Deadline Dilemmas: Teams struggle to find the right pieces for future successes

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GSankary | Flickr

Kyle McKee

The NBA trade deadline, which takes place one week before the All-Star break, is vitally important to all NBA teams. Whether a front office is trying to add what they believe to be that “missing piece” that puts them over the edge, trying to save some money and get cap-space relief, or to plan for the future, every team is trying to achieve a goal. This past deadline featured all of that. 

Although the deadline was not as insane and star-studded as the most recent time, the NBA saw rapid player movement in a small timeframe. With last summer’s free agency period being the craziest in NBA history, the 2020 NBA trade deadline did feature some big moves that will have an impact this year and years to come.

The biggest trade of the deadline featured the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Golden State sent D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins, a 2021 top-3 protected first round pick and a 2021 second round pick. 

Minnesota finally gets the guy they have desired since this past summer in Russell, to pair with Karl Anthony-Towns. The Timberwolves got what they believe to be one of the next dynamic duos in the NBA. 

Towns and Russell have been close friends since childhood, when they played together on the AAU circuit, and have always talked about playing together in the NBA. Now the two will have that chance in Minnesota, entering the primes of their careers, with Towns only 24 years old and Russell turning 24 this month.

Additionally, Minnesota did not have to include their 2020 first round pick in the deal, which is huge for them because the Wolves have the fourth worst record in the NBA, which will likely net them a top-5 pick. 

For the Warriors, this trade made perfect sense. From the moment Russell arrived in Golden State, the media questioned his fit into the Warriors system. Russell thrives in a half-court offense, with the ball in his hand, receiving high-ball screens. In high pick-and-rolls, Russell is lethal. 

If the opponents switch the screen, Russell can easily beat the defender off the dribble and make the appropriate read, whether that be taking a mid-range jumper or three-pointer, taking it all the way to the basket or finding the open man. 

However, Russell struggles mightily on defense and he is not a great spot-up shooter which is a must in the Warriors offense. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out for this season, the offense ran through Russell. However, when Curry and Thompson return next season, it does not make any sense to play all three of them together.

The Warriors managed to acquire Russell last summer from the Brooklyn Nets in the sign-and-trade that sent Kevin Durant to Brooklyn. 

The Warriors got Russell just to flip him into something that will be useful to them in the future which turned out to be Wiggins. 

The 2014 first-overall pick is a career 20 points-per-game scorer for a Timberwolves team that has made the playoffs once in his six seasons in Minnesota as an 8th seed in 2018. Wiggins has flashed All-Star potential at times through his career. 

However, Wiggins has not lived up to the huge expectations he received coming out of college. The Warriors hope getting Wiggins into their culture.

Working with Curry and Thompson every day will transform Wiggins into the player that many dreamed he could be. Wiggins is only 24 years old, which means he has not entered his prime yet. 

The worst-case scenario for Wiggins with the Warriors is that he plays the role that Harrison Barnes played for the Warriors when they won their first championship with their current core in 2015. 

The Warriors needed a wing and they found one in Wiggins. The Warriors may be the worst team in the NBA this year, but come next year, they will be right back in the mix. 

Curry and Thompson come back healthy from injury, Draymond Green will be back in his usual form and by then, the newly added Wiggins will be fully engulfed in the Warriors system. 

Additionally, Golden State will have a very good pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Golden State will most likely have the best odds to get the first pick, which could net them James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 center from the University of Memphis, who many believe to be the prize of the upcoming draft.   

The second biggest move of the deadline was a three-team deal between the Timberwolves, the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies. The Heat sent Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters to Memphis and James Johnson to Memphis. In return, Miami received Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill from the Grizzlies. Memphis also received Gorgui Dieng from the T-Wolves and Minnesota received James Johnson from Miami. 

This trade puts Miami into contention to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. They may not be at the Milwaukee Bucks’ level, but they are right behind them, along with the Toronto Raptors. Come playoff time, anything can happen. The Heat got two players that will make an immediate impact with Iguodala and Crowder. 

This trade gives the Heat arguably the best bench depth in the league. Both have a considerable amount of playoff experience, especially Iguodala and they are exceptional “three-and-D” players that fit right into the Heat culture. 

More importantly, the Heat believe Iguodala, who has not played a minute this season, can be the guy who can guard the opposing team’s best perimeter defender. 

If Iguodala can get back to the form of years past that won him NBA Finals MVP in 2015 because of his defense against LeBron James, the Heat have a legitimate shot to win the championship.  

The other big deal of the deadline was a four-team blockbuster between the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and the aforementioned Timberwolves, who were by far the busiest team at the deadline. 

Atlanta received Clint Capela and Nene from Houston. Houston received Robert Covington, Jordan Bell and a 2024 second-round pick via the Golden State Warriors from Minnesota. 

The T-Wolves received Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt and a lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick via the Brooklyn Nets. Finally, Denver received Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and a 2020 first-round pick via the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets are planning on playing “ultra-small-ball” by trading away Capela. Covington, who is 6-foot-7, is the tallest player in the main rotation for the Rockets. It feels like a make-or-break year for Houston. 

After several years of coming up short in the postseason with their current core led by James Harden, the championship window will close sooner than later. If the Rockets get eliminated early in the playoffs, big changes could be coming to Houston.

Other deals worth noting include the Los Angeles Clippers getting Marcus Morris Sr. from the New York Knicks in a three-team deal; the Cleveland Cavaliers trading for Andre Drummond; and the Philadelphia 76ers getting Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from the Warriors. 

By acquiring Morris, who averages over 19 points-per-game and shoots 44% from three-point range, the Clippers have made it clear that they are championship contenders with their already loaded roster, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.