D'Angelo Russell

Northwest Notes: Dort, Nader, Russell, Grant

The Thunder and their surprising success have been among the NBA’s best stories this season. From the play of veterans Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari to the development of youngsters Luguentz Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, there’s a lot to like about this team.

Speaking of development, head coach Billy Donovan wishes that Dort could practice more with the team and not have his NBA service days affected, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman.

“I think one of the things that would be great,” he said, “is if some of those guys could practice and it not count against them. But I understand that’s not the rule.”

A player such as Dort, who is on a two-way contract, can only spend 45 days with his NBA parent club. When those players are not in the NBA, they are predominately spending time with their NBA G League affiliate.

This season, Dort has played in 29 games (started in 21) with the Thunder. He is averaging 6.2 points and 1.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. When his NBA service days run out, the Thunder will have the opportunity to sign the former Arizona State guard to a standard NBA contract. If Oklahoma City does this, he will be a part of the team’s 15-man roster and able to participate in the postseason.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • In other Thunder news, it seems as they found themselves a defensive playmaker in Abdel NaderJoe Mussatto of The Oklahoman wrote about how the 26-year-old forward, who has a team option for 2020/21, made an impact on both ends of the floor in the Thunder’s 105-104 win on Sunday over the Celtics.
  • Chris Hine of The Star Tribune wrote about D’Angelo Russell‘s shooting slump from this past weekend. The recently-acquired Timberwolves point guard shot 8-of-32 from the field against the Magic and Pelicans. Nevertheless, Russell is not worried and understands that it’s a part of the game. “Just got to kind of let it go,” he said. “Don’t dwell too much on it. Never too high. Never too low. It’s a part of the game. Just let it go and I’ll be all right.” On Tuesday night against the Rockets, Russell scored 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-12 from three-point range in a 117-111 loss.
  • The Nuggets will have some tough decisions to make when it comes to their frontcourt this offseason, explains Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Possible tax concerns may push Denver to decide between bringing back either Jerami Grant or Paul Millsap, who helped them defeat the Bucks on Monday. Grant had 19 points and six rebounds off the bench and is playing well over Denver’s last eight games. The former second-round pick has a $9.3MM player option for next season, while Millsap is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Northwest Notes: Russell, Johnson, SGA, MPJ

The Timberwolves were hit with a $25K fine by the NBA on Thursday for violating the league’s resting policy when they sat D’Angelo Russell a week ago despite D-Lo being considered a healthy player. Following that decision, the Wolves faced accusations of tanking, but president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas insists that’s not the case, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

“I wouldn’t say it gets under my skin, but it’s just disappointing when you don’t have all the facts,” Rosas said of claims that the Timberwolves are tanking. “The reality is if individuals knew what was going on behind the scenes, how hard our coaches are working, our players are working — that’s the disappointing part because I think it’s disrespectful to them and what they’re putting in.

“… The side effects (of the Timberwolves’ midseason roster overhaul) unfortunately for Coach (Ryan Saunders) and his staff is you have nine players from three different programs, three different philosophies that are coming here and learning on the fly what we’re trying to do,” Rosas continued. “When you’re playing good teams like we’re playing, you get exposed. That’s the stage we’re at. But to say we’re not focused day in, day out on winning? That’s false and inaccurate.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • While he was hardly the biggest name of the players acquired by the Timberwolves at the deadline, James Johnson has quickly emerged as a team leader in Minnesota, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “If James told me to jump off a cliff I would do it yesterday,” Josh Okogie said of his new teammate. “He’s been great for us, and we’ve been following his lead.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s breakout year and budding stardom is giving the Thunder plenty to think about as they contemplate a potential rebuild, writes ESPN’s Royce Young. If Gilgeous-Alexander has All-NBA upside, it likely reduces the odds of the team fully bottoming out in the next couple seasons.
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic attempts to make sense of Michael Porter Jr.‘s reduced playing time for the Nuggets, arguing that it’s time to let the second-year forward reclaim a more impactful role.

Northwest Notes: Stotts, Wolves, D-Lo, Dort

Despite a disappointing season so far in Portland, there’s no reason to believe Terry Stotts‘ job will be in any danger this spring, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Sam Amick of The Athletic. Coming off the Trail Blazers‘ appearance in the Western Conference Finals a year ago, the team extended Stotts’ contract through the 2021/22 season.

