In an 11th hour twist, the Warriors are acquiring guard D’Angelo Russell from the Nets, as Kevin Durant’s decision to leave for Brooklyn is being turned into a sign and trade. Golden State will reportedly acquire Russell, Traveon Graham, and Shabazz Napier in the deal, which has Durant headed to the Nets. The Dubs are also reportedly sending Andre Iguodala to the Grizzlies, as well as a first round pick in order to fit Russell under sign-and-trade salary rules. You can catch up on Durant coverage elsewhere on The Crossover, for now, let’s grade this deal for the Warriors.
On one hand, I understand not wanting to lose Durant for nothing. But this move feels slightly panicky to me for Golden State. The Warriors had to make some moves this summer to buttress the roster, with Durant out and Klay Thompson injured. But Russell’s fit alongside Stephen Curry is a concern. That is going to be a very undersized and disadvantaged backcourt defensively, and with Iguodala gone, the Dubs are going to have basically no one as a perimeter stopper.
It’s hard to know what was on the market, but did the Warriors even try to move Iguodala (and a pick) to a contender? What about using Shaun Livingston’s unguaranteed salary as bait? There were routes for Golden State to add talent, albeit not top-tier talent, to the roster. The Dubs, as a completely capped out team, were basically almost always going to have to take on some long-term salary this summer if they wanted to make moves. Taking on a max guy in Russell is dicey, especially when he plays the same position as the team’s best player. (Graham and Napier do have some value here, by the way. Napier is a solid backup guard who can shoot. Graham is going to be needed to soak up minutes at forward.)
Russell and Curry have some potential offensively, but so much of Russell’s success in Brooklyn was tied to him handling the ball at the top of the key and running pick and rolls. That’s basically the antithesis of the Warriors’ motion offense. Steve Kerr will obviously adjust his approach this season, but paying a max salary to have Russell stand off the ball or feeding him at the expense of Steph both seem like subpar options.
The trade also sets off a bunch of other complications for the Warriors, who are hard capped as a result of the sign-and-trade. With three max guys on the roster, and a decent sized contract for Draymond Green, they’ll also lose some depth as a result of this deal, as outlined by Nate Duncan here:
It is possible that Russell has value as a trade chip down the line, which is perhaps the hidden value of this deal. When Thompson returns, D-Lo could become expendable. At that point, Golden State may be able to turn Russell into multiple pieces, and finally recoup some of the depth lost with Durant’s departure. Remember, D-Lo was widely coveted headed into this free-agency period. A future move could make this trade a home run (and quite a bit of shrewd management), but that’s a long way away. For now, the Russell trade may further cloud what was an already complicated future for the Warriors.