In the days and weeks leading up to last week’s trade deadline, there was some skepticism that the Warriors would actually trade D’Angelo Russell. Even though the point guard didn’t necessarily look like a long-term fit in Golden State, it seemed likely that the club would want to wait at least until the offseason to fully weigh the trade market for Russell. That would have given him a chance to play alongside Stephen Curry, who is aiming to return from his hand injury in March.
However, the Warriors decided to act sooner rather than later, sending Russell to the Timberwolves for a package that included Andrew Wiggins, a first-round pick, and an opportunity to get out of luxury-tax territory this season. Speaking to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic about the deal, Warriors owner Joe Lacob suggested the club didn’t think it could’ve done better if it waited until the summer.
“We got what we wanted,” Lacob said. “I think if I would’ve bet before the trade deadline, I probably would’ve said we would’ve re-evaluated in the summer, gone through the whole year. But we were fortunate. We got what we wanted, and we did it.”
Lacob offered up a few more interesting comments about the trade and the Warriors’ plans going forward. If you have an Athletic subscription, the conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights:
On the deal being a win/win for the Warriors and Timberwolves:
“Anybody who can’t see that this is a great deal for us, I don’t know what they’re thinking. You can sit and talk about what his salary is, but (Wiggins) had the same salary as D-Lo. They’re both good players. They’re different players. You can question whether this is a better fit; we think it is, as much as I liked D-Lo. He’s a really good player. And I think it’s good for him, too. So it’s a fair, good thing for both teams.”
On why the Warriors wanted to get below the tax line this season:
“Here’s the deal: When you are competing for a championship, I’ve always said we’re going to pay the tax. … But when you’re not winning this year and you’ve got … as good as those players were for us, they’re (expiring contracts after this season), it just didn’t make sense. So I think getting out of the tax so we could get out of the repeater (tax) next year … it’s not about the money. It’s more about the opportunity this summer to flush out our roster that’s the best possible roster for next year.”
On whether the Warriors will be willing to use their mid-level exception and $17MM+ trade exception in the summer, increasing payroll well beyond the tax threshold:
“Yes, I’m talking about mid-level exception, I’m talking about trade exception, any of the possibilities. Doesn’t mean we will, doesn’t mean we’ll be able to, but we have the opportunity, we have the chance to do that now.
“… It’s going to be the highest payroll we’ve ever had next year. We know that. The question is how high. If there’s a trade-exception (deal) that we really want, that’s worth it, let’s consider it. Mid-level exception? Very likely to use. The first pick in the draft, if we were to get that? With luxury tax, (that contract would be) huge.
“Really, the emphasis is on next year. The next two years, our window — Steph’s last two years under contract, before we hopefully bring him back again — we need to field the best possible team we can. That was the emphasis.”