After 33 games played for a team that currently languishes in last place in the Western Conference with a 12-40 record, the D’Angelo Russell era at Golden State ended on Thursday, as the Warriors traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal that brought Andrew Wiggins to the Bay Area. Although Russell had long been rumored to be headed elsewhere after joining the Warriors as a free agent last summer, he was still the team’s best player, with superstar guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both missing significant time due to injuries. As a new report claims, it appears that Golden State had one specific reason why they were so willing to part ways with the 23-year-old guard.
Quoting a story from The Athletic‘s Marcus Thompson II, Bleacher Report wrote on Friday that the Warriors agreed to the terms of the blockbuster trade because they wanted to “get rid” of Russell. No specific reasons were mentioned to justify why Golden State seemingly welcomed the move with open arms, however.
“The Warriors, as much as anything with this move, gave up on Russell. Seven months after they contorted the entire franchise into a pretzel to get him, five months after he showed up to camp, the Warriors abandoned The Russell Project. They were so eager to get rid of him that they are embracing a player considered to be on one of the worst contracts in the league.”
Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell (2015 draft) will be the first pair of top-2 picks from the same draft to play together since Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams (2011 draft). pic.twitter.com/4F3LNAR7h5
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 6, 2020
Analyzing Thompson’s comments, Bleacher Report opined that the Warriors’ relationship with Russell was “always a marriage of convenience to some extent.” The outlet detailed that the organization needed someone to fill in for Thompson — who suffered an ACL injury in the 2019 NBA Finals — as he was expected to miss the entire 2019-20 campaign, and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to add a star free agent in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets.
As further explained, trading Russell would have likely been inevitable, as Curry and Thompson’s eventual return would relegate him to a supporting role, with head coach Steve Kerr possibly having a hard time getting all three guards to play alongside each other. The former No. 2 overall draft pick was averaging 23.6 points and 6.2 assists and shooting 37.4 percent from three-point range at the time of the trade.
With Russell now reunited in Minnesota with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns, chances are he may experience an unprecedented “level of comfort” in his brief NBA career thus far, even with the Timberwolves reeling after a 13-game losing streak, Bleacher Report concluded.
Wiggins, on the other hand, could potentially replace Russell as Golden State’s No. 1 option on offense. Per Basketball-Reference, he had posted averages of 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists for the Timberwolves and shot 44.4 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from beyond the arc, prior to being traded to the Warriors.