Coming off an All-Star season where his game took a step forward, D'Angelo Russell is a restricted free agent. The man is about to get paid. If the Brooklyn Nets sign Kyrie Irving as a free agent — which is considered the most likely outcome — then they are going to let Russell walk (or just renounce his rights) rather than pay him the $20+ million annually it’s expected to take to keep him (not max money, but not that far off it).
If all that happens, where might Russell land? Phoenix has been mentioned in league circles a lot and it needs a point guard (plus Russell and Devin Booker are friends). Indiana and Orlando have long been mentioned as teams that could chase him (as was Utah, although after the Mike Conley trade just cross them off the list). A reunion with the Los Angeles Lakers is rumored.
Minnesota also has been mentioned as interested, although that often gets dismissed because they are over the salary cap already. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast that there is something there (hat tip Real GM).
“There has been a lot of Minnesota /D’Angelo Russell noise, and it’s not all Karl Towns commenting on Instagram because they’re friends. Minnesota has communicated to the league, not the NBA league, just the league at large that they believe they have a pathway to get D’Angelo Russell.
“I can’t see what it is because they’re capped out and they have all of these contracts nobody wants, but they’ve communicated that.”
The question is simply how Minnesota would come up with $20 million or more in cap space. The team is right at the salary cap line in guaranteed contracts, and when you throw in the option on Tyus Jones and cap holds (for empty roster spots) they are will over it.
Next season the Timberwolves will pay Andrew Wiggins $27.5 million, and he has four total fully guaranteed seasons left on his contract at a little over $123 million. Jeff Teague is owed $19 million on an expiring deal. Gorgui Dieng will make $16.2 million and has another season after the next one locked in. The Timberwolves would love to shed any and all of those contracts, but good luck with that. Wiggins is almost unmovable right now, Dieng would require a serious sweetener (like a couple first round picks) to be thrown in.
Still, it’s something to watch just because this rumor isn’t just new to Lowe, There seems to be something there, just nobody can figure out what.