Why the Timberwolves haven't lost the D'Angelo Russell trade...yet

The Wolves' offseason got more challenging but not impossible.
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When the Minnesota Timberwolves drew the seventh overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, not only did they fail to land an elite prospect, but also had to give their pick to the Golden State Warriors to complete the D'Angelo Russell trade.

The February 2020 deal brought Russell to Minnesota in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and a 2021 first-round pick that was top-3 protected. With the trade complete, many feel like the Warriors made a trade deadline heist.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Josh Schrock believes that the Warriors "robbed Gersson Rosas blind," because the deal gave Golden State multiple trade assets. The Warriors hold the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in this year's draft and can package those picks to land a veteran to make one last run at a title with Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the returning Klay Thompson.

In addition to those picks, the Warriors can include Wiggins, who many feel had a "breakthrough season" with a career-high 3-point (38 percent) and overall (48 percent) shooting percentage. But those numbers underly Wiggins' issues with the Timberwolves.

When Wiggins arrived in Minnesota prior to the 2014 season, he was expected to be a franchise savior. While he put up the occasional 40-point game, he never seemed to be willing to take on that role. After signing a max contract prior to the 2017-18 season, Wiggins was never the player the Timberwolves expected and had a bloated contract to boot.

With Wiggins hindering the Wolves on and off the court, Rosas needed to find a way to get him off the roster in order to improve the team. Hence, the first-round pick was attached to the Russell trade and Rosas took the bait.

Wiggins performed well in Golden State, but much of that had to do with his standing on the team. With a loaded roster around him, Wiggins became a "3-and-D" role player on a contender. Although the Warriors fell short of the playoffs, Wiggins did enough to rehab his value as a viable trade piece, but it also allows the Wolves to do more this offseason.

In a perfect world, Wolves fans would be pre-ordering Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs jerseys after last night's lottery. With either player joining Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and Russell, the Wolves would have had a solid nucleus that could compete right away. Instead, they have to get creative.

That could include taking a page out of Golden State's playbook to trade Russell for a more valuable asset.

A potential target could be Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. Simmons is one of the more talented players in the league averaging 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists this past season but also has a history of melting down in the playoffs.

One culprit for Simmons' struggles could be his position. The 76ers have pigeonholed Simmons at point guard, which helped him put up big stats but also exploited his 14.7 percent clip from 3-point range.

ESPN's Kendrick Perkins suggested the Timberwolves acquire Simmons and use him as a forward next to Towns. At 6-foot-11, Simmons has the size to play the position and his ability on defense is what has Perkins thinking he could play a role similar to Indiana's Domantas Sabonis.

The Wolves could also add a traditional forward to the mix such as Indiana's Myles Turner or Atlanta's John Collins. While Collins seems like a pipe dream with every playoff win the Hawks collect, Turner could be a player that adds defense to the Timberwolves frontcourt.

By acquiring Turner, the Timberwolves could answer the biggest question that remains about the Russell trade: What happens when everyone is healthy?

The Timberwolves went into last season expecting to be a surprise team in the West but things went south when Towns injured his wrist in the second game of the season. Although he returned earlier than expected, he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed 13 more games.

The same issues plagued Russell, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last February. With Russell missing 26 games, the Timberwolves had to wait until April to see the results.

When Russell made his return on Apr. 5, the Timberwolves played 19 games with Towns, Russell and Edwards on the floor. The 11-8 record in those games isn't enough to make the rest of the Western Conference in fear, but could lead to something with a better supporting cast.

Of course, if the Wolves didn't have that stretch, they could claim victory with a top-3 pick. But if Rosas can upgrade the roster this offseason, he'll have a chance to see what the Russell, Towns and Edwards pairing can do over a full season. 

If the Timberwolves can make a push toward the playoffs, the end result could be a trade that works for both teams.

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