By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo got attention Thursday night for having their pick of the NBA’s all-stars, but the NBA did well in making sure that wasn’t the only drama of the day.
Hours prior to the draft to determine the rosters in the 2020 All-Star Game, the league’s annual trade deadline brought a little more drama than the stars picking among themselves, but that wound up not being a hard assignment given how the all-star captains stuck to the starters in their own conferences.
The talent in the trade deadline moves are doing a lot more traveling than Bron and the Greek Freak’s selections, the most eye-opening deals featured multiple teams and some cross-continental traveling, if not outright conference switching.
In the three deals I highlight, two 2020 playoff contenders better positioned themselves to make runs at the championship this year while a routine contender who fell back this season re-did the outlook of its re-build on the run by sending its youngest talent to Minnesota to join his best friend.
D’Angelo Russell Trade:
It seemed at the beginning of this season that the Golden State Warriors were looking to see what a backcourt with mainstays Steph Curry, Klay Thompson would look like with the off-season acquisition and recent all-star Russell, but in the midst of a lottery-bound season reports surfaced that the team had already given up on any long term plans with Russell. That was the first step in the big trade that landed Russell on his fourth team in five years in the NBA.
It’s likely this will be the last team for Russell, at least for a while. They certainly need the former high lottery pick and professed best friend of their maligned franchise player, Karl Anthony-Towns.
The Timberwolves are in desperate need of an infusion of talent, having lost 13 straight games prior to the deal. KAT is being questioned more than ever and his latest all-star selection snub reflects a likely waning respect for his ability to transform his team’s talent and make Minnesota better.
The situation does not look good, but it could potentially be the start of a fresh turnaround with Russell in town. Russell adds talent at the point guard position, and pairing him with Anthony-Towns, who he wanted desperately to play with, could create the league’s next young duo on the rise as well as adjust the franchise’s overall outlook, which could maybe draw a third offensive talent to the team in the near future.
Questions remain if the trade could benefit the Warriors, it could however, if acquisition Andrew Wiggins can fulfill the likely role he is given. He struggled during his time with the Timberwolves trying to be the man of the team and struggling to play his role with former teammate Jimmy Butler, Steve Kerr has already said he won’t be asked to do so much in the Bay Area.
Now that Wiggins is on a team with all-stars that have seniority and specified roles, the role he should be given should be much less of a mental stretch for him, which could make the game simpler overall for Wiggins and could help him do things that would make him a valuable part of the Warriors, things like playing better without the ball in his hands.
Wiggins is likely going to be asked to fulfill the new Andre Iguodala/Harrison Barnes that has disappeared from Golden State’s roster, a key role that helped lead the Warriors to their previous championships.
Andre Iguodala Trade:
Speaking of Iggy, the Miami Heat made him their prime selection of this trade period by pulling off a three-team trade between them, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves. Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Gorgui Dieng and Solomon Hill head to the Heat while Memphis picks up Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow and James Johnson goes to the ever-busy Timberwolves.
Bringing Iguodala to the Heat is a huge plus to the depth of their bench and he brings championship experience to a team that will be playing important games for the remainder of this season. As a three-time champion and Finals MVP, Iguodala gives Butler support in the leadership department — he can even provide the Heat’s current MVP additional lessons, especially on defense, that Butler can use when guarding the opponent’s best players. Iguodala also has versatility he can bring to the defensive schemes/lineups coach Erik Spoelstra could and the potential to be a good knock down shooter in big moments.
Having Crowder and Hill also adds important wing depth for Miami that can be essential, especially come playoff-time. Most importantly, the Heat provided itself luxury tax and salary cap relief with these moves, creating enough cap space to go after a big free agent in summer 2021.
Already a surprise this season with a scrappy and bold young squad, Memphis adds more youthful talent in Justise Winslow. Bringing in an additional 6-foot-9 point forward with versatility that fits position-less basketball is an ideal addition to an already fast-paced young team.
Marcus Morris Trade:
The New York Knicks, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers also completed a three-team trade that sent Marcus Morris and Isaiah Thomas (expected to be released upon trade approval) to the Clippers, Jerome Robinson to the Wizards and Mo Harkless and a 2020 first-round pick to the Knicks.
Morris highlights the trade as he is an expected consistent contributor who moves his talents from the irrelevant Knicks to the heart of the Western Conference playoff hunt.
Adding depth to the Clippers and versatility on the defensive end due to his aggressiveness and dog mentality, Morris’s toughness slots him well among an already impressive defensive perimeter featuring Patrick Beverly, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard that will make opponents’ strain to execute their offensive schemes. Morris can also stretch the floor and be a go-to person offensively within the second unit.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media