Timberwolves

D'Angelo Russell Deserves More All-Star Recognition

Photo Credit: Brad Penner (USA TODAY Sports)

With the fan voting for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game coming to a close on Saturday, the discussions of which players should be nominated have become highlighted. For fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was a pleasant surprise to see not one but two of the team’s players in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards among the top vote-getters.

The Timberwolves are currently fighting for a playoff spot. And with Towns and Edwards at the helm of a Wolves team that has exceeded expectations, they are both finally getting the acknowledgment they deserve.

It’s unlikely KAT and Ant are both named to the All-Star team. Still, Minnesota has a third player who deserves some recognition as well. Their point guard.

No, not Patrick Beverley. D’Angelo Russell.

After being acquired by the Timberwolves nearly two years ago, expectations were high for the Ohio State product. At the time, the team was on a 12-game losing skid. Karl-Anthony Towns was reportedly displeased. And the front office knew they had to make a move to assuage their All-Star center. What better way to do that than trading for one of his closest friends? Former All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell!

Russell was named an All-Star in 2019 during his time with the Brooklyn Nets. Although, he was a replacement for Victor Oladipo. Still, Russell has shown in the past that he possesses the necessary skills to be considered one of the league’s best players.

At first glance, DLo doesn’t look like an All-Star. His minutes have increased this year, while his average in points per game has decreased. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

DLo’s play was hit or miss towards the beginning of the season. In some games, he resembled the player with ice in his veins. On other nights, he seemed to melt away under the bright lights. But besides one bad game in his first return to action after battling COVID-19, Russell has looked like a man on a mission. Over his last seven games, Russell has averaged 21.6 points, 8.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds on impressive 54/46/81 shooting splits. And although these numbers may not scream “All-Star,” they do compare well against his numbers from his lone All-Star season:

Even in a bit of a down year, there’s no denying that DLo has been a difference-maker. Most teams would love to have a 6’4” guard who averages 19 and 7 a night – although maybe not on a max contract. Regardless, Russell has stepped up as a leader this year. Sure, Beverley may do the most barking. But a collective demeanor, paired alongside his willingness to mentor the younger talent on the roster, displays just how valuable DLo has been for this suddenly competitive Timberwolves team.

Speaking of younger talent, I’m sure Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt would cast his vote for Russell if given the chance. Vanderbilt, a fourth-year forward from Kentucky, was widely considered nothing more than just another poor shooting big with a vast history of lower-body injuries coming out of college. But Vanderbilt’s career has been steadily rising since joining forces alongside Russell. And it’s no coincidence. Sure, JV’s been one of the league’s best defenders this season. But his job on the offensive end has been made much easier since pairing with

the seventh-year guard. With DLo’s ability to help space the floor while having an act for consistently giving his teammates the “perfect” pass, V8’s career-high in points per game this season can be directly attributed to his bump in playing time with Russell.

Let me be clear: Russell will not make the All-Star roster this season. And I’m not saying he should. The Western Conference is home to many of the NBA’s top backcourt players, and there isn’t enough room for DLo to make the final cut without replacing someone more worthy.

Take a look at the current All-Star voting for guards out west:

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GSW) – 6,019,418

2. Ja Morant (MEM) – 2,623,359

3. Luka Dončić (DAL) – 1,923,187

4. Klay Thompson (GSW) – 1,240,781

5. Devin Booker (PHX) – 867,222

6. Russell Westbrook (LAL) – 855,990

7. Chris Paul (PHX) – 758,336

8. Donovan Mitchell (UTA) – 612,350

9. Damian Lillard (POR) – 458,858

10. Anthony Edwards (MIN) – 304,343

Yes, fan votes only account for 50% of the total votes for the game’s starters. And there’s always going to be a few names that raise the eyebrows of true basketball fans. Remember the year of Zaza Pachulia? And this year is no different. Klay Thompson, who has only played five games this season, is currently ranked ahead of multiple players who deserve to be higher on this list.

Even if Russell was having an All-Star season, the likelihood that he’d even be voted in is pretty low. But winning matters, or at least it has in the past. Think back to 2015 when Kyle Korver made the big game by averaging only 12 points for the first-seeded Atlanta Hawks! Sure the team is a game below .500. But helping bring Minnesota to relevancy should mean something, right?

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ social media team has made great efforts to get their former All-Star guard as many votes as possible — as they should. But DLo still deserves more recognition for what he’s been able to do for this Minnesota team. Sure, he hasn’t been able to perform at the levels of All-Star locks like Stephen Curry and Ja Morant this season. But he’s a leader. He’s a playmaker. He’s got ice in his veins. And dammit, he’s got some pretty cool tattoos.

Most importantly, he’s finally looking similar to the player he was back in Brooklyn. A player who cares about winning. And it’s time for the rest of the league to take notice.

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