The Golden State Warriors made a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline and fans are still processing the aftermath. Here’s why the arrival of Andrew Wiggins fills a desperate need on the roster.
Despite the repeated proclamations from the Golden State Warriors front office that he was part of the future, the franchise agreed to trade away D’Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The consensus belief was that Russell was largely acquired from the Brooklyn Nets as an asset, only some thought his tenure in the Bay would last longer than February’s trade deadline.
For a team as desperate as the Timberwolves were leading up the deadline, many assumed that Golden State could have fetched a bigger return for trading away D’Angelo Russell, perhaps in the offseason.
But the quick decision to trade him away for a package centered around Andrew Wiggins signals that the Warriors needed to fill a need that Russell couldn’t fill, with the (hope) that Wiggins can achieve that instead.
That desperate need was one of craving a starting wing player that can (again, hopefully) provide more of an impact on the defensive end of the court.
The motivations for making this deal arguably arose the night before the deadline, when former Warrior Andre Iguodala was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Miami Heat. But the icing on the cake there: Iguodala signed a two-year, $30 million extension.
The hope of a reunion between Iguodala and Golden State next summer? Now officially off the table. There goes possibly option number one at the wing spot in free agency.
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And now the Warriors, arguably team that lacks the most depth at the wing position, needed to find a solution for a glaring roster hole. Golden State revolutionized the NBA by increasing the value of the three-point shot exponentially.
The aftermath was the emergence of the “three-and-D” player, someone that can play and defend on the perimeter. Right now, they don’t have that.
Do they take the risk through an uninspired 2020 draft? Do they overpay in a less-than-stellar free-agent class? I don’t think Bob Myers wanted to stomach the possibility.
So they took a flyer on Andrew Wiggins, whom they believe still has untapped potential.
After years in a dysfunctional franchise, they believe surrounding him with players and a stable organization with a winning mindset will give him a much-needed boost to turn things around. Especially on the defensive end.
And that is where the hope lies: that he can bring more to the table on the defensive end, an area that reportedly the Warriors concluded D’Angelo Russell could not fill.
Per Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, a main factor of the Warriors in trading Russell was to “get rid of him.” They had seen enough on the defensive end, the unwillingness to make that extra effort. At least with Wiggins, they believe there’s still progress to be made with his defense.
D’Angelo Russell currently ranks 126th (out of 128) in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus at his position, arguably one of the worst defensive starters. Wiggins may need to be willed to make a bigger impact on defense, but Russell seemingly averts defensive contact. For a team wanting to vault back into contention, that simply won’t cut it.
Should the Warriors have received a better haul in return for D’Angelo Russell? For the effort it took to acquire him in the first place, the answer arguably is yes. But if they believe they had seen enough, it’s better to rip the band-aid off quickly rather than letting it linger.
Time will tell whether this entire process pays off or if it was for naught, but for the time being Andrew Wiggins fills a hole that was glaring for Golden State. Now, it’s up to the Warriors to show their organization is up to the task of turning around the career of another player with potential.