If the Warriors had only received rookie Jonathan Kuminga when they traded guard D’Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves, that honestly might have been enough.
But obviously, Golden State got much more than that.
The Warriors received forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, in the deal because he had fallen out of favor in Minnesota. Counted on to resurrect a struggling franchise almost single-handedly, Wiggins fell short of enormous expectations and was shipped to Golden State for Russell.
Now, thanks to the Warriors’ overall strength as a franchise — and Wiggins’ talent and skill — he’s an All-Star starter this year. One much longer-tenured Warrior, guard Klay Thompson, recently gave Wiggins a compliment perhaps superior to an All-Star nod — a favorable comparison to Kevin Durant, the “Slim Reaper” himself.
“I played with KD and he’s very similar in the sense that he can score at all three levels,” Thompson said of Wiggins after beating the Kings on Thursday. “He can do it in isolation. He’s amazing off the catch. So it’s nice to have him step into that role. Obviously, as irreplaceable as Kevin is, but Wiggs is doing a damn good job of his own impression of him.”
That’s high praise indeed. Durant, the former Warriors superstar and current leader of the Nets, was just named the 13th-best NBA player of all time by The Athletic.
But what I love the most about this statement is the source. Thompson has just recently returned from two major injuries and had last played in the 2019 NBA Finals — when Durant was a major part of the Warriors’ success. As Thompson was working to get back on the floor, Wiggins was working to become acclimated to his new role, reduced due to the presence of superstar guard Stephen Curry and even forward Draymond Green.
So when Thompson returned to action this season, his on-court memories of balling alongside Durant were, presumably, still relatively fresh. The last time he laced ’em up, Durant was his teammate. And by the time Wiggins’ game had improved enough to earn an All-Star nod, Thompson slid into the starting lineup.
And in his mind, he’s got another Durant on his squad in Wiggins. The comparison is not much of a stretch, either, considering Wiggins’ starting spot in the All-Star game.
It’s a beautiful thing for Golden State — they actually have Durant to thank for the acquisition of Wiggins, since Durant helped facilitate a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets as he left the Warriors, with Golden State receiving Russell in the deal, along with a future 1st-round pick that eventually became Kuminga.
Now that’s a heist of a trade if I ever saw one. The Warriors deserve credit; nearly everyone in the NBA had written Wiggins off as a relative bust. But by the time Thompson worked his way back onto the court, Wiggins had worked his way into becoming an All-Star. And he’s a perfect fit next to Klay, Dray, and Steph, just as Durant was. Now if that’s not light years ahead of the competition (thank you Joe Lacob), I don’t know what is.