The Miami Heat are interested in Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, according to multiple reports.
KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer and USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt have all reported that Russell is drawing interest from the Heat, who are looking to offload veteran point guard Kyle Lowry and the remaining season and a half on his three-year, $85 million contract.
Lowry, who turns 37 on March 25, is averaging 13.1 points on 39.8/33.6/86.2 shooting splits, 5.6 assists to 2.1 turnovers, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and per game across 36 games, arguably his worst season since 2010-11. However, the six-time All-Star is still one of five point guards to play in at least 30 games and hold positive effective plus-minus marks on both offense and defense. Lowry would bring immense playoff experience (107 games), lower usage two-way play at the point guard spot next to Anthony Edwards, and an immediately respected veteran voice in the locker room.
The 2019 NBA Champion is owed $28.3 million this season and $29.7 million next season, per Spotrac. Miami is currently under the luxury tax this season by $185k, but Spotrac projects the Heat will have to foot a tax bill of $30.2 million next season given who is under contract for 2023-24.
If the Timberwolves were to move Russell for Lowry straight up (which would work financially), the Heat would be over the luxury tax line by a little less than $3 million; so while the move would save Miami significant money next season, it would cost them this season. However, both Wolfson and Fischer have reported that Minnesota doesn’t have interest in a 1:1 deal.
How much of that is the Wolves simply posturing to create leverage or legitimate feelings remains to be seen. But given the breadth of reporting on the Heat’s interest in Russell, it is a storyline to keep an eye on.
Fischer reported two weeks ago on his aptly-named podcast, Please Don’t Aggregate This, that Russell has not requested a trade, nor is he unhappy in Minnesota. But, As a guest on the very same podcast episode, The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reiterated that extension talks between Russell’s camp and the Wolves gained little traction before the season.
Russell is averaging 17.1 points on 46.1/36.5/85.9 shooting splits (and a by far career-best 59.1% TS), 6.2 assists to 2.6 turnovers, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in his 42 starts. He could surely help a Heat team that needs more consistent scoring in support of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, and shooting to bolster a squad that ranks 26th in 3-point percentage (33.8%).
Simply put, the Wolves cannot afford to lose Russell for nothing, which is the expected outcome if he hits unrestricted free agency in July. Losing a salary slot and the ability to act as a team over the cap would severely hamstring the Timberwolves’ flexibility and potential to build around Edwards and Jaden McDaniels before their inevitable extensions kick in during the 2024-25 NBA season. Both players are extension eligible this summer.
Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly has made a trade ahead of the trade deadline every year going back to 2013 except for one (2019), the season Denver Nuggets first emerged as a Western Conference power with Nikola Jokić as their centerpiece.
History tells us both that Connelly is more likely to deal than to stand pat and that Minnesota can’t afford to lose Russell in free agency. With that in mind, Russell will naturally be center of Timberwolves’ trade chatter as we approach the deadline.
You can keep tabs on all the latest trade rumors involving the Wolves over at our 2023 Trade Rumor Tracker here ahead of the NBA’s 2 PM CT trade deadline on Thursday, February 9.
For more Timberwolves talk, follow us on Twitter @canishoopus. You can follow Jack at @jrborman13.