In an NBA offseason brimming with blockbuster deals, perhaps the most surprising move wasn’t necessarily attached to the highest profile.
On a day that saw the Brooklyn Nets reach agreement with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Golden State Warriors stunned the NBA by trading with the Nets for All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell.
With the Warriors already employing arguably the greatest backcourt in NBA history, obvious questions arose. Where does another scoring guard fit in with Golden State?
Is there a long-term fit for D’Angelo Russell?
The short-term answer is clear. Klay Thompson will miss most of next season recovering from the ACL tear he suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Russell will slide in nicely next to Stephen Curry as Golden State moves into a new era of basketball in the Bay Area.
But when Thompson eventually returns, the Warriors will have three All-Star caliber players on big long-term deals. There will be two starting positions in the Golden State backcourt.
Something seemingly has to give, and most think that will be Russell, with speculation that Golden State intends to eventually use the 23-year-old guard as a trade chip down the line.
Let’s not trade Russell just yet
General manager Bob Myers pumped the breaks on that talk Monday afternoon.
Bob Myers on D’Angelo Russell: “We didn’t sign him with the intention of trading him” pic.twitter.com/ST9YNg6XTm
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 15, 2019
“I know it’s been written and speculated, and that’s fine. That’s what everybody’s job is to do,” Myers said. “We didn’t sign him with the intention of just trading him. We haven’t even seen him play in our uniform yet, and a lot of people have us trading him.
“That’s not how we’re viewing it. Let’s just see what we have. Let’s see what he is. Let’s see how he fits.”
That last part is key — the “let’s just see what we have” part.
Warriors jumped on an opportunity
The Warriors made the move because they saw a chance to improve their team. The avenues for Golden State to jump into the free-agent game as its rivals added players like Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook were slim.
They saw a chance to improve by adding an ascending All-Star and made a creative deal to do so. That it seems an odd fit for the long-term construction of their roster is a minor concern. Fortune favors the bold in the NBA, and Golden State declined to stand pat.
Golden State has revolutionized the game before
It’s difficult if not impossible to project what position the Warriors will be in this time next year in an NBA that’s constantly in flux. But they’ve revolutionized how basketball is played in the NBA once already. We’re not putting it past Golden State being the team to make a three-guard lineup work in a game that’s become increasingly positionless.
If that ends up being the case, the long-term implications for Golden State become clearer. Curry is 31. Russell is 23. If the Warriors can groom Russell to eventually succeed Curry, even better. That’s the long-term upside of the Russell deal for Golden State.
Maybe it won’t work
The downside is that it won’t work. That as valued as athletic scoring guards are in today’s NBA, three is still too many — the size liabilities will prove to be too much to overcome.
And if that ends up being the case, then fine. Golden State can then do what many are speculating now — ship Russell to another team in a deal to fill a more obvious roster need.
But for now, we have no idea what Russell in Golden State will look like. And for that reason, we’re agreeing with Myers. Let’s see what this looks like before shipping away an exciting young player who just joined a roster full of champions.
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