at least illustrates a plan from front office head Gersson Rosas, and that’s a start.

Matt LaMarca: If It Makes KAT Happy, It Can’t Be That Bad

For me, this trade boils down to one person: KAT

He is their future. Not D’Angelo Russell. Not whoever that first round pick would’ve turned in to. Certainly not Andrew Wiggins.

If Towns is happier playing next to Russell, that’s a good thing for the Timberwolves. Because if they lose him, then they have to go right back to the drawing board.

Yes, Towns is under contract all the way through the 2023-34 season after signing a super-max extension. But we’re finding out that contracts mean a whole lot less in today’s NBA. Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans with two years left on his deal. Paul George changed his mind about Oklahoma City literally one year after signing a new contract. Is it really that crazy to think Towns could start making trouble in Minnesota as early as next season? I don’t think so.

Russell is obviously a huge upgrade over Wiggins, who has barely shown any signs of improvement since entering the league as a promising rookie. In fact, he’s taken a few steps back defensively. It’s hard to see him making much of a difference in Golden State, but at least they still have Steph, Klay, and Draymond.

The Timberwolves have Towns, and that’s it. It’s a wise gamble to try and keep their star player happy. If it works, maybe they can make a return to relevance. If not, the vultures will start circling soon.

Brandon Anderson: Andrew Wiggins Is Gone!?!

This is a top 10 day in Minnesota sports history. Andrew Wiggins is gone. He’s gone forever.

The Wolves wanted D’Angelo Russell BAD. That much is clear. Karl-Anthony Towns wanted a new running mate, and now he’s got one. Minnesota has turned over half its roster in the last couple days. Suddenly it’s DLo, Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver, Juancho Hernangomez, and KAT. Who needs defense?! Not my Timberwolves. Minnesota loses both its draft picks next year, but wasn’t it always assumed it would take at least a first round pick just to get off the horrid Wiggins contract? Did somebody say addition by subtraction?

D’Angelo Russell is already the better player, and age is a huge factor comparing him and Wiggins. Point guards notoriously take a long time to reach their prime, and it’s very common to take until around age 25 to really figure the game out. Russell is still only 23. Wiggins is a full year older and at a position where players age much more quickly into and out of their careers. His game is built on athleticism and little else. We already know the mental side of the game isn’t there for Wiggins, and it would be a shock to see it develop now, even in a far better environment. With DLo, there’s still time to figure it out, and hopefully stick with one roster now after flying through three other teams the last few seasons.

For the Warriors, I just do not get this at all. Golden State really turned Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala into Andrew Wiggins. I don’t see how Wiggins will ever fit this roster. Calling him Harrison Barnes is an insult to Barnes, a player I’ve never exactly been kind to. Barnes is a versatile, switchy defender and a far better shooter than Wiggins has ever been. The Warriors now have their high pick this summer and Minnesota’s 2021 to flip with either Wiggins or their huge trade exception this summer to add to their roster. And honestly, I don’t think that future first is that valuable. Minnesota is not good, but they’re not as terrible as they look right now. That feels like the 8th to 10th pick to me. It’s something, but it’s a trade asset for Golden State, not one that will help their championship window.

And in the end, that’s what they’ll have to hope Andrew Wiggins is too. Golden State has always believed they were light years ahead, and apparently they think they can rehab Wiggins’s value and flip him for something positive this summer.

Good luck with that.

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