Andrew Wiggins trades for D’Angelo Russell, which benefits both teams for now. What about the long term? – Twin towns

Another Golden State game against Minnesota on Sunday offers another chance to dissect the latest of the Timberwolves’ franchise-altering trades, as D’Angelo Russell and Andrew Wiggins will once again share the floor.

We are now two years away from the day former Timberwolves basketball boss Gersson Rosas put an exclamation mark on his first trade deadline by sending Andrew Wiggins and a first-round draft pick to the region. bay in exchange for Russell. and a salary cap filler.

At the time, the move generated some needed excitement in Minnesota for an underdog NBA franchise that seemed to be going nowhere fast. Russell had just come out of a star appearance. Wiggins was in the midst of another disappointing season. In the days that followed, Rosas painted the picture that he had finally acquired the point guard he desired.

Much of the Timberwolves fans couldn’t believe the heist their team had just pulled off. But two years later, as the paths forged by the franchises since become clearer, it’s become clear the Warriors haven’t lost that trade.

But did the Timberwolves do it?

Golden State (30-11 heading into Friday’s game in Chicago) boasts the second-best record in the NBA. This with Klay Thompson only recently returning after missing two and a half years with leg injuries. Until now, it was Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole and Wiggins who led the efforts of one of the best teams in the NBA.

Wiggins has proven to be exactly what Golden State was hoping for – a talented wing who can defend and score. He rounded out the Warriors lineup and filled a glaring hole that hadn’t been filled since Kevin Durant fled to Brooklyn. Is Wiggins worth the $31 million he’s earning in salary this season? No. But the same was always going to be true for Russell too.

Wiggins is one of the best players on one of the best teams in the NBA. He’s posting career-high numbers in such advanced metrics as win shares per 48 minutes (0.137), plus-minus box (1.4) and value to substitute player (1.0). Averaging 18.6 points per game while shooting 42% from 3-point range, Wiggins is in good shape to be selected for his first All-Star game this winter.

Russell’s advanced metrics rank similarly. In traditional stats, he’s averaging 19 points per game, and while shooting numbers are lower this season, they’ve increased over the past week as the point guard starts to look like the offensive player he is now. For years.

The “big three” of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and Russell combined for 84 points in Thursday’s loss to the Timberwolves at Memphis. They have the scoring acumen to keep Minnesota around the .500 mark, at worst. The Timberwolves were significantly better with Russell on the floor than without.

The Timberwolves are better with Russell than they were with Wiggins. The same goes for Golden State and Wiggins. In this sense, the agreement was a win-win for both parties.

But that narrative could change quickly when both teams enter the playoffs. Will Wiggins remain the same productive player in the spring as the Warriors vie for a championship? Will Russell play a part in Minnesota achieving a surprising amount of playoff success?

The latter is important, as the Timberwolves gave up a first-round pick over Wiggins to get Russell. That pick ultimately turned into Jonathan Kuminga, who has lottery-ticket-type player potential, which Golden State will see if they can fulfill. But if the Timberwolves hadn’t acquired Russell, it’s plausible they would have lost more games had they been pressured into doing so and given a higher draft pick to select players like the Cleveland forward. Evan Mobley. Who knows how this alternate universe would have turned out.

If Russell continues to play at the level he showed last week and helps Minnesota win enough games to get into the playoffs and gives the Timberwolves a tough postseason, that could convince the front office to keep moving forward. with this current kernel. and extend the guard’s contract this offseason.

Otherwise, Minnesota could have some tough decisions on the horizon – regarding their starting point guard and his value at his current price – exactly the same boat they would have been in with Wiggins if the trade had never happened. . In such a case, the Timberwolves would be neither a winner nor a loser. They would be stuck in neutral and hope Golden State’s lottery ticket will never be cashed.

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