The Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly interested in Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell, who will be a restricted free agent this summer.
The NBA Draft is still a few weeks away, but free agency rumors are starting to see the light of day.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania is reporting that the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of four teams that will battle the Brooklyn Nets for the services of their All-Star restricted free agent, D’Angelo Russell. The other teams listed by Charania are the Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, and Orlando Pacers — all playoff teams from this season.
As a restricted free agent, Russell will have the ability to sign an offer sheet with the team of his choosing. Then, the Nets will have the opportunity to match the offer and keep him in the fold.
There are plenty of immediate questions to ask. Can the Wolves clear the cap space? Why would Russell choose the Wolves over teams that made the playoffs this year? Won’t the Nets be inclined to match virtually any offer, given their status as a young, rising team in the weaker conference?
Perhaps Gersson Rosas and Co. have some plans up their sleeve to move some combination of the contracts of Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Teague, and Andrew Wiggins, thereby freeing up a starting guard slot for Russell.
Also, and not insignificantly, there’s the well-known friendship that Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns share…
In terms of an on-court fit, Russell is far from perfect but is nonetheless a rising star in the league.
After a necessary change of scenery, Russell made the Eastern Conference All-Star team in his second year in Brooklyn and fourth overall season in the NBA. Still just 22 years old last season, Russell put up 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game.
While Russell did shoot a career-best 36.9 percent on 3-point attempts while launching 7.8 long-balls per game, the vast majority of his shot attempts come from outside the paint. He doesn’t get to the rim often and is a pedestrian free throw shooter when he gets there at 76.2 percent for his career.
Russell shoots far too many mid-range jumpers in the pick-and-roll game and will need to continue to improve his decision making, but 21 and 7 as a 22-year-old on a playoff team is nothing to sneeze at.
Also, his defense is an issue as well but no doubt the Wolves would try and cover those shortcomings with the likes of Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the wings and an improving Towns in the paint.
All that said, it’s probably just as likely that this is a shot-in-the-dark attempt by Rosas, knowing that plenty of things would need to fall into place in order to make an enticing offer to Russell, and even then, the Nets very well could match. But in that scenario, at least he’s appeased Towns somewhat by trying to get his buddy on the team.
And if the worst thing that happens is adding a 23-year-old All-Star point guard to pair with your 23-year-old All-Star big man, well … it isn’t exactly a bad worst-case scenario.