The Minnesota Timberwolves are still prime candidates to trade for D'Angelo Russell later this season, and it shouldn't be all that difficult of a transaction to complete.
At the end of the day, the allure of playing with Stephen Curry in the Bay Area was too much compared to Karl-Anthony Towns and the weather of the Upper Midwest. Russell chose Golden State, and a sign-and-trade was orchestrated to bring D-Lo to the Warriors.
While this was likely to be a borderline playoff season for Golden State to start with, Curry's broken hand and a host of other more minor injuries have rendered the Warriors the worst team in the Western Conference, with a 2-10 record through their first 12 games.
Prior to the Wolves-Warriors showdown earlier this season, it was reported that: a) Russell, Towns, and Phoenix's Devin Booker are all still dreaming of teaming up, and b) the Wolves are still exploring options for how they might be able to land Russell.
Here's the thing: this doesn't need to be all that complicated. The only thing that should really muddy the waters here is that the Wolves wouldn't necessarily be the only suitors for Russell, and the Warriors would have to be convinced to trade him to another potential contender in the Western Conference.
But here is why the Warriors could (and should) be interested in moving Russell:
- They're 2-10, and Russell is out for a couple of weeks with a thumb sprain.
- Curry won't play until sometime around the All-Star Break.
- Klay Thompson is out for the season.
- The Russell-Curry backcourt felt like a bit of a weird fit to start with, and acquiring additional assets now could help the Warriors acquire another, better-fitting star later.
It's even more obvious for the Wolves:
- Russell is an All-Star point guard and would form a deadly pick-and-roll duo with Towns.
- Russell's window aligns with Towns' perfectly.
- Towns has made his desire to play with Russell known as the two are good friends.
So, how could the deal come together?
It really shouldn't be that hard to figure out, pending the presence of other teams who may be interested in Russell.
Remember, Russell can't be traded until Dec. 15 since he was acquired in free agency this summer. He's out for at least a couple of weeks due to his thumb sprain, so he'll be back just in time to play a few games and prove his health.
In order to match Russell's $27.8 million salary, the Wolves would need to send out either Gorgui Dieng's $16.2 million or Jeff Teague's $19 million. Teague is the better fit for the battered Warriors, plus his contract expires following this year.
Then, the Wolves need to include one or two more players to get close enough in outgoing salary. Since they aren't likely to move Andrew Wiggins in this deal, they'll need to add a first-round pick or two to entice the Warriors.
Here's the Wolves' best offer:
The Warriors pick up one of the league's best 3-and-D defenders on a fantastic contract in Covington. RoCo is owed less than $13 million in each of the next two seasons and would be a perfect fit for the Warriors system when Thompson and Curry come back healthy.
Teague would fill in this year for the injured Curry and could either be flipped at the February trade deadline or allowed to expire during the summer.
The Warriors will end up with a top lottery pick in June after tanking the rest of this season, but they could use the additional draft capital to build a package for another rotation player at some point in the next year, or simply stand pat and draft a couple of players this June. The Wolves' pick will likely be in the middle of the first round, so there's opportunity for the Warriors to rebuild their talent stockpile quickly around Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green.
If the Warriors insist, the Wolves could include some combination of their young wings in Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, but the bet here is that Golden State would rather have the sure thing in Covington and select their own young players in the draft.
As mentioned, the only thing that should really complicate matters is if the Warriors balk at trading Russell to another team in the West and creating another playoff team, especially when there will surely be other teams willing to pony up for Russell.
It would be naive to think that the Wolves are the favorite for Russell, but Covington is a legitimately attractive trade chip, and the Warriors would a) add a 3-and-D threat for the next two seasons after this one, b) add more draft picks in a lost season, and c) create cap space for next summer.
The Wolves are one of only a few teams that can offer all three to the Warriors in a single, two-team transaction.
Expect Gersson Rosas to make that phone call, and don't be shocked if Bob Myers and the Warriors shake hands and get it done.