Rumors of a potential D’Angelo Russell trade have ran rampant since the moment he was first acquired through a Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. While the quick flip was understandable, the vast slew of injuries to start the season have rapidly forced the Golden State Warriors to pivot and effectively mail this season in.
This was always meant to be a transitional season for the Warriors considering Klay Thompson would miss the majority of the 2019-20 campaign with his recovery from a torn ACL, but the injury to Stephen Curry four games into the season forced the Warriors to reevaluate all angles — including Russell.
The franchise insists it doesn’t intend to trade Russell, but conventional wisdom would say that the owners (Joe Lacob and Peter Guber) would not be too happy paying high tax dollars for anything less than a championship-caliber roster.
Russell has made the most of his opportunities as the star of the show, stepping up in a major way since Stephen Curry was lost to a left hand injury for the next three months.
In his last four games, Russell put up 30 points and eight assists against the San Antonio Spurs, a career-high 52 points, nine rebounds, and five assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime, 30 points and seven assists against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 33 points and eight assists against the Utah Jazz — all losses.
Russell has been the beneficiary of a heavy dose of pick-and-roll sets put in place by head coach Steve Kerr, and he has managed to destroy defenses with an old-school attack, dismantling teams with his change of speed and steady mastery of the mid-range game.
Since Curry’s injury on Nov. 30, Russell is averaging a James Harden-esque 36.3 points per game on 48.6% shooting from the floor and 42.2% from deep, along with a clean 82.8% clip from the foul line.
The man is simply getting buckets:
All of D'Angelo Russell's 1st quarter BUCKETS. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/sbO8QcOjkB
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) November 12, 2019
Why the Warriors would keep him
Russell has shown he can be more than just a featured scorer, but also a gifted passer and offensive initiator, which would take some of the weight off Curry’s shoulders once he returns from injury.
Russell’s ability to dominate the pick-and-roll and thread the needle to cutters and perimeter threats gives the Warriors a dual point guard attack they simply never had with Klay Thompson — no matter how much the coaching staff hoped to groom him as an initiator.
DLo simply has the gift of court vision and the skills necessary to execute the passes he sees before they develop. This would give the Warriors three playmakers on offense along with Draymond Green, not bad for a team rebounding from losing a perennial deadly scorer.
Russell’s defense has also improved over the last few games, now more active closing down perimeter attacks and blitzing drivers for quick steals and potential fast-break opportunities.
Why the Warriors would trade him
If Russell keeps this type of performance up for another month, one could argue the market has never been hotter for the No. 2 overall pick, especially considering the sheer amount of teams that could be in the running for a deep playoff run.
In short, Russell could become the NBA’s next Bradley Beal — a capable scorer and playmaker who can be the missing piece for a roster hoping to add more talent before the trade deadline.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is eligible to be traded on Dec. 15, the six-month anniversary of the date he was acquired by Golden State. Russell’s value might never be higher, so the Warriors could cash in with multiple first-round picks and better supporting pieces than they have proved to own at this point of the season.
What could feasibly happen
The Warriors are likely to feel the temperature and weigh the pros and cons of dealing Russell, and if he keeps playing at a high level, it’s likely he won’t come cheap. If the Warriors don’t get a can’t-miss offer come February, they would likely keep him and make the best of a youthful roster that is now getting much more playing time than they expected to get when entering the season.
Curry, Thompson, and Green could benefit from having more experienced teammates after the sign-and-trade for Russell meant saying goodbye to longtime bench cogs like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Developing key role players like Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole could prove key to rebuilding a dismantled roster before making a run at it again with a healthy cast of bodies for the 2020-21 season.
D’Angelo Russell can be part of that equation if management feels it can incorporate the young 23-year-old to a proven All-Star-laden lineup and envision his success with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.