In a move that stunned the NBA world, All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell will soon be a Golden State Warrior.
Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the deal, in which the Brooklyn Nets will sign-and-trade Russell to the Warriors on a four-year, $117 million max contract, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Russell's departure from Brooklyn was expected after the Nets agreed to sign Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan. With teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks all boasting max or near-max cap space, Russell ending up on a Warriors team with zero cap room didn't seem like a possibility.
Golden State could potentially trade Russell down the road, as Marc Stein of the New York Times noted on the Dan Patrick Show. The Warriors may view him as nothing more than compensation for Durant, as the two-time Finals MVP otherwise would have walked out the door for nothing.
For now, Russell joins Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the next (slightly weird) chapter of the Warriors dynasty.
Winner: Golden State Warriors' Championship Hopes
The Warriors already knew they'd be without Thompson for much of the 2019-20 season after he tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Even if Durant re-signed, he'd be out for the entire 2019-20 campaign while rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles.
Getting back to the Finals seemed even less likely after the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, the Utah Jazz brought in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic and teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers remain strong.
Finally, the West seemed wide-open as the Warriors dynasty began to fade away.
Not so fast.
Russell gives the Warriors the scoring punch they'll need to navigate much of the regular season without Thompson. The 23-year-old guard averaged a career-high 21.1 points, 7.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 36.9 percent from three for the Nets last season, leading them to the playoffs.
The Russell-Curry fit may be awkward at first, but both players are capable of playing on or off the ball. When Thompson returns, he'll likely see more time as a small forward, something his 6'7", 215-pound frame should be able to handle without issue.
The Warriors didn't have any cap space after re-signing Thompson, so their acquisition of Russell keeps their otherwise fleeting title hopes alive.
It also maintains their flexibility. Russell's contract is a movable asset as of Dec. 15, and early reports suggest the Warriors will be aggressive hunting for trade packages to optimally support their core stars. "It's just a matter of when," reports Stein.
Winner: Russell's Bank Account
While Russell was always going to get paid this summer, getting a max contract from any team was far from a lock.
Even though he was coming off a career year, injuries plagued Russell in his previous two seasons. Before 2018-19, he had never averaged more than 15.6 points and 5.2 assists, far from max-contract figures. Russell's 43.4 percent shooting last season, which ranked 28th among qualified guards, was a career high.
A deal worth $20 million annually seemed like a given, but getting his full $27.3 million max salary wasn't.
With this sign-and-trade to the Warriors, Russell is getting a four-year max. His only option to make more would have been a five-year max to stay with the Nets, a deal that would have totaled $158.25 million.
While Russell gets his bread, he'll still be the third-highest paid member of the Warriors backcourt. It does set him up for a monster contract in the summer of 2023, when he'll become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 27.
Winner: Draymond Green
In retrospect, Green daring Durant to leave Golden State back in November wasn't such a great idea.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Green told Durant something along the lines of: "We don't need you. We won without you. Leave."
Durant is now gone, but Russell's arrival may help Green save face. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick will also benefit from Green's playmaking ability, especially as defenses focus in on stopping Curry.
Green also may be a financial winner here.
The Warriors have now given Curry and Thompson a max contract, and they were reportedly willing to offer Durant a five-year, $221 million max despite his Achilles injury, per Stein.
That pattern of spending bodes well for Green's foray into unrestricted free agency next summer.
Playing on the final leg of a five-year, $82 million deal he signed in 2015, Green took less money at the time so the team could pursue Durant in the summer of 2016.
With everyone else around him getting maxed out, the Warriors shouldn't expect him to do the same this time around.
Green can sign his own five-year deal worth north of $200 million with the Warriors next summer. Russell's max deal is now another leveraging chip he can use if Golden State tries to offer him anything less.
Loser: Minnesota Timberwolves
Desperate to add young talent around Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves were scheduled to meet with Russell at the start of free agency, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Towns appeared ready to welcome Russell to Minnesota as well.
While the Timberwolves didn't have enough cap space to sign Russell outright, they were "increasingly confident increasingly confident they can make the necessary salary-cap moves to land him," according to Stein.
Towns and Russell were the first two picks of the 2015 NBA draft and would have been a dynamic scoring duo. The Wolves could have formed a potential Big Three after selecting Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver with the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft, giving Minnesota an elite young core to build around.
Instead, the Wolves are still stuck with the remaining four years and $122.2 million of Andrew Wiggins' contract and missed out on their biggest potential signing.
Loser: Andre Iguodala
Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade makes a team subject to the hard cap, which meant the Warriors needed to shed significant salary to bring in Russell.
Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP and six-year veteran of Golden State, wound up being the casualty.
The Warriors agreed to trade Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies in a cap-clearing move, also including a 2024 first-round pick (protected 1-4) that is top-one protected in 2025 and becomes unprotected in 2026 if not previously conveyed, per Wojnarowski.
It's unclear if the rebuilding Grizzlies will keep Iguodala or work toward a buyout and let him join a contender.
Even if he ends up on a team with championship aspirations, Iguodala's terrific run with the Warriors has come to an end at the expense of trading for Russell.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers (If They Don't Get Kawhi Leonard)
One problem with the Los Angeles Lakers waiting on a decision from Leonard? Most of the top backup plans have already found a new home.
If the Lakers can get Leonard, great. He's far better than Russell and would give them the best high-end collection of talent in the league.
If Leonard signs with the Raptors or Clippers, however, the Lakers won't have Russell to fall back on.
According to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers and Russell had mutual interest in reuniting and had made plans to meet in free agency. The Lakers need guards, and Russell would have been a great fit as a ball-handler to take pressure off of James.
Instead, Russell will join the Warriors, who remain among the Lakers' greatest challenges in a loaded Western Conference.