The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired PG Mike Conley, young SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round draft picks for the cost of veteran PG D’Angelo Russell. At the time, the Timberwolves faced three separate but very significant challenges, and they had to act quickly to resolve matters before the NBA Trade Deadline had expired.
Those challenges are:
I – PG D’Angelo Russell was not leading the team, which is the basic responsibility of an NBA point guard. The team’s point guard brings the basketball from the defensive to the offensive side of the court, sets the play, and then delivers the ball to the open shooter in time for that player to score. It was clear that DLo was not comfortable with that role. That proved to be a problem for the Timberwolves, as the team had to redirect that responsibility to backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin, to point forward Kyle Anderson, and finally to shooting guard Anthony Edwards.
II – We learned after the NBA Trade Deadline that D’Angelo Russell was openly critical of center Rudy Gobert, and was vocal in the locker room and on the basketball court. Not constructively either. Rather, D’Angelo Russell was having no qualms about making life tough for the new Timberwolves center, regardless of what that meant to the performance of the overall team.
III – In the aftermath, it was plain that the Minnesota Timberwolves and preliminary negotiations with PG D’Angelo Russell’s representatives were far apart on reaching any sort of agreement, and the gap was widening, not closing. As has been stated elsewhere, it was not toxic. Nor was it a bad player. It was simply a bad fit. D’Angelo Russell’s skillsets simply failed to deliver the type of performance to the Minnesota Timberwolves roster that would make it all go in synch and optimally.
With the team’s roster facing a ‘speak now or forever hold your peace,’ moment of truth, the Timberwolves had to quickly negotiate two transactions, or simply one more complex trade. The team had to find a taker for DLo, and the team had to find a dependable point guard to add to the roster.