Good morning and Happy Monday, everyone. I hope you all had a nice, relaxing weekend and were able to enjoy the nice weather (in MN, at least).
With the return of D’Angelo Russell seemingly imminent, it got me thinking, “are we actually going to see this team at full strength?”
After being out for two months, D’Angelo Russell has been upgraded to doubtful for Monday’s game against Sacramento.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 4, 2021
A real sign that DLo’s return is imminent.
Now, I don’t want to test fate here and jinx this (although I don’t believe in jinxes), but I’m excited about the possibility of seeing D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, and Karl-Anthony Towns all play together.
I’d assume that’ll be the starting lineup once Russell comes back, which is the makeup of an incredibly intriguing five-man unit that should fit together pretty well.
I am far from a big fan of Russell, but if things break right I do see how he could potentially enhance this roster into an elite offense. This team still needs shooting badly, and he certainly brings that. Beasley falls into a similar category, although he plays harder in general and is a better rebounder.
There are two big questions I have about this backcourt, especially when you lump Anthony Edwards in here too.
First, how the heck are they going to stop anyone? Russell, at times, looked a bit more engaged as a defender early in the year. Beasley has repeatedly spoken about wanting to be a good defender, but that hasn’t translated, while Edwards looks like someone who was a bad defender in college who also missed out on a regular Summer League, training camp, etc. This is a horrifically bad defensive backcourt, and it’ll take a lot of buy-in and effort from all three to make this work.
The other main thing I’m interested to see is how the ball-handling duties will be split between Edwards and Russell. Neither player is good enough to get into the “there’s only one ball” type of stuff, which is usually garbage anyways, but nonetheless both players like to play with the ball in their hands.
Personally, I’d expect it to be a near 50/50 split, with maybe a slight edge to Edwards if only because Russell is a much better off-ball threat. I think Russell will see a similar uptick in effectiveness under Chris Finch to what Anthony Edwards has experienced by being deployed less as a point guard who just runs a million pick-and-rolls, and more of a dynamic shooting threat both on-and-off the ball.
While there are a couple concerns, and the defense one looms pretty large, this group should be near-elite offensively on the nights where Anthony Edwards is attacking downhill. He’s gotten better at it over the past few weeks, but it’s becoming clear just how strong his downhill gravity can be. When you pair his effectiveness driving to the rim with the four good-to-elite shooters surrounding him in the starting lineup, the makings of an elite offense are there.
In the 14 games since the All-Star break, Anthony Edwards is shooting:— Timberwolves Talk (@threesley) April 5, 2021
-63/100 (63%) within 4 feet of the rim
-23/62 (37.1%) on pull-up 3s
Those are star-level numbers. pic.twitter.com/gnKfOYtABt
The catch here is that Edwards has to be aggressive going to the rim every single night. He’ll have to make jumpers occasionally to keep the defense honest, but when he’s surrounded by Russell, Beasley, McDaniels, and KAT, he should have plenty of opportunities to take his man one-on-one. When the help does arrive, it’ll be on Edwards to process it quickly, and make the right pass similar to the way he did on his kick-out to Beasley for the game-winner last week.
A blueprint is here for a fun, relatively competitive team for Chris Finch and Karl-Anthony Towns to mold together. It’s exciting to finally be on the brink of seeing that in action.