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Stephen Curry’s return to serve as data-mine to see if D’Angelo Russell fits the system

Warriors

Stephen Curry’s awaited return is likely to keep Golden State Warriors waiting until March. While some have questioned what the team has to gain by trotting their two-time MVP for a team chasing nothing but a high-draft selection in June, the Warriors could use the 20 or so games he’s on the floor to evaluate how D’Angelo Russell can or can’t adapt to the system before making a decision on his future, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

The Warriors are unlikely to move Russell unless a rock-your-socks-off offer comes in before the Feb. 6 deadline. Yet if they keep Russell, it would be to data-mine some palpable evidence that he fits or does not fit in a three-guard lineup with Curry and Klay Thompson, who could also return by the end of the season.

Curry and Russell have yet to even log 100 minutes together this season, too small a sample to determine whether Russell is capable of seamlessly fitting in with what the Warriors view as their core structure.

Russell is a dynamic scorer and a gifted passer, but he is also a lackluster rebounder like Thompson. Curry holds his own on the boards and Draymond Green is often outsized to ensnare 10 per game.

The Warriors will look for a center this offseason, but even that won’t replace the potential rebounding issue that could come with placing Thompson at small forward and shuffling Russell into a shooting guard position.

His defense also presents a potential issue, as having a backcourt of small defenders could make the Warriors prone to scoring barrages from high-octane scorers like James Harden and Damian Lillard, among others.

The end of the 2019-20 season will be used to collect raw data, one the Warriors hope will inform them enough about the D’Angelo Russell experiment and tell them whether they should keep him for the long-term or abort before it’s too late.