Two teams hold a 3-0 lead in the final round of the NBA Playoffs before the Finals, and the 2022-23 season is nearing a close. What figured to be two close contests in the Western and Eastern Conference Finals have quickly turned into blowouts in favor of the Nuggets and Heat.
As the Minnesota Timberwolves make their preparations for next season, they are no doubt keeping up with the action in the playoffs to a degree as well. Possibly the most relevant remaining team to Timberwolves fans is the Lakers, due to the trade they both partook in at the February trade deadline.
Looking to move on from D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota shipped him off to Los Angeles and brought in Mike Conley in his place. Without that trade, the Lakers would still have Russell Westbrook on its roster, and would likely have remained near the bottom of the Western Conference standings for the remainder of the regular season.
Instead, LA made a historic push in the final third of the season which propelled them to an improbable run in the playoffs. But with that run now coming to a decisive end, Timberwolves fans can rest assured that their team’s decision to offload D’Lo was the correct move.
The playoffs are showing that the Minnesota Timberwolves were right to move on from D’Angelo Russell.
It is accurate to say that the Timberwolves’ fanbase was split over the decision of keeping versus trading D’Angelo Russell. Some did not see him as a good long-term fit in Minnesota, but others still had faith because of his hot shooting streaks.
If there was any lingering doubt as to whether the Wolves were right to leave D’Lo in the past, the Lakers’ first three games against the Denver Nuggets should have ended those doubts quickly. When LA needed him most, Russell shrunk and has been a non-factor offensively against the top seed in the West, shooting under 30% from the floor and 14% from three.
On the other end, he has been a traffic cone defensively. This led the Lakers’ coach, Darvin Ham, to benching D’Lo down the stretch in Denver. On top of that, it was announced that he would be coming off the bench to start Game 4 as well.
This rough stretch for D’Angelo Russell confirms what Timberwolves fans already knew: that he was not who Minnesota needed in the long term. Russell may have briefly dispelled his reputation as a playoff dropper in the first two rounds for the Lakers, but his recent performance confirms he is still as hot-and-cold as ever.
The Minnesota Timberwolves can walk away from watching these Western Conference Finals confident and content. Not only did they shed dead weight at the trade deadline, but they did not end up helping their rival Lakers win a championship either.