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With ‘dust settled,’ Bob Myers, Steve Kerr open up on Russell-for-Wiggins trade


D’Angelo Russell is gone. Andrew Wiggins is here (or almost here; he arrives on Friday night). The Warriors ended their backcourt smorgasbord experiment without ever seeing if it had legs, because they’d seen enough of Russell to know it wouldn’t work.

And on Friday, head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers talked in depth about the trade, what they expected from Russell, what they expect from Wiggins, whether they think Wiggins can improve his quite obvious deficiencies, and how the team views its flurry of roster-shattering trades now that there is at least an appearance of post-deadline calm.

On the three moves that shipped out six Warriors, and brought back Wiggins and draft picks

In a word, it’s been “strange.” Both Kerr and Myers thanked the six players the Warriors shipped out in return for Wiggins, a first-round pick, and five second-round picks.

Kerr:

“The last few days have felt really strange. Really started couple weeks ago, trading Willie [Cauley-Stein]. The Brooklyn game was bizarre, finding out just beforehand that Glenn [Robinson III] and Alec [Burks] would not be playing and and would be moving, everybody was sort of in shock.

And of course with yesterday’s news, Jacob [Evans], DLo and Omari [Spellman], all moving on. Six guys out of 14, almost half the roster over the last couple of weeks. It’s been that kind of a season it’s been disjointed. We’ve been sort of all over the map.

But the feeling now is that the dust has settled a little bit. I think we have a little more clarity going on forward these last 30 games what we need to accomplish and as far as how we feel I mean, I know the way I feel, I just want to thank all of those guys for their effort and for their commitment to the group. I enjoyed coaching every single one of them. 

And it’s one of the tough things about the NBA is, is how quickly people you care about can move on. And everything can change, just at the drop of a hat. So it’s it’s not an easy day.”

Myers:

“I think we forget sometimes, I know I certainly do, what it’s like for players to get traded. I was talking to my daughter last night and explaining it to her, and I said, “Imagine if you came home from school today, and somebody called you and said you’re moving to Philadelphia, get on a plane tomorrow.” So, there’s a human side to this stuff, where the counterargument to that is, “This is a business.” Well, you guys are in a business, and I’m in a business and nobody’s making us do that.

So, when you trade that many guys, it kind of hits you, it’s obviously much harder for them, but you have a realization for them that, “Wow, this is big for guys who have kids, have families.” So to D’Angelo, and to Glenn and Alec and Omari and Jacob, it’s a lot.

They were all professional. I’ve spoken to all of them since we moved them, and they all handled it gracefully and professionally. Same as they did when they were here.

So, on behalf of the organization, we appreciate all that they all brought and wish them well, and to a man they were all very classy on the phone. That’s not always the case when you trade a guy. But they all were very mature and thoughtful and appreciative. So, I wanted to say that first, just to thank them for all that they did for us while they were here. Jacob was probably the one here the longest, so they weren’t here that long, but they were great while they were.”

Was the expectation always to trade Russell?

Kerr was more blunt about this than Myers, admitting that it was pretty obvious there was no fit with Russell in the backcourt once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson returned, given that Russell is a ball-dominant scoring guard. Myers played up the dream of three 20-point scorers sharing the backcourt.

He said the team would never have signed Russell to a maximum contract if it had solely intended to trade him, but that may be a game of manipulating vocabulary. There was that dream that it would all work out and Russell would start playing defense and it would somehow work with Thompson at the three, but again, that was a dream.

Kerr: 

“To be blunt, the fit was questionable when we signed him, but nobody questioned that,” Kerr said. “When you already have Steph and Klay and you add a ball-dominant guard, you can rightfully question the fit. That was one of the reasons the trade rumors started before the season even began. And I think D’Angelo understood that when he signed the contract and our organization understood that as well. So the trade ended up happening.

I think we at least got a 50-game look at what it might look like. Of course that kind of went awry when Steph got injured. But you get a good enough look and a long enough look to picture how the positional fit goes and I think we have an idea that the other player [Wiggins] makes more sense, and in this case, I would say for both teams.”

Myers:

“The vision would have been Steph, Klay, D’Angelo, and what that looked like. Three 20-point-a-night guys, and it’s enticing. So that was the original thought. We’ll never know what that would have looked like…

I don’t think you pay anybody $120 million with the immediate idea of, “We don’t like him.” But you do, like with any player, have to be open to anything. But the immediate thought wasn’t, “Let’s just do this to trade him.” He’s a good young player, he’s very good, and very talented, and I think what it came down to was just the position. And just saying, “Unfortunately, we have this guy that’s been here that plays this way.”

