With salary matching and uncertainty over draft picks, many expected the Warriors to wait until the off-season to consider any potential trade packages for Russell. It would give them more time to evaluate his fit with Stephen Curry, too. Several teams will likely show interest before Thursday’s deadline, however, and a trade seems like it is possible. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the team most heavily linked with Russell.
Russell, a first-time All-Star in 2019, arrived in The Bay in the sign-and-trade that saw Kevin Durant join the Brooklyn Nets last off-season. The Warriors own the worst record in the NBA, having been without Curry and Klay Thompson for the majority of the season.
The Warriors moved away from the hard cap with the Willie Cauley-Stein trade last month, but will be looking to reduce their tax bill. A Russell trade is one means of doing this if they took back less than his $27 million salary.
Assuming Golden State wouldn’t take Andrew Wiggins‘ contract, Gorgui Dieng could be the centrepiece with his two years and $33 million on his contract. The other alternative would be to use Robert Covington‘s deal along with Jarrett Culver, Jake Layman and Noah Vonleh. That seems a very unlikely path, considering what Minnesota did for to land Culver and the roster spots such a trade would require for Golden State. A Dieng and Covington deal would almost exactly match salary – how much the Warriors prioritise shedding money will be crucial in discussions.
The Timberwolves possess all their first and second rounders through to 2025. Shams Charania reported that the Warriors want ‘significant draft compensation’. As Minnesota try to rebuild, though, and are heading for the lottery once again, there’s understandably a reluctance to part with picks.
A trade before the deadline should still be a longshot as the Warriors have no reason to rush a deal through. Orlando will likely run with what they’ve got, and the Knicks shouldn’t be forcing anything. The Timberwolves desire to trade for Towns’ close friend Russell is obvious, and goes back to their failed pursuit last summer. With the Warriors keen to collect picks – a means of acquiring cost-controlled players through the draft – and the Timberwolves likely to dig their heels in, a trade still feels like it’s much more likely to happen in the summer.
This isn’t a deal that needs to happen. Time pressure is non-existent. That’s not to say it won’t, though, and it could end up being the biggest trade of the season.