As we approach the 2020 NBA trade deadline, one of the All-Star-level players who has been rumored about the most to this point has been Golden State Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, who many expect to get dealt either by Thursday or, at the latest, over the offseason. It’s not because of his play that he’s a prime trade candidate, as the 23-year-old ball-handler is averaging 23.8 points and 6.3 assists per contest on 43.3/38.3/78.0 shooting splits, but rather simply because the Warriors project to have two All-NBA guards in their rotation next year, making Russell an expendable asset.
HoopsHype recently discussed Russell’s trade value and where he might end up with various league executives, and the responses varied quite a bit.
One Eastern Conference general manager told us: “D’Angelo Russell should be able to bring back a lot in a trade because you are getting a guy with cost certainty who’s under contract for three more years after this one and he’s still very young.”
Though age and contract certainly have to be factored in here, the fact that Russell is earning a max salary worth four years and $117.3 million might actually be a hindrance when it comes to moving him. As of now, Russell projects to be the 35th-highest paid player in basketball next season, but none of the catch-all advanced metrics, including Value Over Replacement Player (where he ranks 75th), Box Plus/Minus (55th) or Win Shares per 48 Minutes (146th!) have him producing at anywhere near that level this year.
Despite the advanced metrics, though, Russell is still held in high esteem around the Association, as one NBA executive told HoopsHype that he could see the Warriors netting multiple first-round picks in a deal for the five-year veteran while another said a Russell trade could return a player and a pick to Golden State.
That probably has to do with the fact that Russell is such an effective high-volume point producer, one who ranks as a “very good” scorer coming off of screens, in isolation and out of dribble hand-offs while producing “excellent” value as a spot-up shooter, per Synergy Sports. In the modern NBA, where such a premium is placed on offense, particularly through shooting, Russell can absolutely be considered a game-changing talent.
As far as potential landing spots for Russell, there were a few teams that consistently popped up in responses from league execs.
One Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype: “With D-Lo, I could see a lot of teams at least discussing him. I could see the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons all trying to see if there would be a deal – and probably some other teams too.”
Another responded to us: “Minnesota is possible and, I agree, they make sense. If not Minnesota, New York could be a possible landing spot.”
Finally, a third league exec told HoopsHype: “Russell could return a player and a pick. The Timberwolves are being linked to him, but they would have to include a lot more to complete a deal. It would probably include Robert Covington, but they’d need to add a lot more and the money doesn’t work.”
It’s no secret the Timberwolves desperately covet Russell, not just for his fit with the team (and the fit is definitely there, as Minnesota has badly needed a backcourt upgrade since Sam Cassell was there), but because of his friendship with the team’s best – and most important – player, Karl-Anthony Towns. There have been multiple occasions this season where the All-NBA-caliber big man has displayed his frustration with the constant losing, so the Timberwolves would be wise to find a way to improve their roster before he legitimately becomes disgruntled in Minnesota.
Could Andrew Wiggins and draft capital be enough for Golden State to accept a Russell trade? Wiggins has been a disappointment to this point in his career, but the Warriors have done a great job recently of getting the most out of their players, as was the case with Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, who all became productive role players this year for the Dubs. If Golden State is able to work similar magic with Wiggins, they’d be filling a huge need on the wing to play alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Meanwhile, the Knicks likewise make sense for Russell, as New York is severely lacking firepower in their backcourt, and has been since the days of Allan Houston, who was their last ball-handler to be named an All-Star all the way back in 2000-01. There is also a report that Russell was interested in signing with the Knicks this past summer as a way to stick it to the Brooklyn Nets for choosing to replace him with Kyrie Irving, which presents another interesting dynamic in this potential pairing.
New York can offer Golden State a few different interesting young players on rookie-scale deals, like Frank Ntilikina or Kevin Knox, for Russell, though the one the Warriors undoubtedly would covet the most is shot-blocking menace Mitchell Robinson, who’d be the best center they’ve had since an in-prime Andrew Bogut. The Knicks probably wouldn’t want to part with Robinson, though.
Regardless, the Warriors don’t have to rush things here. If they don’t get any offers they deem worthwhile (and they still might, as the Timberwolves seem pretty desperate to land Russell), they can just hold onto their big offseason acquisition and try to move him over the offseason as many thought they’d do all along.
One league executive told HoopsHype: “To be honest, I think D’Angelo gets moved over the summer – not right now. The Warriors may try to package Russell and their 2020 first-round pick for a star since they’ll be in win-now mode next year.”
Holding on to Russell until then could also give the Warriors a chance to see how he fits alongside Curry, who is reportedly returning from a hand injury in March, giving Golden State around a month to see what they have in a Curry-Russell pairing. If they like what they see, maybe they keep Russell for the long haul.
But if they don’t, expect the market for Russell to heat up again over the offseason.
HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy contributed to this report.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.