The Golden State Warriors have every reason to start D’Angelo Russell, but this move will hurt their defense.
Pulling off a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell on the first night of free agency was as clutch as it gets for the Golden State Warriors. Allowing Kevin Durant to walk for nothing in return is the type of move that can crush a franchise.
In exchange for their two-time Finals MVP, the Warriors received a young All-Star. Russell emerged last year averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game. His presence will help the Dubs mightly as they attempt to compete for a title.
Having Russell on the floor next to Stephen Curry is the franchises best option. Without a second scorer next to Curry, opposing defenses will load up and trap him to death. We already saw how effective this can be when the Toronto Raptors used a box-and-one defense to neutralize Curry in key moments during the NBA Finals.
However, this may only be the case for half of the season. Once Klay Thompson returns from his ACL injury, the Warriors will have to seriously consider bringing Russell off of the bench in order to preserve their defense.
Curry has a high-defensive IQ, but he lacks the physical tools needed to have a positive impact on this end of the floor. Meanwhile, Russell is below average in both categories, making him a detriment on the defensive end.
Playing both Curry and Russell at the same time puts the Warriors defense in jeopardy. While their offense might outweigh their defensive woes, there is no telling how this will play out during the postseason.
When Thompson returns, he will be tasked with covering up both Curry and Russell on defense. This is a tough challenge for a player coming off of a serious knee injury.
Seeing as how the Warriors are already lacking a backup point guard, bringing Russell off of the bench is a solid idea. With Thompson back in the lineup to help Curry, D-Lo could dominate with the second unit.
Of course, he would also receive minutes during the closing minutes of games when his playmaking and scoring abilities are most needed. His defensive woes will be a trade-off the Dubs need to make.