Timberwolves Ship Out D'Angelo Russell and Bring in Mike Conley

The NBA trade deadline has officially passed now and there were quite a few significant moves that were made. Among the biggest headlines was the Minnesota Timberwolves trade involving the Los Angeles and the Utah Jazz. Let’s quickly break down what this trade might mean for all three teams moving forward, and why it might have been made.

The deal goes as follows, the Lakers are receiving D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt. Minnesota is going ahead and snagging Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round draft picks. The Utah Jazz will be cleaning it up by acquiring Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and the Lakers 2027 protected first-round draft choice. 

Now, if you’re the Timberwolves, this trade is a win. The first thing that should be noted here is that D’Angelo Russell likely wouldn’t have re-signed here in free agency. He’s been awfully ball-dominant this year as well, which just hasn’t been a smooth fit alongside players like Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns before he got injured. As an organization, you’re thinking of Russell as a player that would leave in the offseason for nothing, and keeping him in a situation where a deep playoff run might be a stretch doesn't make sense. Plus, they get to swap him out for Mike Conley, a veteran guard that can still help them win now.

Conley has experience playing alongside Rudy Gobert during some of Rudy's best seasons. He can also mentor and teach the younger core on the roster like Anthony Edwards, similar to that point guard leadership Ricky Rubio provided. He’s also the opposite of Russell, a guard that loves to distribute the ball to his teammates rather than consistently look for his own shot. The fit just helps them from a chemistry and playing standpoint. Minnesota also picked up three second round draft choices to help recover some of the assets lost in the deal to add Gobert. A trade which saw the Timberwolves give up an awful lot and still has a lot of question marks. 

Outside of the draft picks and the addition of Conley, Minnesota netted Nickeil Alexander-Walker as well. Alexander-Walker is on the younger side and flashed a significant amount of potential on the New Orleans Pelicans a few years ago. He didn’t get much time to shine on Utah, but could step into a larger role if the opportunity presents itself. He's on a rookie deal and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. This trade for the Timberwolves essentially confirms that they want to start winning games now, and are attempting to regain some losses after acquiring Gobert. 

If you’re the Lakers, this is a great move to make. Russell and Vanderbilt are each perfect additions to the rest of the roster they have. Russell is a good offensive player who has shown an ability to hit catch and shoot jumpers. In fact, he’s cashed in on 39 percent of those attempts this season. He isn’t the greatest defensive player, but will work nicely with LeBron James even though he isn’t the primary ball-handler. Vanderbilt on the other hand provides stellar defense all over the floor, never giving up on the play. Another area that Los Angeles desperately needed to address.

Overall, Minnesota took advantage of a bad situation with Russell and turned it into a positive. That being the only asset they really had to give up in order to get a veteran point guard that fit in more, a young up-and-coming guard, and three second round draft picks most definitely feels like a win to me.