A DLo Truther's Manifesto

Photo Credit: Alonzo Adams (USA TODAY Sports)

I am a Truthseeker. I like to debunk the lies that mainstream media has been feeding to NBA fans. I do my own research. Today, I come to you with a nugget of knowledge that this flat world might not be ready for. So, activate your Bill Gates microchips and huff some chemtrails, because you’re in for a hell of a ride. I’m a D’Angelo Russell Truther, and this is just one of many C drops to come.

I — you can call me “C”- – will outline how the Minnesota Timberwolves are bound for disaster with DLo on roster. I don’t write this to be overly critical but rather to take an honest look at the state of this franchise. As you read this document there are a few foundational notions that you need to understand.

  1. DLo trutherism is solely a philosophy about Russell’s game, not in relation to anyone else who may or may not be on the Wolves, this is to say that:
    I. Both the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves won the DLo trade.
    II. Russell is a superior player to Andrew Wiggins.
  2. One can root for a player’s success and criticize their flaws at the same time, so we must understand that:
    I. The only universal truth is the lack thereof.
    II. There is nuance to everything.
    III. I always want the Timberwolves to play well.
  3. The emergence of Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels has put the franchise in a more favorable position moving forward given that:
    I. Two young, team-controlled, potential stars ease some of the future financial concerns for this team.
    II. The Timberwolves may no longer have to rely on DLo being the second-best player on the team.
    III. McDaniels as the steal of the draft makes the prospect of losing this year’s draft pick much more palatable.

So with those basic tenets in place, let’s dive into why I’ve become a DLo Truther.

Mam”bum” Mentality

No one has got more confidence in DLo than DLo. Which is not always a good thing. It’s no secret that Russell’s shot selection has been a concern of mine all year. Russell loves to rely on his mid-range game. This season he has taken 42.6% of his shots from mid-range. For what it’s worth, he is actually a pretty good mid-range shooter. I like to use Kobe Bryant as the inefficient scorer comparison. Kobe was the best version of an inefficient offensive player. If Russell is going to rely so heavily on his mid-range, he’ll have to pass the Kobe test. Here’s how they compare.

Player 3-10 feet 10-16 feet 16 feet – 3-point
D’Angelo Russell 43.4% 42.3% 42.6%
Kobe Bryant 44.1% 43% 40.2%

Russell’s numbers compare well to Kobe’s, but to pass the Kobe test, his inefficient offense has to be bolstered by quality defense. Although I think Kobe’s defense is overrated, his 12 All-Defensive team appearances certainly say otherwise. Advanced numbers aren’t everything but for reference, Kobe had a career Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) of minus-0.1 — which may look bad but is actually fairly good — as compared to DLo’s career DBPM of minus-1.4.

DLo’s mid-range game is just fine, but his scoring at the rim is excellent. Russell has shot an impressive 59.8% on shots at the rim during his career. When he can get to the rim, he can score the ball at a high clip, the only issue is that this season he has only taken 11% of his shots at the rim.

The low-hanging fruit for DLo to improve his offensive efficiency is to replace his fastbreak 3-point attempts with fast-break layup attempts. Too often Russell tries the highlight transition 3, which is awe-inspiring when it works. When it doesn’t work, it often ends up with the opposing team having an opportunity to counter with a fast-break of their own. During Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, DLo had a couple of transition 3s that missed which resulted in New Orleans being able to get out on the break. Luckily, he was bailed out by sloppy passes by the Pels and they weren’t able to score on either fast-break opportunity.

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The D(Lo)’s Knees

Russell has already had two knee surgeries thus far in his career. To this point, he has played just 76% of possible games. His 2018-19 All-Star campaign was the only healthy season of his career as a full-time starter. It seems like his knee issues will follow him throughout his career.

How much of a detriment will these nagging issues be? His game certainly doesn’t rely on athleticism, but he already lacks some quickness and burst. If he continues to have nagging injuries, will he be able to make an impact offensively with the ball in his hands? He already struggles to beat his defender off the dribble — relying more heavily on savvy moves than a quick first step — if he loses more speed, I’m not sure the savviest moves in the book can overcome that obstacle.

Money, Money, Money, Money (Money)

Currently, DLo is in the second year of a 4-year, $117 million contract which means he is eligible for an extension beginning this offseason. The Timberwolves failed to recruit Russell as a free agent after taking him on what they thought would be a romantic helicopter ride over Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he was not wooed by this lavish, over-the-top “first date” and decided to go steady with the sexier, richer, and honestly much more well-endowed Golden State Warriors.

It left this franchise feeling spurned but ultimately unwavering in their commitment DLo as bae. Here we are today with the chances of the Wolves losing their top-three protected first-round pick dwindling with every win, leaving fans like me performing mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that he’s worth it.

There is basically no way in hell the Timberwolves don’t opt to extend Russell. They have already invested too much into him as a cornerstone of the franchise. Just think about it, the Wolves could have a top-five draft pick in this year’s draft and have team control of a possible franchise player for eight years. If Russell walks, that means they traded that stability for three years of the DLo experience, which has delivered mixed results at best. When the Wolves extend Russell, he is eligible for a starting salary of up to 120% of the last year of his current contract. That’s $37,653,300 with an opportunity for raises of 8% each season.

This season there are seven players in the NBA making more than $37 million: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, John Wall, James Harden, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. If the Wolves give Russell his maximum extension, it could very quickly look like one of the worst contracts in the league. All this because the Wolves were thirstier for DLo than Backpack Kid was for Billie Eilish.

I may be a DLo Truther, but I also understand that Anthony Edwards appears to be the truth — not capital “T” Truth like Paul Pierce, just a really good player. If Edwards continues to improve at the rate we saw him improve this year, the sky’s the limit for him. If DLo can be the third banana, then the Wolves have a legitimate shot at competing. I guess we have to wait and see how A-Rod and Mark Lore feel about paying the third-best guy on a middling playoff team $37 million. Don’t forget to subscribe to the CnD NBA Show, folks!

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