Only a few hours after nearly all hope was lost upon news of Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Brooklyn Nets, the Golden State Warriors pulled a last-minute blockbuster trade to recoup something for his loss, bringing in D’Angelo Russell, Treveon Graham, and Shabazz Napier in return.
The deal made little sense for a team that boasts a franchise point guard in Stephen Curry, though it’s one that will come with plenty of reverberations in this upcoming season
As shocking as this trade was, there is some good, some bad, and definitely some ugly as a result of bringing in Russell.
D’Angelo Russell is a prominent young player with a lot of promise and an exciting style of play — exactly what this ownership would want for the first year of their brand new state-of-the-art arena — the Chase Center, which will open in a few months in downtown San Francisco.
His ability to score at a high clip could help the Warriors keep their head above water during the prolonged absence of Klay Thompson, who should be out until the All-Star break — anticipating a February or March return from a torn ACL.
Having shot a career-high 36.9% from deep, Russell’s percentages can only go up with two incredible playmakers in Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, still giving the team that perimeter threat that has made them so lethal during the past five seasons.
Russell’s shifty maneuvers would make for plenty of highlight reels, and his feathery-smooth jumper could make for a vibe of new excitement as the Warriors endure Thompson’s gutting long-term injury for the next few months.
Getting something back in return for Durant is always better than getting nothing at all, even amid the uncertainty of the future of this roster.
Russell is a ball-dominant player, which would only render Curry as the backdoor-cutting, coming off screens catch-and-shoot version of himself, which we saw during the NBA Finals.
The lefty is known for his old-school style of play, keeping defenders on his hip and keen to taking mid-range shots often to keep the defense at bay. Yet it’s his reluctance to get into the paint and finish with contact that has made his shooting percentages so suspect during his four-year career in the league.
There is little suggesting that Russell would thrive in this system, as he’s well-rounded, but not particularly stellar in any area of the floor.
If Russell can’t adapt to the Warriors’ system, it only spells trouble for a franchise that hopes to keep a streak of seven straight postseasons alive as they head into a new venue.
The Warriors could opt to trade Russell well before fans learn to love him, as it’s likely that his acquisition was only made in a desperate effort to yield something back in return for Durant’s departure.
The idea behind it would be to free enough cap space to sign Draymond Green to his impending deal next summer, one he’s long awaited now that teammates Stephen Curry (five years, $201 million) and Klay Thompson (agreed to five-year, $189.6 million deal on Sunday) have been soundly compensated.
Yet to do so, they would have to hope teams maintain the same fervent interest in acquiring him that they have had this summer, as the likes of the Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves considered adding him. Even the Los Angeles Lakers stiffly pondered a reunion after letting him develop in Brooklyn for two seasons.
That idea alone is risky — especially considering that Russell is coming off the best year of his career, one that could prove tough to top after going from being the primary offensive option to one of many with this Warriors core.
Perhaps the ugliest part of this sign-and-trade is the consequent teardown that has taken place after Kevin Durant’s decision-making.
The Warriors were once forced to renounce their rights to Harrison Barnes, trade Andrew Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks, and turn down signing potential key bench cogs like Marreese Speights, a fan favorite, as a result of Durant’s signing in 2016.
Three years later, Golden State would have no option but to trade Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies — all with the hope that all these maneuvers to net Russell will pay off at the end.
The Warriors have traded their motto of Strength In Numbers for Strength In Cap Space, one they hope will materialize in retaining the initial core of players that once made the bowels of Oracle Arena shake with every roar.