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, Jake Layman
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – MARCH 03: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives against Jake Layman #10 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

D’Angelo Russell and Jake Layman

Russell and Layman have shared the floor for 95 minutes, according to NBA.com’s Advanced Lineups. Their 116.3 offensive rating would put them rat the top of the league, right above the Dallas Mavericks’ 115.8. The number is not overly inflated like some small sample sizes, but it does suggest the offense benefits from the two playing together.

When the pair shares the floor, the defense has been quite impressive as well. Their defensive rating of 102.2 is comparable to the Bucks, who sit at the top of the league.

Layman is a competent defender, who rarely finds himself far out of position. The same thing cannot be said about Russell. However, when Russell tries, he can make some impressive defensive plays, like the steal below.

Interesting stat about the duo…

According to NBA.com’s Advanced Shooting Splits, Russell has assisted Layman seven times in their 95 minutes together. Six of the seven assists have been to Layman cutting, driving, or running the floor. Russell has a great ability to find cutters, regardless of space to make the pass. Here is a video showing Russell’s vision finding Layman cutting towards the basket.

There is not a lot of space for Russell to fit the ball between Dallas Maverick teammates Kristaps Porzingis and Dorian Finney-Smith, but Russell makes it work and finds a cutting Layman for a nice dunk.

Why these numbers could continue

Offensively, combining a great athletic cutter in Layman with a top tier passer in Russell, there are sure to be many open looks at the rim. Russell is going to be able to find his own shots. Since coming to Minnesota, Russell has made 87 shots from the floor. Of those 87 shots, 68 of them have come unassisted. Both players in this lineup should have plenty of opportunities to keep the offense performing well.

On the other side of the ball, the success will have to come with the surrounding pieces. Layman is a good defender, but Russell will need some help. The numbers likely won’t stay at a league-high, but they could still be better than league average with the right combination of players around the duo.

Best players to round out this lineup

Josh Okogie: To help with perimeter defense, Okogie can guard the best wing player on the floor, allowing Russell to take on the lesser offensive threat. Okogie also provides athleticism and energy on the offensive side of the ball. Being a good cutter, Russell will also be able to find Josh diving through an opening in the defense.

Juancho Hernangomez: With a quality long-range shot, Hernangomez helps the spacing of this unit while also providing some cutting opportunities. Defensively, Juancho will help the Wolves by staying in front of his guy and being able to switch with Layman and Johnson if necessary.

James Johnson: To increase the effectiveness of the defense, Johnson will take on opposing centers while also being able to switch with Hernangomez. This lineup would be best-suited against an opposing team that is lacking size at the center position.

Offensively, Johnson becomes the second facilitator, allowing Russell to work off ball on some possessions. In Golden State, Russell saw success working off the ball and that could continue here.