On Feb. 6, 2020, the Timberwolves were going nowhere. After a promising 10-8 start, the Wolves had descended toward a familiar spot near the bottom of the Western Conference. They were in the midst of a 13-game losing streak that had dropped their record to 15-35.
And the Golden State Warriors were somehow even worse. The once-mighty Dubs were 12-40, and even if their plummet felt temporary because it was triggered by major injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — who between them played just five games all season — it was still a stunning fall.
The two teams executed a deal on that day that felt like a risk but a big win in a lot of ways for the Wolves. The big pieces: Andrew Wiggins and a protected first-round pick to Golden State for D’Angelo Russell, who then-President Gersson Rosas had pursued in free agency months earlier.
Fans were giddy that the Wolves got out from Wiggins and his max deal while also getting Russell, a friend of Karl-Anthony Towns who brought a different dimension to the Wolves. If the cost was a first-round pick, so be it.
As Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday’s Daily Delivery podcast, re-litigating a trade from more than two years ago is a futile exercise filled with a lot of “what-ifs.” But there’s no denying this: This year’s playoffs have added another dimension to the scorecard.
Russell, with a reputation for clutch play, wilted in the six-game series against Memphis to such an extreme that he was benched in favor of Jordan McLaughlin during crunch time of the Game 6 elimination.
Wiggins, with a reputation for shrinking from the moment, has had several signature games and plays with Golden State — including a dunk in Game 3 against Dallas on Sunday, a Warriors win that has them one game from reaching the NBA Finals.
The things that are impossible to know make revisiting trades both fun and futile. What we do know is this:
*Russell absolutely helped the Wolves get to the playoffs this season, and their fortunes often rose and fell with his play.
*Wiggins, an All-Star starter this year, has elevated his game with Golden State while settling in as more of a role player than a projected star.
*As the Wolves think about their path forward, they would feel pretty good if they had a wing like Wiggins and had been able to use the No. 7 pick in the 2021 draft (the one ultimately paid in the deal to the Warriors, who chose Jonathan Kuminga) and had one more young rising player on their roster.
How they feel about their path with Russell … how Wiggins might have fared under head coach Chris Finch had the trade never been made … how all of it would have impacted Anthony Edwards … that’s what we don’t know.
We only get to experience one reality. The rest is left to the imagination.