Golden StateWarriors

Adding D'Angelo Russell was best Warriors could do with Kevin Durant gone


The Warriors entered Sunday with the overwhelming possibility that Kevin Durant -- the crown jewel of their free-agent pursuits -- would leave the Bay.

When that possibility became reality, the team acted quickly, reportedly acquiring Nets guard D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade deal after Durant had announced his intention to join Brooklyn.

For six months, the Warriors had grappled with the prospect of losing Durant. Six hours after he did, they had perhaps the best possible consolation prize.

Russell -- who reportedly agreed to a four-year, $117 million max contract in the deal -- averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 81 games last season, as he made his first NBA All-Star team. His performance also earned him the right to negotiate a max deal with the Nets, but with the team pursuing a Durant-Kyrie Irving partnership, Russell's days in Brooklyn seemed to be numbered. And they were after Durant and Irving both chose the Nets.

Russell joins the Warriors as they find themselves at a crossroads. Three weeks before the sign-and-trade, Klay Thompson tore his ACL, prompting a rehabilitation that could extend to next March. With most of Thompson's season shelved and Durant now gone to the East, the Warriors are left to figure out how to make up the 47 points per game the two combined to provide. Additionally, the Warriors were forced to trade Andre Iguodala -- a pillar of Golden State's championship dynasty -- to the Memphis Grizzlies to help absorb Russell's salary.

Worse, with the Warriors currently just $18.2 million below the league's hard cap, according to salary-cap expert Nate Duncan, and nine roster spots left to fill, they'll have trouble rounding out their team.

For Russell, this is the next phase of his career: temporary co-star to Stephen Curry. With Thompson out for much of the season, and the remainder of the Warriors' roster uncertain, Russell must assume a sizable slice of the offensive burden.

It's just the latest chapter in the Russell reclamation project. Three years ago, while with the Lakers, he recorded a video of teammate Nick Young admitting infidelity. The following season, despite Russell averaging 15 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, then-Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson opted to trade the guard to Brooklyn, citing maturity concerns.

[RELATED: What Steph said about Russell in 2016

In just two years, Russell has shed the ills of those first two seasons, averaging 19 points, 6.3 assists and nearly four rebounds, and helping the Nets advance the playoffs last season.

On the first morning of free agency, the Warriors faced prospect of a life without Durant on their roster. By the end of the night, Durant was gone, but the Warriors regrouped and took perhaps the best option available.

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