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Why the Warriors are not trading D’Angelo Russell

Vincent Frank
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Golden State Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade for Kevin Durant, there’s been talk about them flipping him.

This makes absolutely no sense. General manager Bob Myers and Co. pulled a rabbit out of their hats by picking up the young All-Star guard.

No matter if he’s a genuine fit with Stephen Curry in the backcourt, the Warriors are going to see this thing through. If it proves to be a failure, the Warriors could trade Russell next offseason.

It’s not happening until then. Here’s why.

Best short-term option: Golden State needed someone like Russell.

  • Not only was Russell the best option the capped-out Warriors had in free agency, he was their best overall fit.
  • Kevin Durant is gone. Klay Thompson is out through at least January. This was key to the Warriors’ decision-making process.
  • As we saw in the NBA Finals, opposing defenses can contain Stephen Curry without another shooter on the court.
  • Russell shot 37 percent from three-point range last season. Teams can no longer go Box-and-1 against Curry.

The star power: Russell isn’t Kevin Durant, he’s different.

  • This is key. Golden State is moving into the brand new Chase Center in San Francisco. With that comes an increase in ticket prices.
  • These Warriors — and their unlimited budget — still want to be the hottest show in Northern California.
  • Losing KD and with Thompson injured, that might not have been the case without another star.
  • Russell brings that star power, albeit less than Durant. But it does change the entire dynamic heading into next season.

An off-season trade is impossible: People get lost in the details.

  • Once this three-team trade becomes official Saturday, the Warriors can’t move Russell until at least January 15.
  • Sure the trade won’t be made official until July 6. That leaves some wriggle room. But short of getting another team involved, it’s done.
  • Even if that were to happen, Golden State likely doesn’t see a better option out there right now.

D’Angelo Russell is very good: There’s a reason he was the No. 2 overall pick.

  • Lost in the shock of this trade is the fact that Russell is among the best young guards in the NBA.
  • Here’s a dude that averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists while leading Brooklyn to a surprise playoff appearance last season. He’s upped his game big time since leaving the Lakers.
  • Still only 23 years old, there’s a lot of room for growth in Northern California. That’s not lost on the Warriors.

The value will be there: Golden State can move Russell next summer.

  • Russell is going to be the Warriors No. 2 scoring option behind Curry until Thompson returns.
  • Short of the youngster taking a step back this season, his value will be even higher next summer.
  • We’re looking at a weak 2020 free-agent class around the NBA. If Russell continues his upward trajectory, the Warriors will be able to get a whole lot for him.

This is point is pretty big. Russell might not fit well in a three-guard lineup with Curry and Thompson. By acquiring him, Golden State is hoping to make it work. There’s reason for optimism here.

But in the event that it does not work out, the Warriors have a real opportunity to land key pieces in a Russell trade next July.

In addition to Russell being on a max deal, Golden State boasts a trade exception of $17.5 million after sending Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. These are two key assets for the Warriors to go big or go home.

Pure speculation here, but the possibility of landing a Bradley Beal or another young star could then be in the cards. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks take a step back this season. The Warriors are already interested in him.

At that point, the reigning NBA MVP would have just one year remaining on his contract. Could that set up a blockbuster trade similar to the deal that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers last month? Stranger things have indeed happened.

Makes Warriors title contender: The downfall of this dynasty is premature.

  • Golden State won’t be odds-on favorites to win the NBA title like they have been the past four seasons.
  • But once Klay returns from injury (likely February), the Warriors will field four All-Stars. That’s among the best core groups in the NBA.
  • GM Bob Myers and Co. were not about to just give in. By adding Russell, they are looking at both the 2019-20 season and to the future.
  • It only makes sense to retain Russell through at least next season and see where the chips might fall.

The Warriors were lucky and brilliant to be able to add someone of Russell’s ilk when it looked like they were going to lose Durant for nothing.

There’s absolutely no reason to believe this team is simply going to flip him for future assets ahead of next season.

Golden State wants to see how the Russell-Curry-Klay trio will work. If it’s proven to be a failure or the possibility of adding a bigger star with the assets they have come up, the Warriors will consider it next summer.

But it’s not happening before then.