Have we ever seen a team be this active around the trade deadline as the Wolves were the past few days? Holy smokes. Gersson Rosas traded away 80% of the active roster between Wednesday and Thursday.
That leaves Minnesota with an entirely new cast of characters. What we’re going to try to do today is go through each of the players Minnesota traded for and look at what exactly they can give the team both short-term and long-term.
I’ve got these guys ordered in a way that reflects how important they are to the future of this franchise (at least from my perspective).
I mean, first things first, wow. I can’t believe they managed to pull this off. I tried my best to desensitize myself to Russell rumors after hearing them for so long — it did not look like this was going to get done. Then, out of nowhere, it happened.
First off, I hope we keep expectations in check. D-Lo is an incredibly talented player on the offensive end of the floor, but he isn’t a perfect player by any means. I know he’s being billed as the “second-star” alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, but I think he fits more into the mold of a third banana in the future.
Nevertheless, Russell is going to give Minnesota an off-the-dribble scorer the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Stephon Marbury days. He’s a jump-shot heavy player, with only 6.8% of his field goal attempts coming at the rim, but he’s a great shooter.
Seriously, this is a whole new element for this offense. His shot profile limits his ceiling to a certain degree (42.9% of D-Lo’s FGA are non-rim twos), but Russell is a significantly more dynamic offensive player than anyone who has suited up for the Wolves in quite some time.
It’s worth noting that he’s a pretty good shooter in the mid-range, making roughly 43% of his non-rim twos for his career. That math doesn’t quite add up the way you’d like, but given his inability to get to the rim you can live with that rate.
An underrated part of Russell’s game is how good he is as an off-guard. D-Lo sported an EFG of 58% on catch-and-shoot situations during his tenure in Golden State, and that’s not too far off from his career numbers. Whether it be on-the-ball or off it, he’s going to be a unique offensive weapon in the Twin Cities. That will be critical if they still view Jarrett Culver as a secondary ball-handler. It’s clear he wasn’t ready to be the primary initiator yet, but if he can handle that responsibility every once in a while, D-Lo should be a nice asset on the wing.
For instance, in spot-up situations, D-Lo is currently sporting an efg% of 64.2%, good for 1.23 PPP, ranking in the 91.1%ile. Off of screens, Russell is good for 54.6% efg%, 1.11 PPP, which ranks in the 78.6%ile. He’s much more than just a pick-and-roll guard offensively.
The other thing that excites me about this move is that I don’t have to talk myself into Point Wiggins anymore. It’s not that Wiggs was bad there, it was just obvious that his role here would limit this team moving forward. Russell, for all his warts, is a significant upgrade. In isolation settings, Russell ranks in the 80.5%ile. He can go get a bucket with the best of them. Not to kick him on the way out, but Wiggs was in the 39.6 percentile here. It’s just going to be a lot different, in a good way, offensively.
He’s going to struggle on defense, and the thought of D-Lo and KAT defending a pick-and-roll together is frightening, but the Wolves are betting on the offense outweighing the negative that’s going to come on defense. It’s a worthwhile gamble, with two solid half-court creators now. How the Wolves fill out the 2, 3, and 4 spots will pivotal in determining the success of the franchise, but this certainly isn’t a bad start.
I’m excited for D’Angelo Russell, but I might be more excited to see what Malik Beasley can accomplish when given his opportunity. I guess what I’m trying to say is this is the more intriguing of the trade deadline headliners, to me. He’s a lethal shooter whether it be off the catch or off the dribble. He’s athletic and dynamic, he just got buried behind a litany of good wings in Denver. Beasley never defended well enough, or consistently enough, early in his career to earn consistent minutes for a contender, but he’ll have every opportunity to prove himself in Minnesota.
Beasley figures to slot into the starting shooting guard spot, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how he handles it. I’m not sure what his ceiling is, but I think somewhere between 15 and 20 points per game isn’t out of the question given how much his offense is going to be needed and how much opportunity he will have.
We already know Beasley can score, though. How will he impact winning? That’s the real question. If he remains an efficient scorer with the increase in volume, and is passable on defense, he could be a real steal.
The other thing to consider with Beasley is his upcoming Restricted Free Agency. Weirdly, the Wolves kind of want him to perform well enough for him to be worth keeping around, without playing so well that another team will submit an offer sheet they can’t match.
