With their top point guard options looking likely to stay in their current market, the New York Knicks may turn into Minnesota Timberwolves’ disgruntled star D’Angelo Russell as a ‘low-level trade target,’ according to a report.
The Knicks have been heavily linked to Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Dallas Mavericks’ unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson. But the Jazz apparently would like to continue building around Mitchell and the Mavericks are hell-bent on re-signing Brunson in the offseason. That leaves the Knicks with limited options.
“As the Knicks work down the list of their point guard options, rival executives have pointed to Minnesota Timberwolves starter D’Angelo Russell as a potential lower-level trade target. New York’s front office recently added former Minnesota president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who once chased Russell in free agency and later traded Andrew Wiggins to Golden State for the creative point guard,” B/R’s Jake Fischer wrote.
NBA insider Marc Stein first floated the idea last month that the Timberwolves will try to shop Russell this summer after his playoff struggles. The one-time NBA All-Star point guard only averaged 12 points on a paltry 33 percent shooting on the floor against the Memphis Grizzlies. His lowest point came in the series clincher when Timberwolves coach Chris Finch’s decision to pull him out in favor of undrafted guard Jordan McLaughlin.
Russell, a former second overall pick, did not hold back during his exit interview when asked if he was okay with the late-game benching.
“No. Not at all,” Russell said. “Of course, I want to be out there.”
Despite his playoff struggles, the Timberwolves were plus-7.1 points per 100 possessions when Russell and his close friend Karl-Anthony Towns played together. Russell also registered a career-high 7.1 assists. No Knicks player last season averaged more than 5.1 assists.
While Russell struggled in the series clincher with only seven points against four turnovers, he had a case to be out there with their season on the line.
According to Basketball Index, Russell is among the top-five players with the highest offensive impact in clutch time during games.
Players with our Gold Closer Skill Badge this season:
? DeMar DeRozan
? Devin Booker
? Joel Embiid
? D'Angelo Russell
? Trae Young
? Reggie Jackson
? Nikola Jokic
? Mike Conley
? Zach LaVine
? Ja Morant
? Gary Trent Jr.
? Kevin Duranthttps://t.co/CZbRsilYih pic.twitter.com/cCev72TrOE
— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) May 24, 2022
The score was tied at 97 when McLaughlin replaced Russell. The Grizzlies closed out the game with a 17-9 run in the final 4:53 to wrap up the series. It’s up for debate whether Russell could have influenced a win or not.
But a player of his caliber is what the Knicks needed after their struggles to close out games last season. Russell could come in as a table-setter and a clutch performer.
With a new president, the Timberwolves franchise is at a crossroads. They can lock up Russell, who is extension-eligible this summer, to another four years or ship him out to preserve cap flexibility in 2023 before new contracts of Towns and Anthony Edwards kick in. They could also delay moving on from Russell and see how it goes before next year’s trade deadline.
If Russell is not in the Timberwolves’ future, the Knicks could swoop in and take a flier on the underperforming guard.
The Timberwolves will be looking to add more depth at small and power forward positions.
Russell and Julius Randle’s salaries would match, instantly giving the Timberwolves a potent starting frontcourt with Towns. But the Timberwolves would need to add a sweetener to coax the Knicks to agree, or they could expand it and also add Malik Beasley for Evan Fournier. The Knicks were interested in Beasley in 2020 free agency.
Another scenario would be the Timberwolves taking Derrick Rose back alongside Evan Fournier and a draft compensation for Russell.
But with former Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly on board, the Timberwolves might also be joining the Jerami Grant sweepstakes with Russell as trade bait.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo