The Golden State Warriors didn’t have many reasons to thank D’Angelo Russell during his short stint with the team. Russell missed 19 games for Golden State last season, and his Warriors tenure ended fittingly with a 41-point loss in which he recorded a -48 plus/minus.
After the disappointing experiment went south, the Warriors traded Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins and a top-three protected draft pick in 2021. So when the T-Wolves earned the No. 7 overall pick in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, the $24 million pick immediately conveyed to the Warriors.
And it’s all thanks to Russell.
D’Angelo Russell didn’t fit with the Warriors
When the Warriors completed a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets to acquire Russell in 2019, the franchise believed he could bring their guard-heavy lineup to a new level. Russell added another scoring threat who could take defenders one-on-one and space the floor even more for Stephen Curry to operate. Golden State clearly had faith in Russell to become a starter for the next few seasons, as the team gave him a four-year, $117 million contract upon signing.
But the Warriors quickly realized they made a mistake.
In the 33 games Russell played with Golden State, the team went 8-25. The Warriors finished the season with a league-worst 15-50 record.
Now, it’s not fair to put all the blame on Russell’s shoulders. He played the majority of the season without Curry and Klay Thompson in the lineup, and even Draymond Green missed some time. However, for nearly $30 million a year, the Warriors hoped Russell could at least keep them afloat while their superstars recovered. Instead, Russell was more interested in stat-padding than winning games and making his younger teammates better.
General manager Bob Myers saw enough halfway through the season, so he flipped Russell for Wiggins and a top-three protected draft pick in 2021.
The Warriors now have a $24 million reason to thank Russell
The Warriors had many reasons to pay close attention to Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery. They owned the No. 14 slot in the lottery order, and the Timberwolves’ pick would convey to them if it fell out of the top three. With Minnesota holding the sixth spot in the order, it was likely the pick would flip to Golden State this year.
Unsurprisingly, the first card showed the Warriors for the No. 14 pick. A few slots later, the Timberwolves popped up at No. 7, giving the Warriors two top picks in this year’s draft.
The 14th slot is more of an upside pick, but the Warriors have a chance to grab a future All-Star with the seventh selection. They would’ve been stuck with Russell and his $117 million for two more years, but now they have an opportunity to build toward the future with a rookie on a possible four-year deal worth just over $24 million.
Warriors fans never thought they’d be thanking Russell for his services, but here we are.
What are the Warriors’ options at No. 7 overall?
The Warriors will have a variety of options at the top of the 2021 draft board. They could stick with the pick and take the best player available who fits the current roster, or they could package the pick with James Wiseman and other assets to either move up in the draft or trade for another superstar.
If Golden State does keep the pick, a few names to know would be Florida State forward Scottie Barnes, Duke forward Jalen Johnson, Tennessee guard Keon Johnson, and UCONN guard James Bouknight.
But with Curry, Thompson, and Green all now in their 30s, the Warriors might be better off gunning for another star in an effort to get back to the NBA Finals next season. It sure will be interesting to watch what Myers decides to do over the next few months.