Timberwolves trade D’Angelo Russell in three-team deal that brings in Utah guard Mike Conley

Minnesota solved a number of issues in one fell swoop Wednesday, moving D’Angelo Russell as part of a three-team deal that brings Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks back to the Timberwolves.

A source confirmed the deal to the Pioneer Press.

While naysayers will balk at Conley’s age — 35 — the veteran is a calming, professional, pass-first point guard who can guide Minnesota’s offense and is more than comfortable moving aside to allow Anthony Edwards to take charge.

There have been countless times when the Wolves just needed more direction on the floor. Kyle Anderson has been that for Minnesota on various occasions this season, but Conley, averaging 10.7 points and 7.7 assists, can take some of that responsibility off his shoulders.

Alexander-Walker is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who hasn’t necessarily panned out early in his NBA career, but the 24-year-old is still a former first-round pick from the 2019 draft who, if nothing else, adds to Minnesota’s wing depth.

The three second-round picks Minnesota receives are the lesser of Washington and Memphis’ second-round pick in 2024, and Utah’s 2025 and 2026 second-round selections.

Russell ends up with the Lakers, the team that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2015. The Lakers also get guard Malik Beasley and forward Jared Vanderbilt — both are former Timberwolves — from the Jazz. The Jazz receive Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a lightly protected 2027 Lakers first-round pick.

Russell shot at an elite clip over the past two months and is averaging 17.9 points and 6.2 assists this season, but his removal frees up offensive touches for the likes of Jaden McDaniels. And Russell was a defensive liability who was inconsistent throughout his three-year Timberwolves tenure, and he struggled mightily during last season’s playoff loss to Memphis.

Even with his shooting, Minnesota was outscored by 1.6 points per 100 possessions when Russell was on the floor this season.

Russell will rejoin forces with Beasley and Vanderbilt in Los Angeles, along with former Timberwolves teammate Patrick Beverley.

Conley, meanwhile, sported a positive net rating for a Utah team that’s overachieved from the season’s outset. His leadership proved invaluable for a team that appeared rudderless before the season after losing all-stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason but played with purpose from Game 1.

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And now the Wolves hope the veteran guard can have the same impact on their group, which has played well of late but has been plagued by inconsistency throughout the season.

Conley also has experience working with Gobert. The tandem spent the last three seasons playing together in Utah, with Conley figuring out in a matter of months how to maximize what the center brings on the offensive end.

“In the bubble we kind of figured it out. It takes a minute. For me, I played with the (Marc) Gasols of the world, pick and pop, stretch the floor and the spacing was different for me, what I saw was different looking down the court,” Conley said. “I had to change my game a lot to dictate how to get him the ball and use him the best we can. It worked and we got it to work.”

Conley is under contract through next season. The point guard is set to make $24.36 million during the 2023-24 campaign. That remaining year serves as a salary slot that gives Minnesota the option to ride with the veteran point guard through next season or use his contract as salary filler in a trade this offseason.

But for now, the Wolves will go with Conley to run their show. And, in doing so, believe they’re empowering everyone else around him to play to the best of their abilities. McDaniels noted this week that he plays better when a pass-first floor general like Jordan McLaughlin is on the floor.

“He just talks everyone through it,” McDaniels said. “He’s a great PG, real PG.”

Now, should it choose to, Minnesota can roll out 48 minutes of “real PG” every night.