Kevin Durant did not exactly leave the Golden State Warriors high and dry when he decided to walk away from the squad to team up with Kyrie Irving in the Brooklyn Nets. As a matter of fact, thanks to a last-minute sign-and-trade deal, Durant’s exit eventually led to the arrival of D’Angelo Russell as the newest member of the Dubs.
Much like when the Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, Golden State have once again acquired the services of an All-Star following their bitter defeat against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the recently-concluded 2019 NBA Finals. Three years ago, the Dubs signed Durant, and while this offseason’s acquisition of Russell is not of the same magnitude, the former Nets point guard remains to be a significant addition for the Warriors.
Nonetheless, there have been talks about the Golden State front office looking to turn Russell into an asset by trading him sooner rather than later. In truth, this makes sense, considering how the Warriors already have a superstar point guard in Stephen Curry. However, in our mind, we believe that it is tantamount for the Warriors to keep Russell on board for the time being. Here are a few reasons why.
It is without question that the departure of Durant will remain to be the biggest blow the Warriors have taken this summer. The former two-time Finals MVP is a Top 5 player in the league, and simply put, he is irreplaceable. It is worth noting that the Dubs also lost DeMarcus Cousins to the Los Angeles Lakers, and will be without Klay Thompson for most, if not all of next season as he recovers from his ACL injury.
However, one loss that some folks may tend to underestimate is that of Andre Iguodala, whom the Warriors shipped off to the Memphis Grizzlies in a salary cap-clearing move. Despite being at the ripe age of 35, Iguodala was a crucial part of the Warriors roster. His ball-handling, playmaking, and ability to thrive in the clutch are just some of the things Golden State will miss now that the former All-Star is gone, but the good news is, Russell should be able to competently fill the void Iguodala will leave. While the former’s experience pails in comparison to that of the latter, it could well be argued that Russell is a younger and better version of AI.
All About Curry
While the most common perception is that Russell’s skill set overlaps with that of Curry, the truth of the matter is that these two can actually play well together. Last season with the Nets, Russell averaged 21.1 points (on 43.4 percent shooting), 2.9 three-pointers, 3.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.2 steals en route to his first All-Star nod. He is a proven scorer, and will definitely demand a lot of attention on the defensive end. This should free up some space for his teammates, and for Curry, he could be asked to perform more off-the-ball movements, which is something he absolutely thrives at.
On the other hand, Russell can also serve as the team’s primary playmaker as well as its No. 1 scoring option sans Curry. Russell has proven that he is more than capable of putting an entire team on his shoulders, so with him on the floor, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr could probably afford to give Steph a few more valuable minutes of rest on the bench, keeping him fresh when they need him most.
A Valuable Asset
Outside of his outstanding play on the court, perhaps the one thing that stands out for the most for Russell is his youth. At 23 and with just four years of experience under his belt, he is already a bona fide superstar. He probably hasn’t even reached his full potential, and it would not be surprising if he is able to further elevate his game within the next few years. For the Warriors, Russell could even prove to be a cornerstone superstar-caliber player, and sooner or later, might be the player a 31-year-old Steph Curry passes down the torch to.
If however, for some odd reason things do not work out for Russell and the Warriors, he will still be a valuable trade asset in the future. He recently just signed a four-year deal, so they will have a lot of time to figure things out. However, if all else fails, Golden State’s front office can easily shop him off on the trade market and get some valuable assets in exchange.
Whatever the case may be, it would be more prudent for the Dubs to take a wait-and-see approach with Russell. There have been so many developments within and outside the Warriors organization in the past month or so, and at this point, it seems that giving Russell a shot to prove his worth for the team has become an absolute must.