The Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell via sign-and-trade Sunday night, but he may not be part of Golden State’s long-term plan.
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“D’Angelo Russell doesn’t fit there whatsoever. They just wanted to make sure they did not see Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the league when healthy, walk out the door for nothing. They got a 23-year-old All-Star, and they will trade him. It’s just a matter of when,” New York Times reporter Marc Stein said Monday on “The Dan Patrick Show.”
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While it’s interesting to see Russell potentially on the move again, it’s worth noting the rest of what Stein reported. He’s not projecting Russell to be traded immediately.
Stein asked on the show, “Do they keep him for a whole season? Do they even trade him at midseason?”
So Stein is projecting Russell to be traded, but not before he signs his contract when the NBA moratorium ends on July 6. Instead, Stein sees this more as an interim move while Klay Thompson recovers from his torn left ACL.
“[Curry and Thompson] aren’t going anywhere. There really isn’t room for Russell,” Stein said. “Obviously Klay is going to miss the rest of next season, so in the short-term, yes. But this was really about the Warriors protecting themselves for the future.”
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By acquiring Russell, the Warriors can stay competitive during the 2019-20 season despite losing Durant to free agency and Thompson to injury. While Russell in no way makes up for that level of production, it’s better than losing Durant for nothing. Plus, by also acquiring Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier, Golden State possesses some extra financial flexibility for next season.
Graham and Napier’s salaries are non-guaranteed, meaning the Warriors can release both without penalty. And trading Andre Iguodala to the Grizzlies freed up his $17.2 million salary.
The bottom line: trading for Russell is a smart long-term move with benefits in the short-term. Golden State won’t be the clear-cut title favorite this season, but the Warriors should still compete in the playoffs despite some huge losses this offseason. If they’re able to trade Russell either at the All-Star break or the end of 2020, the Warriors could be true contenders again by the time next season rolls around.
A lot of that has to do with being able to shed salaries and lowering their spending so they aren’t hit with such an expensive luxury tax or repeater tax.
Mark Media explains more of that for The Mercury News:
There is still a chance the Warriors move Russell before the season starts, but it seems unlikely. If that’s the case, the Timberwolves could be a trade partner, as they were interested in acquiring Russell before the Warriors landed him.
For now, expect the Warriors to keep Russell for 2019-20 before moving him again next season.