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Who Wins This Critical Western Conference Trade?

The Minnesota Timberwolves shook up their roster at the trade deadline by getting rid of a 26-year-old budding star for a 35-year-old player way past his prime. The real question is: did they get better or worse after this trade?

D’Angelo’s Return To Los Angeles

As reports come out about D’Angelo Russell being a negative presence on and off the court, particularly with their newly acquired big man, Rudy Gobert, it was clear that Russel’s time in Minnesota was bound to come to an end.

This along with reports that Timberwolves President Tim Connelly never planned to resign him this offseason, ultimately predicted D’Angelo’s trade from the Timberwolves. He had been playing some of the best basketball of his career, which made it an even better trade for the Timberwolves because his value had never been higher. 

The Lakers needed to change their roster and they did in a major way by getting rid of Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and their first-round pick in 2027 in a series of major trades. They were able to acquire Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Utah Jazz along with D’Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves.  

Los Angeles’ Case For D’Angelo

They were able to get significantly younger along by getting rid of the undesirable, 47.1 million one-year deal that Russell Westbrook was signed to. D’Angelo has been welcomed back to Los Angeles with open arms and has performed quite well in the three games he has played for them since the trade.

In those three games, D’lo has averaged 17.3 points per game, along with 0.3 steals, 5.7 assists, and 3.3 total rebounds. He had averaged 17.9 points, 1.1 steals, 6.2 assists, and 3.1 total rebounds per game with the Timberwolves this season.

Minnesota’s Case For Mike Conley Jr.

As mentioned before, the Timberwolves had at least two different reasons for wanting to get rid of D’Angelo even though he had been playing at a very high level.

The first reason was that he was becoming increasingly negative about Rudy Gobert’s play, even in the middle of games. The other one was that the Timberwolves were not planning to sign him this offseason and still wanted to get something for him before letting him walk for free.

It made sense for the Timberwolves to pursue Mike Conley Jr., if only for the fact that he got along well with Rudy Gobert in Utah. He also helped Gobert perform at a different level on the offensive side of things. Mike Conley has not been filling the stat sheet in his games with the Timberwolves but he has been an encouraging team player.

In his three games with Minnesota, he has averaged seven points, 1.7 steals, six assists, and two total rebounds per game. This season for Utah he was averaging 10.7 points, one steal, 7.7 assists, and 2.5 total rebounds per game.

What Does This Mean For The Wolves?

This trade was not a flashy one for the Timberwolves but it could be the move that brings them closer as a team. It was important to get rid of the negativity that D’Angelo Russell was becoming and the Wolves traded for a proven veteran to take his place at least for the rest of this season. 

It will be exciting to see how the team performs without Russell as well as when Karl-Anthony Towns can return from his Grade Three Calf Strain. It sounds like he should be back for the last 10-15 games of the regular season.

If this team is going to make the playoffs, it is going to be squarely on Anthony Edwards’ shoulders to lead the way. They have an intriguing combination of younger players along with seasoned veterans.

Jaden McDaniels has taken his defense to higher heights than previously thought possible and Rudy Gobert has been finding his rhythm on the offensive side of things as well.

As long as Karl Anthony Towns can come back this season and the rest of the team stays healthy for the most part, this team will be one to reckon with in the Western Conference of the NBA.

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