Playoffs add another dimension to Wolves’ Wiggins-for-Russell deal
On February 6, 2020, the Timberwolves were going nowhere. After a promising 10-8 start, Wolves had descended to a familiar spot near the bottom of the Western Conference. They were in the midst of a 13-game losing streak that had dropped their record to 15-35.
And the Golden State Warriors were somehow even worse. The once mighty Dubs were 12-40, and while their downfall seemed temporary as it was triggered by serious injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – who between them played just five games all season – it was still a breathtaking fall.
The two teams reached a deal that day that felt like a risk but a big win in many ways for Wolves. The big chunks: Andrew Wiggins and a protected first-round pick at Golden State for D’Angelo Russell, who then-president Gersson Rosas had chased in free agency months earlier.
Fans were stunned that Wolves got out of Wiggins and his max deal while also getting Russell, a friend of Karl-Anthony Towns who brought a different dimension to Wolves. If cost was a first-round pick, so be it.
As Patrick Reusse and I were talking about Monday Daily Delivery Podcast, reviving a transaction from over two years ago is an exercise in futility filled with a lot of “what ifs”. But there’s no denying that this year’s playoffs added another dimension to the scoreboard.
Russell, with a reputation for clutch play, wilted in the six-game series against Memphis to such an extent that he was benched in favor of Jordan McLaughlin during the game’s critical elimination period. 6.
Wiggins, with a reputation for shrinking from the moment on, had several signature plays and plays with Golden State – including a dunk in Game 3 against Dallas on Sunday, a Warriors victory that has them one game short of reaching the NBA Finals.
The things that are impossible to know make the professions revisited both fun and futile. What we do know is this:
*Russell has absolutely helped Wolves qualify for the playoffs this season, and their fortunes have often gone up and down with his play.
* Wiggins, an All-Star starter this year, has upped his game with Golden State while establishing himself as more of a role player than a projected star.
*As Wolves ponder their way forward, they would feel pretty good if they had a wing like Wiggins and got to use the No.7 pick in the 2021 draft (the one that ultimately paid off in the deal to the Warriors, who picked Jonathan Kuminga) and had another rising young player on their roster.
How they feel about their path with Russell…how Wiggins might have fared under head coach Chris Finch if the trade had never been made…how all of this would have impacted Anthony Edwards…that’s what we don’t know.
We only experience one reality. The rest is left to the imagination.