This season, the Trail Blazers are in danger of missing the postseason altogether. Even if they sneak in, they’re extremely unlikely to win a series. However, major injuries to key contributors like Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood have played a significant role in Portland’s slide, so regardless of how the season ends, Stotts looks safe going forward, Amick writes.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves have the most valuable combination of first-round picks for the 2020 draft, according to research by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link). Besides their own lottery pick, the Wolves will have Brooklyn’s first-rounder, which will almost certainly fall in the 15-17 range.
  • D’Angelo Russell had his first great game since joining the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, showing why the team pursued him so aggressively for so long, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • ESPN’s Royce Young reported earlier this week (via Twitter) that Thunder wing Luguentz Dort has 16 days of NBA service time available on his two-way contract. Since Dort is only moving closer to his 45-day limit on days when Oklahoma City actually plays, the team should be able to have him active through March 28, the last day of the G League season. After that date, he can spend the rest of the regular season with the Thunder.
  • As I explained earlier today, Dort won’t be eligible for the postseason unless the Thunder promote him to their 15-man roster. Young suggests (via Twitter) that talks on a standard contract likely won’t pick up until late in the season, since it could be in both sides’ best interests to wait — OKC would save some tax money and Dort could continues increasing his value.

Timberwolves Notes: Spellman, Russell, Johnson

The Timberwolves are not planning to waive big man Omari Spellman, though it’s a possibility, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP. After discussions between his reps and the front office, Spellman is headed to G League affiliate Iowa to get some playing time and will likely finish the season with the organization (Twitter links).

Spellman was included in the deal that sent D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota. He was averaging 7.6 PPG and 4.5 RPG in 49 games with Golden State this season. His contract for next season is guaranteed but the club holds an option on the 2021/22 season.

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Russell doesn’t foresee a long transition before he develops chemistry with the team’s franchise player, Karl-Anthony Towns, John Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. “We know what we bring to the table,” Russell said. “It’s just about dissecting the film and bringing it together and seeing how we can take the weight off each other’s shoulders down the stretch, whenever we need him to make a play and vice versa.”
  • Forward James Johnson has embraced an elder statesman role with the team, according to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Johnson, who turns 33 this month, had 15 points and five assists in his Minnesota debut. He was surrounded by a group of young players and provided a lot of instruction for them. “I loved the confidence he was instilling in those guys,” coach Ryan Saunders said. Johnson, who holds a $16MM option on his contract for next season, was acquired from Miami in a three-team trade last week.
  • Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner are the Timberwolves’ candidates to receive a buyout. Check out the latest on the buyout market here.

D’Angelo Russell To Debut For Timberwolves Tonight

Newly-acquired Timberwolves starting point guard D’Angelo Russell will suit up for Minnesota this evening in his team debut, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen (Twitter link). The Timberwolves will be taking the ascendent Raptors, who are riding a team-record 14-game win streak. The Wolves just ended a more dubious run of their own, 13 straight losses, with a Sunday defeat of the Clippers.

Russell was dealt last week to the Timberwolves in a package for wing Andrew Wiggins and future draft pick compensation. After being named an All-Star with the Nets in 2019, Russell signed a four-year, $117.3MM maximum contract with the Warriors over the summer of 2019. He was previously listed as day-to-day as he nursed a quad injury.

In 33 games for Golden State, Russell is averaging 23.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 3.7 RPG this season. He is shooting 43% from the field, 37.4% from the three-point line, and 78.5% from the charity stripe. Russell will serve as a significant offensive upgrade in the backcourt for the 16-35 Timberwolves.

Kerr On D-Lo: “Fit Was Questionable When We Signed Him”

A day after Golden State completed one of the biggest trades of the 2019/20 season, sending D’Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves, head coach Steve Kerr expressed confidence that newly-acquired forward Andrew Wiggins is in a good position to succeed the Warriors.

“Minnesota needed him to be a star,” Kerr said of Wiggins, per Drew Shiller of Warriors Outsiders (Twitter link). “And we’re not asking him to be a star. We’re asking him to play a role on a team that already has some star players.”

As Kerr explained (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic), Wiggins also figures to be a better positional fit for the Warriors than Russell once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are healthy. According to Kerr, Golden State isn’t expecting a whole lot of talented wings to be available during this year’s draft or free agent period, so the club is happy to add one like Wiggins now.

In his discussion of the trade, Kerr also acknowledged a point that many critics of the Warriors’ initial acquisition of Russell brought up last summer — D-Lo and the Dubs probably weren’t an ideal long-term match.

“To be perfectly blunt, the fit was questionable when we signed him,” Kerr said (video link via Slater). “… When you already have Steph and Klay and you add a ball-dominant guard, you can rightfully question the fit. That was one of the reasons the trade rumors started before the season even began.”

According to Kerr, even with Curry and Thompson sidelined this season, the Warriors got a “good enough look” over the first 50 games of the season to picture how Russell would fit on a fully healthy roster.

