The Wolves landed their long-coveted big fish Thursday, acquiring D’Angelo Russell in a trade with the Warriors for Andrew Wiggins, a first-round pick and a second-round pick.
If you’ve been too consumed by the chase to actually stop to wonder, “Hey, why do they want this guy, anyway? How good is he?” then let’s hit pause for a moment to answer some of those questions.
Here are five things to know about Russell:
1) He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft after playing one season at Ohio State – which included a 27-point game at Williams Arena against the Gophers in an overtime win for the Buckeyes. He went one pick behind new teammate and friend Karl-Anthony Towns, the first overall pick in that draft.
2) This will be the fourth NBA team already for Russell, who is only in his fifth season and doesn’t turn 24 until later this month. He was picked by the Lakers but had two tumultuous seasons there – punctuated by a locker room chasm over a private video recording Russell reportedly made of teammate Nick Young. He got a fresh start in Brooklyn and ran with it, becoming an Eastern Conference All-Star in his second year there and fourth overall. He moved to Golden State in the offseason in a sign-and-trade deal after being pursued aggressively by the Wolves. That pursuit never stopped, and now he’s on his way to Minnesota.
3) Why didn’t he just come here in the first place? Ah, well … he doesn’t like the cold?
“It was definitely something I was considering very strongly,” Russell said in November of potentially steering a trade to Minnesota last summer. “But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”
Maybe Towns can teach him about the skyways since now he’s arriving in the middle of winter.
4) Russell is a gifted offensive player, ranking No. 11 in offensive real plus-minus among shooting guards this season (that’s how ESPN.com classifies him, though he figures to run the offense with the Wolves). On defense? Not so good. Russell ranks No. 126 out of 128 in defensive plus-minus among shooting guards. Combined with Towns – No. 1 in offensive real plus-minus among centers by a long shot, and last in defense RPM among centers – the Wolves figure to score a lot. But can they defend?
5) Russell’s offensive game was boosted by Pablo Prigioni, a Nets assistant last year who joined the Wolves staff this season as their de-facto “offensive coordinator.” Russell should be familiar with the Wolves’ offensive system, which will help over the final 32 games this year. More than half of all his field goal attempts this season have come from three-point range, and he’s made 37.4% of them, which plays right into the Wolves’ offensive goal. And he scored 52 points for the Warriors against the Wolves at Target Center in November, going 7 for 17 from deep.