Minnesota Timberwolves: Grading D’Angelo Russell’s 2019-20 season

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves finally got their man when they acquired star guard D’Angelo Russell at this year’s trade deadline. Let’s grade his first 12 games with the Wolves.

The Minnesota Timberwolves put a great deal of effort into recruiting D’Angelo Russell to sign with them last summer. Ultimately, he chose the Golden State Warriors.

But after an early injury to Stephen Curry and a poor season from the Warriors, Golden State was ready to change things up. Despite a so-so year and the Warriors sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Wolves weren’t deterred and were ready to pony up for him.

As it turned out, Minnesota only needed to move Andrew Wiggins and his massive contract along with a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick to land Russell — not a terrible price for a 24-year-old guard who has already made an All-Star team.

Russell missed what would have been his first game in a Wolves uniform. The Wolves laid it on the LA Clippers, winning by 27 behind massive games from fellow newcomers Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez and incumbent superstar Karl-Anthony Towns.

The next time out, Towns and Russell both played in a hard-fought road loss to the defending champion Toronto Raptors. But Towns hasn’t played since.

Russell has only missed one other game, sitting out in Denver due to rest, a decision that cost the Wolves financially after a fine was levied by the league.

That means that in Russell’s 12 appearances with the Wolves, he’s played with Towns exactly once. The Wolves are 3-9 with D-Lo on the floor.

Russell has largely been as advertised. He’s been potent offensively, averaging 21.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Russell’s shooting splits sit at just .412/.345./873 (field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentages), with some disappointing performances from beyond the arc.

That said, one of the consistent knocks on Russell’s game is the infrequency of getting to the rim. In 12 games with the Wolves, however, Russell has averaged 4.6 free throws per contest and a free throw rate of .261, calculated as the number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt.

Russell has scored 20 or more points in seven of his 12 games in a Wolves uniform. A rough three-game home stretch against Chicago, Orlando and New Orleans during which D-Lo shot just 30.4 percent from the field and 19 percent from beyond the arc was responsible for bringing down both his percentages and per-game averages.

As expected, Russell has struggled defensively, although there have been a few impressive moments when Russell’s solid length and quick hands have led to turnovers by opponents. And don’t forget his block on Wolves nemesis Jimmy Butler to secure a win in Miami.

However, many of the same bad habits that plague Towns exist with Russell: not getting into a defensive stance consistently, being a step late on help defense, and not fully contesting opponent’s shots.

2019-20 Season Grade: B

Overally, Russell has been slightly below his career marks across the board offensively. Clearly, the small sample size comes into play here, as well as some level of unfamiliarity with his new teammates.

That said, Russell’s ability to get a shot off in almost any situation and the overall offensive dynamic that he adds to the Wolves has been remarkable to watch, to say the least. The idea of a healthy trio of Russell, Towns, and Beasley should be exciting for Wolves fans, albeit only on the offensive end of the floor.

dark. Next. What if the Wolves never traded for Butler?

If Russell can improve on defensively and continue his steady offensive improvement, then D-Lo and KAT can indeed form one of the more formidable duos in the entire NBA for years to come.