“I think you have an idea – I think we have an idea – that the other move, the other player (Wiggins) makes more sense,” Kerr said. “In this case, I would say (the fit is better) for both teams.”

Knicks Notes: Monk, DSJ, D-Lo, Rose, Payton, More

Before Steve Mills was removed from his position as the Knicks‘ president of basketball operations, there was some internal support for a potential trade with the Hornets that would have sent Malik Monk to New York, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Begley notes that Dennis Smith Jr. would’ve gone to Charlotte in the deal, though it’s not clear what other pieces would have been involved on either side. Both Smith and Monk were prospects the Knicks passed over in the 2017 draft for Frank Ntilikina.

Within his roundup of the Knicks’ deadline discussions, Begley also says that before Mills’ departure, there were members of the organization that felt as if they’d made “significant progress” toward a D’Angelo Russell trade with the Warriors.

We don’t know exactly how those talks played out, so it’s hard to say whether that confidence was warranted. But for what it’s worth, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that none of New York’s offers had been “even remotely appealing” to Golden State. One of the Knicks’ proposals included Bobby Portis, Allonzo Trier, Ntilikina, and presumably some form of draft compensation, sources tell Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post takes a look at the Knicks’ impending hire of agent Leon Rose as their new head of basketball operations, citing one NBA executive who said, “MSG and CAA have been in bed for years. This shouldn’t be surprising.”
  • Berman notes in his article on Rose that the veteran agent is tight with Kentucky head coach John Calipari. However, Calipari said today that he has no plans to become the Knicks’ next coach, according to Kyle Tucker of The Athletic (Twitter link). Calipari said he’d help Rose in any way he can — “It just wouldn’t be to coach.”
  • One decision Rose will face this summer will be on Elfrid Payton‘s $8MM non-guaranteed salary for 2020/21. Berman examines the factors that will go into that decision, pointing out that Payton is a CAA client.
  • In an interview on Showtime’s “All the Smoke,” Kevin Durant was once again asked about his free agency decision last summer. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Durant replied that he didn’t seriously consider any teams beside the Nets. “I looked at other places — the Clippers, I took a peek at the Knicks just to do my due diligence — but I really wanted to play for the black and white,” Durant said.

Wolves Notes: Towns, Russell, Tax, Beasley

Less than 24 hours after Karl-Anthony Towns expressed his frustration with the state of the Timberwolves – and the fact that the team can’t seem to buy a win – Minnesota’s front office made arguably the biggest trade-deadline splash, acquiring D’Angelo Russell from Golden State. Speaking to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Towns sounded pretty happy that the Wolves’ lengthy pursuit of his good friend had finally paid off.

“I’d be lying if I told you I thought it was possible,” Towns said. “I’m shocked like everybody else. We’ve been putting it into the universe since Day 1. We’ve never been shy about saying it in the media or interviews or wherever it may be. If you want something to happen, you have to keep believing and keep saying it to the universe and repeating it and one day the universe will hear it and give you your wish.”

Although Towns is only in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary contract, the Timberwolves’ lack of forward progress this season has been troubling. The team didn’t want its franchise player to start looking for an exit ramp as its losses continued to pile up. And it appears that the acquisition of Russell should assuage those concerns, at least for now.

“I think with D-Lo here, it’s always going to be a big incentive for me to want to stay,” Towns told Krawczynski. “D-Lo is a big part of everything the vision is. D-Lo always knows he’s going to be wanted because his brother is here with him and he always knows he’s going to have his back covered because I’m always going to be there for him.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Here’s more from Towns, via Krawczynski, on his enthusiasm for teaming up with Russell: “First off we’re not friends, we’re brothers. That’s like blood to me. Why I think we’re going to be great, when you see the great teams in history, they always had a great big man and a great guard. I think we now have those two things set up for success.”
  • As Chris Hine of The Star Tribune tweets, and as Krawczynski writes for The Athletic, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor signed off on going into luxury-tax territory to complete the Russell trade. The team’s 2019/20 salary is currently over the tax line by just $1,324,442, per John Hollinger of The Athletic, so the penalty will be minimal. “We wanted to get going on a better year,” Taylor told Krawczynski. “I told them that if we had to do it, we’ll do it.”
  • Taylor told Krawczynski that all of the Timberwolves’ moves this year were made with an eye toward acquiring Russell, which was always the team’s No. 1 priority. He also explained why Minnesota pushed to get a deal with the Warriors done now: “I didn’t anticipate that we would have this rough of a season. I wanted and expected a team that would be vying to get into the playoffs. We started that way and then we just fell apart. That is a part of the evaluation process you go through. (President of basketball operations) Gersson (Rosas) decided, rather than wait, he wanted to try to start to get his team in place now rather than wait for next year.”
  • Acquiring Russell is a high-risk, high-reward move for the Wolves, according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who suggests D-Lo and Towns have the talent to become “the most influential long-term teammates in Wolves history.”
  • Pointing to Russell’s and Towns’ defensive limitations, Hollinger notes at The Athletic that the team will have to complement its stars with above-average defenders at the two, three, and four.
  • Newly-acquired Wolves shooting guard Malik Beasley is in a good position to squeeze the team for a big contract in restricted free agency this summer, writes ESPN’s Zach Lowe. As Lowe observes, Minnesota will be under pressure to re-sign Beasley after making him one of the key pieces in the Robert Covington trade.