Moving forward, Beasley’s fit is a bit murkier. He’s the prize of the Covington trade, but will he be good enough on defense to start alongside KAT and D-Lo? If not, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for him to emerge as a super-sub in a Lou Williams type sixth man role. Either way, his scoring and shooting is going to be his ticket to the rotation, playing solid defense earns him 30+ minutes per night in 2021 and beyond.
This was an intriguing pick-up, and signaled a bit what Gersson Rosas was looking for. In theory, Hernangomez should be a solid stretch-4 on the offensive end. His defense is still a bit of a question mark, but the offensive flashes are what Minnesota has bet on.
Truthfully Hernangomez is a bit of a question mark altogether. He’s had a mix of good, bad, and injured seasons. We don’t know what he is quite yet. He’s a tweener at the forward spots, but that’s the kind of guy this new front office wants to occupy the 4, it seems. That figures to be where Juancho will spend most of his time.
Although he is a question mark, the positive side of being one of the worst teams in the league with an entirely revamped roster is you have the opportunity to let these things play themselves out. There’s no excuse not to see what you have here leading into his Restricted Free Agency.
Is he the guy who made 40.7% of his threes as a rookie and 36.5% of them last year, or is he the guy who has shot under 28% from distance in his other two seasons? He’s been pitiful thus far in 2019-20, but the Wolves are betting on a change of scenery helping Juancho turn things around.
Selfishly, this was the part of the RoCo trade that I nerded out on. I like this pick up for Minnesota. I mean, take this with a grain of salt given how few minutes he got in Denver’s overcrowded front court, but Vanderbilt is a monster on the glass. I could point out the 16.4 rebounds per-36 last year, but that would be dishonest considering that he only played 69 nice minutes. Instead, I will point out that at Kentucky, Vanderbilt averaged 7.9 rebounds per game in just 17mpg. That’s good for 16.7 rebounds per-36.
The point is pretty clear, Vanderbilt has one elite skill — rebounding. The Wolves are going to need some help on the glass, especially when Karl-Anthony Towns sits. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vanderbilt clear out a rotation spot moving forward as a defense & rebounding back-up center.
Spellman was a throw-in in the D’Angelo Russell deal for cap reasons, but it would be foolish to write him off without seeing him play. There were rumors of attitude issues in Atlanta, and it just never really worked out in Golden State, but the Villanova product can still bring a few things to the table.
Namely, he can shoot. I wouldn’t expect Spellman to be a big part of the future, but his shooting is something that the Wolves will covet. For his (short) career, Spellman is hitting 36.6% of his attempts from deep, although that number is up to 39.1% this season.
Additionally, Spellman just might be able to bring enough defense to carve out an end-of-rotation spot moving forward. He’s played on two truly terrible defensive teams in his career, but basketball-reference has him as a neutral defensive player based off DWS and DBPM. It wouldn’t surprise me if Spellman wasn’t on the team to start the 2020-21 campaign, but I could see a scenario where the Wolves want to keep his shooting around on the cheap.
Most of the deals around the trade deadline felt like wins for the Wolves, but the Gorgui Dieng for James Johnson swap was one I had a hard time wrapping my head around.
Johnson hasn’t played many minutes (281) for Miami this year and it’s still unclear exactly what his role will be in Minneapolis. He has a $15m player option for next season, which he is sure to pick up. That would keep him around unless the Wolves buy him out or trade him.
If Johnson plays, he’s a logical guy to slot in at the 4. He’s versatile, can handle the ball, pass, and defend. The shot is shaky, but he can usually hit enough to not be a clear negative. He’s also a hardass, which might not be the worst thing for this locker room.
Either way, it feels unlikely that Johnson ever really plays for Minnesota.
Evans, like Spellman, was a throw-in in the D’Angelo Russell trade. He’s a former first-round pick who just hasn’t worked out in Golden State. I’m sure he’ll compete with the Wolves G-Leaguers for minutes, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he sticks around past his rookie deal. He’s yet to post an EFG over 38.7%. He doesn’t seem like an NBA player.
Well, we can probably keep this one short and sweet. Most signs point to Turner being bought out. If he isn’t, however, he could theoretically provide some secondary play making or ball-handling. That could be valuable given how short the Wolves are on both of those, even with the additions of Russell and Beasley.