Wolves fans were teased into thinking something actually might go right for a franchise that has been the laughing stock of the NBA for the past 15 years.
Marc Stein reported that Minnesota was D'Angelo Russell's preferred destination as a free agent.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted a "loading" message to Instagram, a signal that he must've believed his good friend, who goes by "dloading" on social media, was Minnesota-bound.
Then the team with two of the best guards in the league, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, decided to use Kevin Durant's impending departure as a way to pull off a stunning sign-and-trade with the Nets, luring Russell to the Bay Area and sending Durant to Brooklyn.
The deal can not be completed until July 6, but Wolves fans hoping something might go wrong to void the deal might be setting themselves up for a second disaster, and that seems even more unlikely now that the Wolves are actually part of the massive trade, having reportedly agreed to be the landing spots for point guard Shabazz Napier and shooting guard Treveon Graham.
As The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported, even plans to wow Russell with a helicopter ride over Los Angeles weren't enough to keep the team with five straight NBA Finals appearances from keeping Minnesota near the bottom of the Western Conference.
A sliver of hope does however come from Stein, who was on the Dan Patrick Show Monday morning saying the Warriors plan to eventually trade Russell.
"This is all about the future. D'Angelo Russell doesn't fit there whatsoever," said Stein. "They just wanted to make sure that they did not see Kevin Durant walk out the door for nothing. They got a 23-year-old All-Star and they will trade him. It's just a matter of when. Do they keep him for a whole season? Do they trade him at midseason?"
Stein did not indicate that the Warriors have plans to trade Russell yet this summer, nor did he speculate if the Wolves would be a potential trade partner down the road.
The dream of Russell playing point guard and running pick-n-rolls with Towns appears dead, and the Wolves' point guard options are running thin.
Jeff Teague could stick around and play out the final year of his contract. He'll make $19 million, which is a nice chunk of change even though he'd be playing for a team that clearly wanted nothing to do with him.
Shabazz Napier averaged just over 9 points per game last year but wasn't an efficient scorer or 3-point shooter. He's a spark off the bench more than a starting-caliber guard at this point in his career. He was Russell's backup, after all.
Tyus Jones, a restricted free agent, could re-sign with the Wolves. But Jones is not a proven starter in the NBA and will be overmatched on both ends of the floor most nights. If he can improve his 3-point shooting he could develop into a very solid guard considering he led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio last season.
Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons, so he's out, as are Patrick Beverly, Corey Joseph, Ish Smith, Ricky Rubio, Terry Rozier and George Hill.
There's still some talent available, but nothing near the All-Star caliber of Russell. In fact, Teague is arguably better than the best remaining free-agent point guards.
- Delon Wright
- Rajon Rondo
- Quinn Cook
- Jeremy Lin
- T.J. McConnell
- Emmanuel Mudiay
- Elfrid Payton
What's worse is that the 2020 free agent class is extremely weak at point guard. Kyle Lowry is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but do the Wolves really want to go down the road with a point guard who will turn 34-years-old next March?
Honestly, Minnesota's best bet is to retain Jones, give him the keys and let him succeed or fail. Either way, he'll be better for it and the Wolves can use what might end up being a very high lottery pick in next year's draft to get a point guard. The draft appears to be loaded with guards.
The Wolves can still make some moves, but there's really no point in trading Andrew Wiggins now because the top free agents are gone (aside from Kawhi Leonard), so dumping his salary and giving up draft picks to boot makes no sense.
Minnesota is essentially out of options barring a collapse in the Warriors-Nets deal. It appears very likely that they'll go to battle with a roster that looks nearly identical to last season's roster, with some newfound hope in the form of rookie first-round pick, Jarrett Culver, who is expected to play both forward positions.
An ideal starting lineup (at this point) if Minnesota is able to find a trade partner for Teague:
- PG: Tyus Jones
- SG: Andrew Wiggins
- SF: Robert Covington
- PF: Jarrett Culver
- C: Karl-Anthony Towns
It's not a terrible lineup, but compared to the majority of rosters in the Western Conference, it'll be consistently overmatched unless Towns and Wiggins turn into unstoppable forces.
This is Minnesota, and massive sporting disappointments are a staple of our culture. The massive miss on Russell is the most recent crusher, but certainly not the last.