Welcome to revisionist history with Julius Dennis. I would like to begin by apologizing to the following players:
I regret to inform you that, despite being a part of a trade in the Gersson Rosas era, the transaction that occurred on Jan. 16, 2020, between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Atlanta Hawks will not be discussed as a part of this program.
There are bigger fish to fry. Indeed, the next chapter of our trip down memory lane brings us to the most important move of Gersson Rosas’ Minnesota journey so far: the D’Angelo Russell trade and the roster overhaul that surrounded it.
On Feb. 5, 2020, the Timberwolves bid farewell to Jordan Bell, Robert Covington, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Gorgui Dieng, Andrew Wiggins, and a pick whose fate shall be decided today.
In return came many parts of what we now consider the Timberwolves: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, Jarred Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell. Also included in the footnotes of history were James Johnson, Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman, and the pick, which was later traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder to select the greatest internet basketball player of all time, Aleksej Pokusevski.
In some ways, it might be easier to wait until Wednesday to write this because the way the balls fall will shed certain light on how most people view this trade. If the Wolves are assigned a little ball with a No. 3 or lower on it, they keep this years’ pick, and it is an undeniable success. However, if they receive a plastic orb with No. 4 or higher, things are a little murkier.
However, that is not how executives should be judged. Instead, they take risks based on the merit of what they see. Sure, the Wolves were probably worse than Rosas had hoped they would be this year, but he thought DLo was worth Wiggins (and his contract) and a first-round pick higher than third.
So how do we judge the trade? The infuriating thing is that we can’t. The core of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards (throw in Jaden McDaniels and Beasley if you’d like) have played together enough to show that they can win, but not that they will. And that’s the crux of it. That is the only way the explosion of trade activity from February 2020 can be judged.
It comes down to this: The Wolves were not winning with Wiggins, and if they are a winning team and make the playoffs next year, the trade was worth it. At the moment, the only consolation is that the Golden State Warriors didn’t make the playoffs with Wiggins this year either, and Steph Curry scored 32 points a game.
Aside from that, this is what can be considered known about the individuals involved.
Malik Beasley is good at basketball, probably better than the Denver Nuggets thought he was. So that’s a win, and so was the contract Rosas signed him to, especially if you don’t think about the off-court stuff.
Jarred Vanderbilt is something. A wild man, a contributor on defense, and, in very particular cases, offense. A throw-in to a trade that turned out to be worth having a second look at. As much as I liked Keita, V8 offers more. More running, more stealing, more blocking, more put-backing, more dropping, more fumbling, and more wide eyes. Just more.
Juancho is… Juancho is sleeve tats and streaky shooting. Juancho is what he is, and we’ll take him, especially when the three is falling, which is what Rosas traded and re-signed him for.
Aside from Robert Covington, who the Wolves probably couldn’t have afforded to re-sign, and Wiggins, almost everyone else on the outgoing side of the trade is out of the league or on the fringe of it. Despite receiving a lot more national media attention and praise in San Francisco, Wigs is doing pretty much what he did in Minnesota. Congratulations to him for that.
Overall, Rosas did a more-than-solid night’s work of personnel management on that cold February evening. The pick shouldn’t matter. But for most, that little ball will. This trade will be in the spotlight again this week, but the true outcome of the Wiggins/Russell swap will only be known next season.