The Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten off to a sluggish start, and point guard
is partly to blame. After a big offseason in which the team acquired four-time all-star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, there are increased expectations for the team. However, a 4-5 start with two early losses to the San Antonio Spurs have dampened some of those expectations.
It’s obviously early, but the team’s offense has definitely been an issue, currently ranking 23rd. Some of those issues will work themselves out, but a lack of playmaking has hurt the Minnesota Timberwolves, and that falls on Russell. While Russell is a good passer, particularly when hitting cutters with drop-passes, he hasn’t been as good at creating as his 5.6 assists per game would indicate.
In theory, the Timberwolves’ offense should be rolling. After all, they have a sharpshooting point guard, a rising star wing in Anthony Edwards, a three-time all-star in Karl Anthony-Towns, and a massive lob threat in Gobert. Things haven’t worked out that way thus far, however, and D’Angelo Russell may be the biggest culprit.
D’Angelo Russell may be holding back the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offense.
Despite his reputation as an elite shooter, his career average is only 35.5%, and currently, he’s shooting only 27.5% on a high volume of threes. It’s true that he creates most of those looks, which contributes to him shooting slightly worse than one would expect, but his shot selection doesn’t help either him or the team.
He also struggles to get separation at times, forcing him to either shoot with a hand in his face, pass, or drive. Russell isn’t particularly effective at getting to the rim, so that limits his efficiency and makes it harder for him to drive and kick. It also makes it harder for him to toss lobs to Gobert, who thrives on screening, rolling to the rack, and finishing alley-oops. Thus far, Russell hasn’t been the player who can get him the ball, and Edwards is mostly a bucket-getter at this point.
Without better playmaking, Gobert won’t live up to his full offensive potential, and players such as Edwards and Towns will have to create mostly for themselves. They can, but having a point guard that doesn’t necessarily make life easier for them isn’t great, and the Timberwolves may eventually have to look elsewhere for point guard help.
After all, Russell is making $31 million and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Minnesota Timberwolves can likely find a better playmaker for much cheaper, one who might not be as talented as Russell but can help unlock the team’s three stars’ full potential. Tre Jones of the Spurs could be an option, and he’s already outplayed Russell at least twice this season.
Either way, the Minnesota Timberwolves need more out of the position than they’re getting now, and D’Angelo Russell either has to play better or the team needs to upgrade.