I think the key to building a roster is, “How do you make each player a better version of themselves? And I referenced Iguodala and Livingston, I think they gave Steph the ability to do some different things. So, then you have to think about how we construct something again, with the size and length and things like that.

But, to be honest, I wish Steph would have not gotten hurt. I wish we did get a chance to see more of it. That was the hope. It wasn’t just, “Let’s do this and move on as fast as we can.”

The initial Russell trade was always about getting something for Kevin Durant

Kerr: 

“The move was, you either lose Kevin Durant and get nothing back, and when you’re already over the salary cap, people just automatically say, ‘Well you just let him go, then you just use Kevin Durant’s money.’

And it doesn’t work that way, like we’re already over the salary cap. So the only way we could get anything for Kevin is to do the sign-and- trade and then D’Angelo, obviously, is a very valuable player in this league and we just proved that with the trade.

So I think going into this season, there was an awareness that we don’t know what’s going to happen this year. Klay’s out for the year and all these new guys. We have a talented player in D’Angelo, let’s put him out there with Steph. That went haywire a few days in.

So none of this went according to plan, and I feel bad for D’Angelo that that was the case. I wanted him to at least feel what it was like to play with our group and to play with Steph and see how it all played out.

In the end, six months in, I think that was enough time four our organization to recognize a different path made more sense.

Why now? Positional fit, a lack of readily-available wings, and the tax benefits

It’s a pretty clear trade recipe: Wiggins plays wing, a position where the Warriors have just about no one, Russell brought back a first- and second-round pick, and with Spellman and Evans included, the Warriors jumped under the NBA’s tax threshold for this year, and avoid a potentially monstrous repeater tax bill.

Kerr: 

“To be able to get a valuable wing player is not easy. Very few of them in the draft according to our scouts, and very few of them available in free agency. Wings are hard to come by. So just by bringing in a positional fit, a guy who’s got a lot of talent, I think the move makes a lot of sense.”

Myers: 

“I don’t know that the fit was, but just looking forward a little bit in roster construction and seeing — guessing, we’re all guessing when we make any decision — that the need for a small forward was pretty glaring for us, and looking at the draft and free agency, realizing it might have been difficult to fill that need. So, that was some of the thinking behind it.

But as far as that specific decision, there’s a positional component of it, there’s a getting out of the tax component of it. So, taken in totality, it was the right decision, the right time…

Joe (Lacob) is so competitive, he doesn’t think that way. But at the same time, to be where we are and to be in the tax didn’t make a lot of sense. Obviously, we’re not heading toward the playoffs. The decision was both financial — look, we talk about the willingness to spend, but there is a financial implication to every business and this is a business, too.

And looking forward, to see the ramifications of being a repeater at the level we would have been, the numbers got pretty high. You can probably run them yourself and see that if we had drafted in the top-five, which we might, that’s a salary you plug in.

You talk about the TPMLE (tax-payer mid-level exception), you talk about our traded-player exception and all of a sudden you’re talking about high (200s in total payroll), and that’s a big number for anybody to digest. So, as we looked at it, we thought, as painful as it was to move some of these guys and do that, the thinking was that going into the 2020 summer, it provided some flexibility and maneuverability with our payroll.

And that was the thought behind it. And we’re still going to spend a lot. I still foresee some good spending ahead of us, but there are degrees where you have to be responsible and say, “Listen, we can do this. It’s going to be a short-term pain, but maybe an ability to provide more optionality moving forward.”

What Warriors like about Wiggins (and comparisons to Barnes)

There are plenty of things to criticize about Andrew Wiggins’ game, but Kerr and Myers expressed optimism that having him in for half a season to get accustomed to the Warriors’ system, as well as to play with (or behind) Curry, Thompson and Green, and be coached by Kerr, would affect Wiggins’ career trajectory in a positive way.

Kerr: 

“First, just the pace and the speed that he possesses at the three spot. We’ve always liked to play fast here, and we like to throw the ball ahead. The first thing we’re going to ask him is to run the wing, run the wing hard. We’ve got guys who will throw the ball up ahead to him…

The difference is that Harrison [Barnes] was so strong physically that we could play him at the four. He could guard centers and power forwards. I don’t know that that’s the case with Andrew, we’ll find out. So I think the reason it might be an appropriate comparison is that he will be playing next to Draymond, Steph and Klay, much like Harrison did.

I think playing next to those guys makes any player better. And so I think I think that’s where Andrew can make some strides is feeding off of the guys around him but also being in a position to to move the ball on to those guys. On paper looks like a good fit, but again, it’s up to us, as a group, to to make it work.”

Myers: 

“We like the length and the size and the athleticism, and just thought it was more complementary. It wasn’t an indictment of D’Angelo, he was great, and he is great. But specific to our needs, we just felt like this was a better fit. And I’m sure Minnesota feels the same way.

They needed a point guard, and for what they’re looking for, it made sense for them. And for what we’re looking for, I think it made sense for us.”

Expectations for Wiggins

Myers spoke to the fact that despite being the worst team in the league, none of the players traded wanted to leave the Warriors, describing that as “unprecedented.” He and Kerr expressed hope that the organization could make an imprint on Wiggins, pointing, albeit somewhat indirectly, at his tendency to slack off on defense.

Kerr: 

“Defensively, we’ll ask him to take on the challenge of what that position entails, guarding some of the best players in the league and adapting to our schemes and terminology and so I think it’s important that we have a couple of months to get a head start for the next season…

Now it’s a matter of catching Andrew up to speed with with what we like to do here and really trying to make an impact on him regarding our process, and how we like to do our business, and how can we help him get better, and how can he help our team get better? And that’s going to be what these next couple months are about, from a team standpoint, along with continuing to to grow and develop the younger players.”

Myers:

“I hope our environment makes me better, makes players better. I think it does. We were talking about the difficulty of trading those guys the other night in Brooklyn, and somebody mentioned to me, “This is really rough on our culture.” And I said, “You know what’s amazing? We have the worst record in the NBA, and not one player wanted to go.” That’s unprecedented.

I promise you there’s a lot of good players on a lot of good teams that don’t want to be there. And so that says something about what Steve has built with his staff, what Joe’s done with what he’s provided for the players. You just don’t see that. I promise you, as an agent at the trade deadline, I had guys on really good teams saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

On teams that are in the middle and, I promise you, if they’re on the worst team in the NBA, they did not want to be there. So, I took a step back and said, “Wow, we have guys” — and some of you may have been in Brooklyn when that went down — and the somberness, I will tell you most players who are getting traded to a playoff team from a team that is where we are, are happy. And they weren’t.

So, that’s I think a testament to what Steve has built and the uniqueness of, whether it’s the leadership of Steph and Draymond and everybody, and the coaching staff, that you have a place where we’re losing more than we ever have, yet we’re holding onto something that is pretty powerful and hard to build.

So, the short answer is, if you bring somebody into that, you hope that they can become a better version of themselves. Talking to Glenn and Alec, they felt like this was, for the first time, maybe a place that could be home. They felt like they were appreciating getting a chance to blossom and I think that’s the gift that Steve provides from his experience as a player, as an eight-time champion.

If our environment can’t make somebody better, then we’re doing something wrong. Then our environment and our coaching staff, and me and all that support we provide, isn’t worth that much if we don’t believe that we can improve people.”

Will Warriors use those draft picks? Myers is at least posturing that way

No GM will ever say what they’re going to do with an asset. Bob Myers is no different. For him to say that the Warriors are planning to trade all the draft picks they acquired would be foolish, and lower the value of those assets if teams think they’re being given up easily.

So, don’t read too much into what Myers said about using those picks, but also don’t expect the Warriors to completely crush their future. They need cheap, young talent, and Myers pointed to the core three of Curry, Thompson and Green getting to that scary age (around 34) and what happens then if you’re unprepared.

Myers: 

Picks are important, especially for us. There’s two ways we could have gone, with Steph, Klay and Draymond hitting close to 30 — I don’t exactly know their ages — the ability to add youth while those guys age, because the biggest fear is you’ve got five or six 33- or 34-year-olds, it ends and it ends abruptly. And then it’s four, five or six years to get back.

But luckily, I guess unluckily, we’re going to have a high pick this year. Which is unusual, to have the caliber of players we have and to be in this situation and, potentially, I don’t know what will happen going forward with Minnesota’s pick, but I do know first-round picks are highly valuable. You have to draft the right player, but also as a vehicle to do quite a bit.

They are highly, highly coveted. Maybe never as much as now, the value of picks, probably because of the rookie-scale contracts. And it’s probably the last way to really construct a roster.

When we won a championship in 14-15, I think Klay was in a rookie-scale, Draymond, Harrison (Barnes), and it might be the last time a team won a championship that is under the tax. So, it’s a way to hopefully build. You’d like to use them for your own because trading them is fine, but you’d like to draft young players so that, for our fans, we have a long runway.”

 

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