The ninth song on Sonic Youth’s 1994 release “Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” is a spacey, spare track called “Quest for the Cup.” Kim Gordon does the vocals, and at the end there’s a short spoken word part that pops into my head more often than a relatively obscure passage from a quarter-century old song should.
“All your dreams will come true/ All my dreams came true/ But now, I have a bunch of other dreams.”
The underlying message, as least as I choose to interpret it, is that we tend to fixate on one thing that will make us happy forever, but once we get that thing it is never the endpoint. It’s just a base from which we fixate on the next thing in our adjusted reality.
So of course that song had to jump into my head Thursday, just a few minutes after the Timberwolves completed a trade that sent Andrew Wiggins, their 2021 first-round pick (top-3 protected) and 2021 second-round pick to Golden State for D’Angelo Russell.
(And yes, it would be so much better if I could tie “Quest for the Cup” into a post about the Wild instead, or if we could at least rename it “Quest for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.”)
For a lot of Wolves fans, two dreams emerged from the wreckage of the Jimmy Butler era and the start of the Gersson Rosas era as President: Find a way, any way, to get out from underneath Wiggins’ max contract; and find a way, any way, to get Russell onto the team.
It seemed like each deal independently would require the sending out of significant compensation in the form of draft picks, while at least the Wiggins deal would also require taking back a bad contract. So to do both things in the same trade and give up only one first-round pick total without taking back a bad contract in the process, makes this a dream trade.
But now that all your dreams came true, dear Wolves fan, you immediately have a bunch of other dreams.
With that as a backdrop, I’m going to empty my head of all the other things I’ve been thinking about this week relating to the Wolves’ total roster makeover, the Russell/Wiggins trade and what comes next.
*Wolves fans like to use the clever phrase “Trust the pRosas,” a nod of course to the 76ers’ rebuilding mantra and the man in charge of a similar undertaking in Minnesota. As of a few days ago, and maybe even 24 hours ago, one could sense that trust was wavering.
I’m not sure he went from 0 to 100 in approval rating (as I jokingly tweeted after Thursday’s trade), but Rosas certainly reaffirmed fans’ trust in him. And all the maneuvering in the last month leaves the door open for the Wolves to add even more pieces.
By trading Robert Covington (more on that in a minute) and getting another expiring contract (Evan Turner), the Wolves will have room next summer to make some mid-level moves and even more room the following year once James Johnson (similar contract acquired for Gorgui Dieng on Thursday) is off the books.
The new dream upon which everyone will now fixate? Devin Booker. The Suns guard is on a max deal and there’s no indication as of now that Phoenix would trade him. But Towns, Russell and Booker are all friends. And when they were together for a SLAM Magazine cover for this year’s NBA preview, Russell said this: ” When we’re all on the same team — I ain’t gonna tell you which team because I don’t know— we’re gonna do this again.”
The Wolves have two out of three now, which makes getting the one more (Booker) easier.
*The Towns/Russell/Booker pairing would be deadly offensively but a sieve defensively. Even now, the Towns/Russell pairing raises a lot of questions on that end of the floor. Both are close to last or last at their respective positions in defensive real plus-minus.
Towns is the key to it all. Can Towns — an offensive unicorn but a defensive albatross — figure out David Vanterpool’s system and become at least an adequate defender at center? That’s an evolving question, but a big one, to making dreams come true.
*So why trade Covington, one of the Wolves’ best shooters and defenders — particularly since they didn’t use any assets from his trade to get Russell? Well, aside from clearing some salary space it all goes back to timeline. Covington has two years left after this season on a team-friendly deal, making his value high.
The Wolves should be climbing by the time that deal expires, but they won’t be anywhere near championship level and would then have to pay up to re-sign Covington or lose him for nothing. Instead, they’re hoping someone like rookie Jarrett Culver can be a Covington-like equivalent, at least on defense, as he matures.
*Rosas and Ryan Saunders deserve a ton of credit not just for the flurry of moves but for their approach to Wiggins. His value was about as low as it could get at the start of the year, coming off two subpar, inefficient seasons while carrying a bloated max salary. By getting him to buy into shot efficiency and trusting him with a higher usage rate, they pushed Wiggins’ value up to the point that this move could be made.
And kudos to Wiggins, too, for making the effort. He’s probably having his best season in the NBA, but even as such he’s a subpar offensive player and a defensive liability. There’s a chance he takes off in Golden State while playing with better players, and Warriors Twitter is certainly trying to talk themselves into that. We’ll see. Wiggins is a good dude, and it would be nice to see him be a good fit there.
*Two things felt anticlimactic: Wiggins’ final game in a Wolves uniform turned out to be that wholly uninspiring game against the Hawks. The Russell trade talks seemed to be dimming at that point, but during that game it hit me that it could be the final game for Wiggins in Minnesota.
The other? I felt bad that the Dieng trade became such an afterthought. He was the longest-tenured Wolves player, a fantastic humanitarian, a great person and a productive player. His contract doomed him to a certain status he probably didn’t deserve.
*The Wolves upcoming schedule is brutal, so maybe we shouldn’t expect a lot of results right away. At the very least, the makeover injects life into what was going to be a dreadful final 32 games and will put some butts in the seats of Target Center to lift the Wolves — in last place in NBA attendance — in that area.
*If you want the Wolves to have two first-round picks in 2020, you’re rooting for Brooklyn to make the playoffs because the pick is lottery-protected and rolls to 2021 if the Nets miss the playoffs. (The 2021 draft is projected to be better, but the Nets pick could be a lot worse that year if Kevin Durant comes back fully healthy).
Kyrie Irving’s sprained knee ligament could play a big role in all this. So, too, could … the Wolves? They went 2-0 against Brooklyn this year, so if the Nets just miss the playoffs and cost the Wolves a pick this year (they’re currently the No. 7 seed in the dreadful bottom of the East, and they’re seven games clear of the No. 9 team in the loss column), blame the Wolves!
For now, though, maybe try to live in the moment and enjoy the dream that just materialized.