"We never wanted 2020. We wanted 2021." Joe Lacob's extended remarks on trading for Wiggins and the team's vision

Whether you agree or disagree with the Golden State Warriors’ moves at the trade deadline this year, it’s impossible to refute the fact that owner Joe Lacob and his front office are chasing a return to the top of the NBA pantheon with every tool in their arsenal.

So it shouldn’t be at all surprising that the Warriors pivoted away from freshly acquired young star, D’Angelo Russell, before getting a chance to look at him playing alongside the team’s biggest stars. Under the previous ownership, it’s likely Russell would have stayed. A well-liked, exciting, young player that could put the ball in the basket, Russell embodied the “It’s a great time out!” marketing that has become symbolic of the institutional ennui under Chris Cohan .

But not Joe Lacob. This is not a man who is content to bring together the Brady Bunch cast of characters just because it’s convenient. His vision, at the heart of the rebirth of this franchise, has always been to aim big and go bigger.

So Russell (and half of the roster) were jettisoned from the Light Years mother ship, which now turns it’s attention fully towards building for the future.

Lacob discusses the Wiggins trade, and Warriors priorities moving forward

Joe Lacob spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area's Greg Papa on Monday night prior to the team’s loss to Andre Iguodala’s new team, the Miami Heat. There were some interesting tidbits that offer insight into Golden State’s plans and priorities - especially for fans still working to understand the flurry of activity that landed Andrew Wiggins in the Warriors blue and gold jersey.

"We were hoping it was Brooklyn if [Durant] left, and the reason is that we knew that D'Angelo [Russell] was a possibility in a sign-and-trade. That was really our only possibility of getting something back with Kevin Durant leaving.

"I was really elated -- not to lose Kevin Durant -- I was elated that he went where he went at the time, so that would give us the optionality." 

So the first part of understanding the Warriors’ moves this season starts with the notion that when all NBA talent, Kevin Durant left the team, they were put into a reactionary cycle of events.

Due to the NBA’s byzantine salary cap rules and structure, once a team is far enough over the salary cap (like the Warriors are/were) they can’t add significant new player salaries - with some exceptions. As Lacob points out, one of those exceptions is the sign-and-trade option, which allows two teams to trade players, while the incoming player signs a new contract extension with their new team.

The NBA arms race is about acquiring top tier talent. With extremely limited draft tools due to a decade of dominating the league, Golden State was fortunate that Durant chose a team with a young promising player on a similar level of contract. If it wasn’t Russell, it was nothing.

Now, should the team have taken that option?

The Toronto Raptors lost an all NBA talent when Kawhi Leonard departed, and took no additional moves to fill the hole he left. The Raptors are 2nd in the Eastern Conference and winners of their last 15 games.

Regardless, the Warriors took Russell.

But why not hang on to him? Why not take enough time to see what Russell looked like alongside the Splash Brothers when Klay Thompson returns next season?

Well, Lacob implied that this trade wasn’t as much about giving up on Russell as it was about getting a draft pick - and a good one - for the draft in two years. Again, from NBC Sports Bay Area’s transcript of Lacob’s Monday interview:

"I can honestly say I thought we were gonna end up waiting until June, before the draft," Lacob admitted. "But that's because we weren't able to get the deal we wanted up to the trade deadline. It didn't really happen until Wednesday night, Thursday morning, when we were able to put together a deal that we liked, which not only included Andrew Wiggins -- a great positional fit for us and a player that we liked all along -- but also the Minnesota first-round pick in 2021.

"We never wanted 2020. We wanted 2021." 

"We already had a high pick in 2020 and it's not considered the greatest draft," Lacob explained. "But 2021, considered a very good draft. So, that was the key. It wasn't about multiple picks. It was about that pick."

So now the Warriors move forward into the upcoming offseason with Wiggins, and a handful of extra picks - one of which is the highly coveted 2021 pick (top 3 protected) - which turns into a 2022 pick with no protections if it doesn’t convey in 2021.

In understanding the trade for Wiggins, it is about the specific draft package, but the Warriors also saw a systemic barrier that may have served as an insurmountable obstacle in the chase for a new wing player to fill the void left by the departures of Durant and Iguodala - two of the best wing players to ever play the game.

Here’s Lacob in a different interview, recently telling Tim Kawakami of The Athletic those “3 and D” wings everyone wants are getting harder and harder to come by.

“We’ve looked at every small-forward possibility,” Lacob said. “Look, everybody knows we needed to refill that position. We looked at everything in free agency, we looked at the draft. An enormous amount of time. You can look at it yourself. Free agency? There’s … nothing really that you’re going to be able to get.

“And the draft is not going to help us next year. And we’re in a championship window for the next two years, I believe. Competing for it, anyway. So at the end of the day, we thought he was a pretty good opportunity, pretty good player to get. We were always looking at him. But it had to be the right deal.”

Again, Wiggins may not have been the top choice here, but given the options, the team was more than happy to give it a shot. In a crisis, choosing the best option from among a bunch of imperfect options can be the difference between survival and failure; for Golden State, standing still has never been the preferred option under Lacob’s leadership team.

Whether the Warriors package Wiggins (or someone else) with that 2021 pick and make another strike at a big name free agent, or decide to stand pat and see what they can organically build via the draft, rest assured, Joe Lacob and his front office have a plan.

In fact, they probably don’t just have a plan, they have a bunch of plans, all built around dodging and weaving between various contingencies.

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