Role III: Optimize the roster
I am surprised that this responsibility for any NBA team needs to be spelled out, but with the way events occurred within the Timberwolves locker room, I’m leaving nothing to the imagination. The highest-paid players on any NBA team should be wise enough to realize that the good of the team means optimizing the entire roster.
For starters, that player assumes a greater role in the salary composition of any professional sports team and is immediately cast as a stakeholder in the overall performance of that team. We would easily recognize an NFL quarterback who becomes a top-paid player in the NFL, but who has no interest in working with receivers and running backs to ensure their ability to play in a coordinated and synchronized manner to ensure that offense can score points.
Point guards cannot ‘opt-out,’ of facilitating teammates
So that same responsibility falls upon any NBA point guard who must work with his teammates to ensure that plays are executed flawlessly on the basketball court. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, that undeniably fell upon D’Angelo Russell. Did he believe that it was not part of his job description, whereas 29 other NBA starting point guards were tasked with that responsibility?
Or was it the fact that he was more comfortable scoring, and not playing generously on the basketball court? In his four seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, DLo’s 6.2 assists per game were not horrendous by any means. On the other hand, they were less than his 7.1 assists per game average from the 2021-22 NBA season, and his offensive output of 17.9 PPG was one more season of a steadily declining ability to score that began at 21.7 PPG when he first arrived to the roster.
D’Angelo Russell’s ability to score was regressing. Unfortunately, his ability to involve his teammates did not improve quickly enough to compensate, as we will soon see: