Jalen Brunson appears to be looking like a pipe dream for the New York Knicks this summer as reports continue to surface about the likelihood that the breakout guard will stay with the Dallas Mavericks.
For a Knicks team desperate for a starting caliber point guard, this news stands in the way of its plans to rebuild a roster that couldn’t build on the accomplishments of the 2020-21 NBA season.
Brunson isn’t the only guard currently serving in the NBA, however, and as such isn’t the only option available to the Knicks’ front office. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell has become a potential trade target should New York miss out on Brunson – which is becoming increasingly likely.
“As the Knicks work down their list of point guard options, competing executives have pointed to Minnesota Timberwolves starter D’Angelo Russell as a potential lower-level trade target,” Fischer wrote.
Russell will enter the final year of his $117 million deal next season, meaning his trade value should be significantly lower than anything it would take the Knicks to acquire Brunson, giving them the opportunity to Testing Russell’s suitability for their core before signing a long-term commitment to him.
Like most NBA-level guards, Russell is primarily a pick-and-roll ballhandler, using screens on 30.8% of his offensive drives on the floor and averaging 0.99 points per 100 possessions, according to Instat tracking data achieved. Aside from his pick-and-roll game, Instat has tracked Russell by using catch-and-shoot opportunities (15% of offensive load) and the transition play for about (15% of offensive load) as his other two main attack forms, like Hover on or by one point for every 100 possessions.
Having a guard that can penetrate, track and walk the floor is incredibly important for a team like New York who are currently developing two slashers in RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, especially since Russell is such a willing passer to apply the rock 31.4% of his drives during the regular season, which helped him to a career-high 7.1 assists per game.
Additionally, Russell doesn’t like to press the rim too often, as Cleaning The Glass records his offensive frequency on the rim as only 16% of his total shot attempts, meaning the lanes are open to the Knicks’ young slashers and rim-slashers will be. Runner. Of course, Barrett will want to continue to develop his jump shot after showing promise the last two seasons, and a drive-and-kick-oriented guard will work wonders by putting the young wing into scoring positions outside the catch.
Unless Brunson is truly available and the front office isn’t enamored with a guard within their draft range, trading for a new guard seems inevitable. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in February the Knicks hired former Timberwolves GM Gersson Rosas as an advisor, the same man who was willing to trade Andrew Wiggins to get Russell.
Obviously, Rosas is unlikely to have any real power when it comes to hitting trade targets, but his first-hand experience working with Russell, coupled with the guard’s stellar season for the Timberwolves, will likely be enough to knock the Knicks’ head to twist and at least arouse interest.
Minnesota is coming off their best season in recent memory, so it remains to be seen how easily they could be tricked into switching Russell, but with a year left on his contract and several interesting young players available to the Knicks, it is certainly plausible that a reasonable agreement could be reached between both parties.
It’s also worth noting that Russell and Julius Randle could form a deadly partnership that, if buoyed up by Barrett, Toppin, Mitchell Robinson (if he stays on the team), Immanuel Quickly and Quentin Grimes, forms a legitimate core to follow to start building the move forward.