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The D’Angelo Russell Megadeal: Winners and Losers

The Wolves dealt D’Angelo Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday in a three-team deal that got multiple assets back for Minnesota. Who in the deal won and lost on Minnesota’s end?

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

In the first multi-team trade for the Minnesota Timberwolves since the deadline eyebrow-raiser that converted Robert Covington into Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt and Beasley are once again on the move in a deal that involves the Timberwolves, but at the same time has nothing to with either.

The Wolves are sending out D’Angelo Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers, and essentially getting Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and 3 second-round picks in return.

D’Angelo Russell has been one of the most polarizing players in Wolves history, but that doesn’t mean everyone was a clear-cut winner....


Tim Connelly

Connelly is a winner just for the sole reason of acquiring the picks in return. Getting a point guard that fits a little bit better with the starting five when Karl-Anthony Towns is back helps, more on the Alexander-Walker flyer later. But I know how Connelly looks at second round picks.

It’s more shots on goal after giving away a ton of capital in the Gobert trade. It also gives you the ability to pretty seamlessly move back up into the tail end of the first round at a later time if there’s a player you think can play a valuable role. But hey, with the way Josh Minott played against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, it might be smart to keep those picks right where they are.

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Rudy Gobert

Gobert and Conley got off to a rough start in Utah but found a rhythm in their time together. He was a vocal advocate for Gobert’s presence in a piece written by Jon Krawczynski after a deflating home Wolves loss to the Jazz earlier in 2023.

Last season, Conley and Gobert were one of the best two-man lineups on the Jazz in terms of net rating, even higher than Rudy and Donovan Mitchell.

I think Conley will be able to provide the rest of the team valuable insights on playing with Gobert, utilizing him off screens, defending in drop, and the list goes on. I don’t think there’s any question Rudy Gobert is a winner in this.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Jaden McDaniels

McDaniels has been pigeonholed into the role of 3 and D player this year, but is clearly much better than that. He routinely guards the best player on the floor, and is effective in doing so.

I thought the clear issue in Towns’ inevitable return with Russell hypothetically in the lineup is McDaniels being the clear odd one out in maintaining a healthy amount of shot attempts. There’s only one ball, after all.

Jaden is shooting nearly 38% from three and 51% from the field on just over eight attempts per game. Conley is not one to play ISO ball, and having a pure point guard that will keep everyone fed is going to be big. McDaniels has proven he should have a little more responsibility on offense, and this helps open up the window for him to be able to showcase his ability and make the Mikal Bridges leap.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

The Timberwolves’ interest in Walker dates back to the Gersson Rosas era. They got him a couple years later, but valued at far less now.

This is absolutely considered a flyer. Alexander-Walker has a ton of playmaking talent at 6-foot 6, and just hasn’t been able to put his game together at the NBA level. He’s flashed, and that’s all Tim Connelly probably needed to see.

He shoots the ball relatively well (48/40/69), but can struggle at time with turning the ball over. He averages 1.6 per game on just 14 minutes. He had three in January at Target Center.

If the Wolves player development staff has shown us anything over the last 3-4 years, it’s that they’re good at their job. Alexander-Walker is still just 24 years old, and could mold into a nice rotation player. I thought this was one of the more intriguing parts of the deal.


Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley

Basketball-wise, I actually think this is a win! This is me mainly feeling bad for Beasley and Vanderbilt here. The Lakers are getting good players that contribute to winning, and were massive parts of the run for the playoffs last season.

They’ve mainly just found themselves in the wrong places at the wrong time. A Denver Nuggets team with an embarrassment of riches on the bench that they couldn’t re-sign, A budding Wolves franchise that was antsy to make a move and take things to the next level, and a Jazz team that overachieved and wanted to regress to the mean and enter the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. It’s not their fault for playing good basketball, but I’m glad they’re going to be playing next to someone like LeBron. This also seems to be a place they can finally unpack their bags at.

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Chris Finch

This is also one that goes in both directions, but I think more immediately Finch loses a little bit here.

While Russell at times came off as downright uncoachable and a ballstopper in the offense that prefers ball movement and random pick and rolls, he also provided a lot of shotmaking that will be missed for the time being.

Don’t get me wrong, Wednesday night was an offensive display that we haven’t really been able to see so far this year. But that was also against a skeleton crew of a team trying to lose. Conley’s shotmaking ability doesn’t exist as it once did, and the standings in the western conference aren’t getting any more definitive.

Until Towns is back at some point after the break, Finch is going to have to get creative offensively in giving Edwards the keys. And when Towns does return, he has a whole new process to undertake in acclimation.

It was always a situation of flux heading into the deadline for the front office without Towns seeing the floor very much this season, but now with this definitive move, that is now passed down to Finch in revving things up on the floor.