The clock continues to tick on the Minnesota Timberwolves getting their core unit on the court together, and now Chris Finch says that he doesn’t expect D’Angelo Russell to return this week.
Malik Beasley recently returned from suspension and figures to be a piece of the Wolves’ plans. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards have really started to vibe on the floor, feeling out a rhythm with one another. Russell is the last piece to put in place. But how much sample size is enough for the Wolves to decide how to handle things going forward?
The front office will have big decisions to make at the end of this year, which will be difficult if they don’t see how everyone works together. Even just the trio of just Russell-Towns-Edwards has hardly been on the floor together.
There’s no doubting the following: Towns is an All-Star-caliber player and a franchise pillar. Edwards appears to be on his way to stardom and possibly one day a franchise pillar himself. Russell is an excellent player, All-Star-ish level. But can they all work as a unit?
The easy answer is just to say: It’s a group of good players, why not? But what also matters is the way their individual strengths combine, specifically with Russell. DLo is a ball-dominant guard who likes to go at his own pace on the floor. He’s not being selfish; it’s just what he’s comfortable with. Normally you want your point guard — your floor general — to elevate those around him. Can Russell do that with Edwards and Beasley?
That’s what the front office needs to find out. Just because Russell is a solid player doesn’t mean he automatically qualifies as someone who improves everyone around him. With all the strong, young talent on the Wolves, they need a lead guard who can elevate and set up others. Russell might be able to do that, but he certainly likes to get his own, which you can’t blame him for.
The season itself, in terms of wins and losses, has long been a lost cause. Yet, in some ways, this last month-and-change might be the most important part of the season.
The obvious reason is the draft pick. It’s top-3 protected; if the Wolves’ pick lands outside the top three, it goes to the Golden State Warriors, which would be a dagger. Meanwhile, the players are trying to get comfortable with Finch — his tendencies, his blueprint, the way he coaches and wants things to be executed. All are things the Wolves need to get a better grasp on now, so they are more prepared entering next season.
Five games aren’t enough. Ten is iffy. If the Timberwolves can get 10-plus games with the trio of Russell-Edwards-Towns on the floor together, they will have a general idea of how the team might look going forward. The crazy part in all of this is, nobody really knows how well KAT and DLo work together. Gersson Rosas made the trade over a year ago, but each man has been out while the other was on the court. It’s made the whole process an even bigger headache.
The clock continues to tick as Minnesota eagerly anticipates Russell’s return. One of the lone bright spots — and it’s a big one — is that the injuries and the absences have led to a brighter spotlight on Edwards. Minnesota found out quickly they may have struck gold with the No. 1 overall pick from 2020. Now they just need to see how it all blends together.