The Timberwolves have got off to a entirely unideal start to their 22-23 NBA campaign. The team looks like a shell of who they should be. Some players look like a shell of who they genuinely should be, one of the main character’s not looking their best is undoubtedly D’Angelo Russell. While it’s not fair to put the squad’s early woes entirely on Russell, he sure does deserve some blame.
We are lucky the season is only 13 games old, but there is still a long way for this team to go for them to be at their best. And D’Angelo Russell is absolutely an individual who can raise this team’s ceiling and floor with how he produces. The Timberwolves cannot unlock their true potential unless Russell can show up to the party.
It is no shocker the Timberwolves are much more successful when Russell plays a good brand of basketball. Since the start of the 21/22 NBA season, the Timberwolves are 19-10 in games where Russell scores 20+ points. He does not need to average 20 a game to be successful either and to have that translate to wins, Minnesota is 17-10 in the same time frame when Russell accounts for 8+ assists.
Russell’s shooting trouble is one of the largest causes of his lack of success in the early season. Shooting just 37% from the field matched with his 29% 3-point shot. Both percentiles are the lowest of his career. Probably the worst stat of all when it comes to shooting is Russell’s 24% make rate on spot-up shots. If Russell cannot consistently make those looks, his productivity drops dramatically.
Russell’s turnover rate has made a jump as well, going from 13.2% last year up to 18.4% this year. The highly anticipated pick-and-roll dynamic with Rudy Gobert has not clicked yet. While it should be expected to click at some point, it’s clear they need to develop more chemistry with each other. Russell has to adapt to Gobert wanting the ball up high off the roll. Gobert struggles with low passes, and Russell thrives when he is throwing low passes. This is why Naz Reid and D’Angelo Russell pick and roles can look so good. Naz is certainly more capable of catching low passes.
The defense has never been a strength for Russell, and that has not changed, but we expect a below average defensive product at least. The offense in spots can look stagnant when Russell is the ball-handler. It seems to be affecting guys like Edwards and McDaniels mainly, where those two sit off-ball and get disengaged.
It is hard to give Dlo more off-ball action looks when his shooting is so bad. Leading to more moments with him as the on-ball creator, and from what we have seen it has been a worse product in that area this year as well.
All hope is not lost. Luckily the season is young. Russell can still turn this around. His success is vital for the entire team’s success as the leading ball handler and distributor. The Timberwolves need him to turn back into a more efficient scorer, someone with less of a tendency to turn the ball over, and that clutch gene D’Angelo Russell we know he is. Not the player that is benched in the 4th because he seems lost.