D’Angelo Russell’s Trade Market Was Not Robust

With over a year of speculation that D’Angelo Russell would end up on the Timberwolves, he is finally there. The team gave up a lightly protected first-rounder, in addition to a second-round selection and Andrew Wiggins in exchange for the former No. 2 overall pick.

Outside of Minnesota, the market for Russell wasn’t robust, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (podcast). The Knicks were rumored to have interest in the guard, but New York was the only other team with an offer for Golden State, per Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

While it seemed like a deal wouldn’t happen because the two sides were far apart in value, the Wolves did not relent. The franchise remained determined to acquire Russell and continued to look for ways to do so, even speaking with other teams about taking on Wiggins, as I recently reported. In the end, the Warriors were happy to take on Wiggins and the picks for a player whose skillset overlapped with their star point guard, Stephen Curry.

Russell joined the Warriors via the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade over the summer. The franchise surrendered their 2020 first-round pick (protected 1-20) to Brooklyn to accommodate the sign-and-trade. Since it won’t convey this year, that pick will turn into a 2025 second-rounder.

Warriors Trade D’Angelo Russell To Timberwolves

The Warriors have officially traded star guard D’Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves, the teams announced in a pair of press releases. Minnesota has also acquired big man Omari Spellman and guard Jacob Evans along with Russell.

In exchange, Golden State receives swingman Andrew Wiggins, a protected 2021 first-round pick, and a 2021 second-round pick. The 2021 first-rounder headed to Golden State will be Minnesota’s own top-three protected pick. It would become unprotected in 2022 if it doesn’t convey next year.

The Wolves’ acquisition of Russell represents the culmination of a pursuit that dates back at least to the 2019 free agent period, when the team made D-Lo its top target and offered him a lucrative four-year contract. Minnesota had hoped to pair the All-Star guard with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns, but were passed over when the Warriors swooped in with a four-year, max-salary offer. Seven months later, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas got his man.

The blockbuster deal comes at a good time for the Wolves, who have struggled mightily since their 10-8 start, and for Towns, who – after Wednesday’s game – publicly expressed his frustration with all that losing. Towns was also believed to be disappointed by the departure of Robert Covington, who was one of his best friends on the team, so Minnesota will hope that the arrival of Russell can help rejuvenate the big man’s enthusiasm — and get the Wolves a few more wins down the stretch.

The Timberwolves will now enter the summer with a pair of 24-year-old cornerstones on long-term contracts, as Russell is locked up through 2023 and Towns through 2024. They also still have their own 2020 first-round pick, as well as Brooklyn’s lottery-protected first-rounder. So they’ll have the opportunity to bring in a pair of promising prospects or use those picks in trades to further upgrade the roster.

The deal does put the Wolves slightly into tax territory, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reports (via Twitter), so another move could be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, it’s a fascinating pivot for the Warriors, who were said to be seeking a first-round selection in 2021 rather than 2020, since next year’s draft class is expected to be stronger than this year’s. The Wolves reportedly put their own 2020 protected pick and Brooklyn’s lottery-protected pick on the table in a previous offer, but it appears Golden State was willing to accept just a single first-rounder now that it’s a lightly-protected 2021 pick.

Besides the first-round pick and accompanying second-rounder, the Warriors get two things out of the deal: The first is Wiggins, whose max-salary contract had been widely considered a negative. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link), however, there’s a contingent within the Warriors who believe that Wiggins is a “salvageable project.” Slater believes the deal will ultimately be judged on whether Golden State can turn Wiggins into the team’s long-term starting small forward or eventually flip him for positive value.

The second perk for the Warriors is that the deal should allow them to sneak out of the tax for this season, which will help them avoid current and future repeater penalties. Marks tweets that the team will be $3.1MM below the tax threshold and should be able to stay below that line even after filling out its roster. Golden State will have six open roster spots, necessitating at least five eventual additions, but the club will be able to stagger those signings to some extent.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first broke the news and reported the terms of the trade (all Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.