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What we know about the Russell for Wiggins trade

D’Angelo Russell’s short stint with the Warriors is over, a new, highly-paid player is welcomed into the fold. Here’s everything you need to know.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors ended the trade deadline with an absolute splash, swapping max contracts with the Minnesota Timberwolves. D’Angelo Russell is out, Andrew Wiggins is in.

That’s a lot to digest, and over the next days, weeks, months, and perhaps years, we’ll collectively digest it, and try and figure out what it means, for good and for bad.

In the meantime, here’s everything we know about the trade: What it is, what it means, and why it happened.

The details

Warriors get: Andrew Wiggins; Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick, top-three protected (if it does not convey, it becomes an unprotected 2022 first-round pick); Minnesota’s 2021 second-round pick.

Warriors lose: D’Angelo Russell; Omari Spellman; Jacob Evans III

The contract

Wiggins signed a five-year, $148 million max contract that started last year. That contract lined up pretty nicely with Russell’s, which facilitated the trade.

After this year, Wiggins will be left with three years on his deal, worth just under $95 million. Which means the Warriors still have a ton of money on the books.

Why Wiggins?

The general sentiment - which I’ll fully admit to partaking in - was that the Warriors would be open to trading Russell for an established star, such as a max player demanding a trade. And if such a deal never materialized, they would be happy to have him filling out a backcourt with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, at least for a year or two.

That obviously didn’t happen. The Warriors moved on from Russell quickly, without waiting to see if a disgruntled Ben Simmons or Devin Booker appeared. And what they got back is a player that, while having once been selected first overall, is a long, long ways away from stardom.

Some people in the Warriors organization are confident in the team’s ability to turn Wiggins around. He has shown signs - his efficiency and playmaking were much improved to start the season, before falling off. He’s inefficient and poor at defense, but there are tools for Steve Kerr, Jarron Collins, and the rest of the coaching staff to work with (not to mention Curry and Draymond Green).

There are reasons for optimism, even if I don’t share them.

Ultimately, the inclusion of Wiggins is less about Wiggins, and more about availability. He was a matching contract, from a team willing to part with a valuable draft pick in what figures to be a strong draft. He’s young, has some untapped potential, and could be an asset down the road.

And, of course, there’s another element at play . . .

Why were Spellman and Evans included?

The Warriors picked up both players’ third-year options earlier in the season. They were openly high on Spellman. You could understand using the trade as an opportunity to dump Evans’ contract, but Spellman’s? Why not hang onto him?

Simple: Money.

By sending out additional contracts, the Warriors are able to get under the tax - no small feat for a team used to cutting nine-figure luxury tax payments.

That’s less important for their wallets this season, and more important next season, when they can avoid having to pay the repeater tax. It also opens up more doors to use the trade exception gained by trading Andre Iguodala (and, to a lesser extent, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham).

Is this part of a bigger deal?

Russell is 23, an All-Star, and quite frankly just better than Wiggins, who is 24. So it won’t be as easy to trade Wiggins as it was to trade Russell. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The Warriors now have some assets to trade. They’re starting to gain back some second-round picks, and they have two very good first-rounders: Their own this year, and Minnesota’s next year.

If another team gains interest in Wiggins - or if Wiggins looks improved alongside a star-studded Warriors team next year - a bigger move could happen.

Or something focusing on the draft picks and trade exceptions could be in the works.

The deadline has passed, so the Warriors are officially done with trades until June, though you can expect a flurry of small signings, since they don’t have enough players to field a roster.

What happens next?

The Warriors are going to be ugly for a while. We know Wiggins isn’t a good player on a bad team, and the Warriors are a really, really bad team. Until Curry returns, we won’t really get a glimpse of what the future of this team could look like.

But it does make Curry’s return that much more important.

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