After having a stranglehold on the NBA for the past five years, it seems as though the Golden State Warriors have finally fallen back down to earth. The combination of Kevin Durant leaving for Brooklyn and Klay Thompson out for at least most of the upcoming season with a torn ACL left general manager Bob Myers scrambling for answers so that his team could remain competitive, and what he did certainly shocked the rest of the league. Myers was determined to not lose KD for nothing, so once he heard the news that he wasn’t coming back he started contacting Brooklyn to conduct a sign-and-trade. The two sides ended up finalizing a deal that sent Durant and a future first round pick to Brooklyn for the rights to all-star point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell’s fit in Golden State will be tricky to figure out. With the expectation that he will start next to Stephen Curry at least until Thompson returns from injury, the Warriors will still be fielding one of the more offensively explosive backcourts in the entire league. However, there are some very real problems that they will need to sort out. A big reason that Russell broke out with the Nets last season was that he had the ball in his hands a lot, which can be shown by his usage rate of 31.9% that was the 6th highest in NBA a year ago. It is possible that Curry will be asked play more off-the-ball, something that he can certainly do, but it feels like Curry has a big chip on his shoulder going into this season and will want a big year to show for it.
The fit between Curry and Russell is even more suspect on the defensive side of the court. Even though their respective coaches last season where able to somewhat hide each player’s defensive limitations within their overall scheme, that job will become a lot harder for head coach Steve Kerr as he will have two defensive liabilities out on the court at the same time.
Looking away from the backcourt, the Warriors are bringing back both Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, and both are expected to have expanded roles. The Warriors will likely run less isolation offense with the departure of Durant, putting Draymond back into his comfort zone facilitating the offense and pushing in transition. Looney’s defensive versatility and hustle on offense was crucial to the Warriors success last season, and he will be asked to do more of that going forward. Golden State also brought in center Willie Cauley Stein who will see lots of action as an athletic big who can grab rebounds and protect the rim.