Minnesota Timberwolves: Analyzing 6 two-man lineups

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, D'Angelo Russell
MIAMI, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 26: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

D’Angelo Russell and Jordan McLaughlin

I referenced this duo in my Jordan McLaughlin interview article. McLaughlin and D’Angelo Russell‘s 44 minutes shared have been very effective offensively and rather stout defensively as well with offensive and defensive ratings of 128.2 and 99.1 respectively, according to NBA.com.

With Russell’s ability to work off the ball, we could start seeing more plays like the one below.

McLaughlin is fearless as he drives to the rim, but his floor vision and decisiveness allows him to find the open shooter, in this case that shooter is Russell.

Interesting stat about the duo…

Russell and McLaughlin posted the 3rd highest pace in the league for a duo that has played at least 40 minutes together. However, pace is not always a good thing. Shortened possessions can come with increased shot difficulty, which can drive down the value of the extra possessions. The key is to ensure that the decreased efficiency of shots does not outweigh the increase in shots taken.

Fortunately, while Russell and McLaughlin share the floor the Wolves have an effective field goal percentage of 59.7 percent. For perspective, the Milwaukee Bucks have the highest effective field goal percentage in the league at 55.3 percent.

Why these numbers could continue

Having two primary ball-handlers on the floor simultaneously, both of who can work off the ball, can throw the defense off and make them stay on their toes. Defenses can’t get comfortable because the Wolves have the option of running the offense through two different facilitators, not to mention a third facilitator if Towns or Johnson shares the floor with them.

With increased pace and increased field goal percentage, the offense should continue to prosper with this two-guard lineup. Both guards shoot well from deep and distribute the ball well. McLaughlin excels driving through the lane and finding an open teammate or finishing at the rim. Russell isn’t quite the finisher that McLaughlin is in the paint, but he is able to create space effectively in the mid-range, which opens up opportunities to take a shot or use his vision to dish to an open cutter or shooter.

It’s obvious that the defensive rating could raise with more minutes, especially because of the lack of size in the backcourt. However, if Ryan Saunders puts the right pieces around the duo, the defense should continue to be effective.

Best players to round out this lineup

Josh Okogie: His defensive ability will be needed to guard the best wing on the floor, so the Wolves can hide Russell defensively. There will be enough shooting at the other positions to warrant playing Okogie. Plus, Russell and McLaughlin will be able to find Josh cutting to the rim and skying for a dunk.

Juancho Hernangomez/Jake Layman: It was hard to decide which player would be best. Ultimately, it depends a lot on the opposing team’s lineup. Either way, having a power forward that will be in the right place at the right time defensively will be vital to this defense of this lineup.

Hernangomez provides more size, while Layman brings athleticism and quickness defensively. One the offensive side, Juancho provides more shooting from deep, while Layman provides more athletic finishing at the rim. Both are good cutters and will benefit from the vision of Russell and McLaughlin.

Karl-Anthony Towns: More size defensively will be needed for this group. Towns is not a great defender, but if he can stay near the rim and not chase out too far he should be solid enough. This is why it will be important to have a competent power forward who doesn’t find themselves out of position defensively.

With Russell being the only other true scorer of this group, Towns will be needed to keep the offense going. With two willing facilitators, Towns should be able to operate wherever he needs on the floor.