No stranger to trades, D’Angelo Russell finds himself in a volatile situation once again

Before the Timberwolves jumped headfirst into a frontcourt starring Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota evaluated ways to bolster the opposite end of the starting lineup. The Timberwolves have explored the offseason market for point guards, league sources told Yahoo Sports, specifically Dejounte Murray.

Another All-Star, D’Angelo Russell, has held Minnesota’s starting role since the Timberwolves sent Andrew Wiggins and first-round pick Jonathan Kuminga to Golden State in a package for Russell at the 2020 trade deadline. The 2019 sign-and-trade first dealt Russell to the Warriors from the Nets, following the 2018 deal that moved Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers to Brooklyn.

He is no stranger to the trade chatter leading up to this year’s Feb. 9 deadline. Talk among league staff about the Wolves’ willingness to move Russell only took hold after flirting with Murray this summer. Russell is in the final season of a four-year, $117 million contract, and there was little progress on any contract extension with the Timberwolves this past offseason, sources said, making him a natural candidate to be traded this winter.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 4: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts to a call on the floor in the third quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Target Center on January 4, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Timberwolves beat the Trail Blazers 113-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photo, User agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The Timberwolves have a lot to decide about D’Angelo Russell. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Minnesota would be wise to move Russell now if the team doesn’t intend to re-sign him via Bird’s rights at the end of the season. Free agents have individual cap hits or salary cap seats to set a cap on the amount their existing teams can re-sign that player for. But if Russell were to walk on the open market, Minnesota would not inherit his $31.3 million salary on the open market. There are opportunities, in that case, for the Wolves to free up more than $21 million in cap room, but the scenario of Russell leaving the franchise in free agency would leave Minnesota with far less financial flexibility than if the Wolves returned a package commensurate with Russell’s salary before the deadline.

Russell must be paying attention to the rumor mill. “Yeah, that’s my life,” the seven-year veteran told Yahoo Sports. “That’s it. Just be aware of it.” He upset the Internet because he apparently stopped following the Timberwolves on Jan. 4, the same day league executives: trading Russell to another underperforming preseason team, the Miami Heat, for aging floor general Kyle Lowry.

Russell must have felt snubbed by NBA transaction turmoil in the past. After the 2018-19 season, in which he became an All-Star with Brooklyn, the guard noticeably wore Ohio State gear at Nets facilities during spring training after learning that Kyrie Irving was being sought by Brooklyn that summer, even sharing feelings of betrayal to the coaches Netsa.

“You’re either going to take advantage of me and my ability or you’re going to screw up the opportunity with me,” Russell told Yahoo Sports in December. “It’s that simple.”

As part of his response to how he’s currently helping push fellow Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Russell said, “I’m Alpha too, you know what I mean? And I feel like I’m better than a lot of shooting guards and I’m better than a lot of guards.”

The Heat have actually registered interest in Russell, a source told Yahoo Sports, but an outright deal for Lowry would not seem likely. Lowry is just months away from entering the final season of his own contract worth roughly $30 million in average annual salary, and it’s hard to imagine Wolves officials are eager to extend the aging guard another exorbitant salary when he becomes eligible for an extension this summer — putting Minnesota in the situation she faced with Russell last July.

In general, there is little market around the league for players in that salary range. League executives are tracking the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns as teams looking to make backcourt improvements before the deadline. The Suns have been linked to Russell in 2019, and the point guard is known to be close to Phoenix All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker.

But Russell also represents Minnesota’s most dynamic playmaker on the perimeter, especially since Towns remains sidelined with a calf injury. The Wolves won’t just move Russell to move him.

The Minnesota North Star is still in playoff contention with this odd roster structure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *