The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally able to unveil their coveted acquisition, getting D’Angelo Russell to suit up in the starting lineup alongside longtime AAU friend Karl-Anthony Towns against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Let’s judge how he did in his first game as a Timberwolf, a 137-126 loss to Toronto.
D’Angelo Russell Grade: B+
Russell’s stat line: 22 points (7-of-12 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3, 4-of-4 on free throws), zero rebounds, five assists, one steal, six turnovers.
For starters, D’Angelo Russell and the Timberwolves already had the pressure of knowing Andrew Wiggins had one of his most effective games of the season in his debut with the Golden State Warriors last week.
That didn’t deter him from breaking in the action, getting this showstopping layup through the trees of the Raptors’ defense:
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 11, 2020
Scoring within the first minute of the game clearly got his game going, as he got the confidence to shoot some of his usual long-range shots, including this one from close to the center-court logo:
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 11, 2020
Yet as much as he thrived with his shot, he also struggled meshing with a new offense, coughing up six turnovers to his five assists, all while failing to rebound the ball a single time in his 32 minutes on the floor.
A 5:6 assist-to-turnover ratio is nothing to write home about, even if it is a team debut, but Russell was engaged and looking to make plays, making this a growing pain that Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas and his front office can live with, as there’s no immediate edict to win games.
Truth be told, the pressure is off D’Angelo Russell and company for the remainder of the season, as Minnesota is bound to use the remaining games to figure out how to best deploy Russell and Towns and tweak some of the kinks in their game.
One thing that is unlikely to change, though, is his defense. Russell was a cardboard cutout of an NBA player on defense — reportedly a huge reason why the Warriors felt the urge to part ways with him. The trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have a well-established championship pedigree and aren’t one to take excuses.
Russell will have to pick up an interest for playing better defense from here until the start of next season, or he’ll risk sitting during chunks of the fourth quarter due to his defensive liabilities.
All in all, D’Angelo Russell gets a B+ here. He showed the firepower he was brought to provide and had one of the toughest tests to face against a white-hot Toronto Raptors team that has now won 15 straight games.