The Warriors cashed in their biggest trade chip to make a massive gamble on Andrew Wiggins

andrew wiggins

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Andrew Wiggins.

  • The Golden State Warriors traded D'Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, a 2021 first-round pick, and 2021 second-round pick.
  • Many in the NBA world suspected that the Warriors would eventually trade Russell for more pieces, but the questions remained when they would do it and for what.
  • In making the deal, the Warriors are taking a big gamble on Wiggins, a naturally skilled, 24-year-old No. 1 pick, who has disappointed in Minnesota, but has plenty of potential.
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The Golden State Warriors did not wait long to cash in D'Angelo Russell for more pieces, including a big bet on a former No. 1 pick.

The Warriors on Thursday agreed to trade guard D'Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for forward Andrew Wiggins, a top-three protected 2021 first-round pick, and a 2021 second round pick, according to reports. The Warriors will also send guard Jacob Evans and big man Omari Spellman.

The Warriors acquired Russell, a 2018 All-Star, in a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets when Kevin Durant chose to join the Nets in free agency. Russell figured to serve as a secondary playmaker and scorer in the backcourt with Stephen Curry while Klay Thompson recovered from a torn ACL.

However, both Russell and the Warriors acknowledged that it might not be a long-term partnership. Curry, Russell, and Thompson would have all jostled for minutes in the backcourt once healthy. The Warriors would be undersized with all three on the court, meaning one of the three would often be on the bench.

d'angelo russell

Matt Slocum/AP Images

D'Angelo Russell.

Still, when the Warriors would cash in on Russell remained a big question. The Timberwolves had been in hot pursuit of Russell for months, hoping to find a dynamic guard to pair with star big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Russell and Towns are also close.

Reports on Tuesday indicated the Wolves were trying to orchestrate multi-team deals to acquire assets to then trade to the Warriors. The Warriors had reportedly turned down a deal involving two first-round picks.

It's thus a little surprising that the Warriors would agree to trade Russell now, for a package of one protected pick that could be later in the draft next year if the Wolves are competitive, and Wiggins.

What the deal amounts to is a bet on Wiggins, the 2014 No. 1 pick.

Can the Warriors revive Wiggins?

andrew wiggins 2020

David Zalubowski/AP Images

After a highly promising rookie year, Wiggins has regressed and failed to live up to lofty expectations. From 2016-17 to 2018-19, Wiggins' shooting, free throw attempts, rebounding, and scoring fell. He often became lackadaisical on the defensive end, only showing signs of the elite defender he appeared to be his rookie year. He passed up three-pointers for less-efficient deep twos and midrange shots, and didn't get to the rim as often some would have liked from a springy, 6-foot-8 forward with solid ball-handling.

This season has been something of a bounce-back year for Wiggins, though he has cooled down after a hot start. He is currently averaging 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game on 44.4% shooting, 33% from three. His scoring, field goal percentage, three-point attempts, free throw attempts, rebounds, and assists are all up from last year, and he has cut down on his midrange attempts.

The Warriors will be gambling that they can revive Wiggins and help him reach the best version of himself. There are a number of factors that will play into that, from Steve Kerr's coaching to the leadership and on-court skill of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green.

Once the Warriors are healthy, Wiggins will see his role reduced, for the better. He can be a second or third scoring option and thrive from the looks that Curry, Thompson, and Green will create for him. He simply won't be allowed to be as lax on defense, and he'll have Green as a defensive anchor telling him what to do instead of Towns (a notoriously poor defender).

But it will be a huge bet. Wiggins is in the second year of a five-year, $147 million contract. He has three years, $95 million remaining on his deal after this year. The Warriors' payroll will be bloated with Wiggins' deal on the books alongside Curry's five-year, $201 million deal, Thompson's five-year, $189 million deal, and Green's four-year, $99 million deal.

If the Warriors can't revitalize Wiggins, they'll be on the hook for a lot of money, with an aging core. If they can't help find a more productive version of Wiggins, it will cost them future assets if they ever want to move him.

But if the Warriors' gamble proves correct, they have the chance build a bridge into their next era, with Wiggins, a high selection in the 2020 draft, and the Wolves' pick in 2021.

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