Warriors consolation prize for Kevin Durant leaving? D’Angelo Russell and others

Instead of allowing the Kevin Durant leave to the Brooklyn Nets for nothing, the Warriors executed a sign-and-trade that will land them D’Angelo Russell, Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier in return.

The main headliner, though, is Russell, who will be with the Warriors on a four-year, $117 million deal. He developed with Brooklyn the past two seasons eventually to became an All-Star point guard after spending his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers receiving mixed reviews for his consistency and maturity.

There are questions on how a Curry and Russell backcourt would work since both mostly operate as primary ball handlers. But both also function well as off-the-ball shooters. The Warriors also have added depth to their backcourt to account for Klay Thompson missed likely at least the first half of next season because of an injured ACL in his left knee.

Meanwhile, Napier is considered a serviceable backup point guard and Graham gives the Warriors some wing depth to account for Durant’s departure. The Warriors also traded Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday evening along with a 2024 first-round pick to shed salary on Iguodala’s one-year deal worth $17.2 million. They have an expensive backcourt with Curry ($40.2 million), Thompson ($32.7 million) and Russell ($27.2 million).

So what does this all mean? With the Warriors no longer appearing to be NBA championship favorites, the Warriors aren’t rebuilding. They are “D-Loading.” The Warriors could still make the NBA playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. Since that hinges though on Curry, Green and Klay Thompson playing at their best and healthy, the Warriors want financial flexibility to give them more spending power for next season.

In theory, the Warriors could trade Russell to another team before he signs his contract when the NBA moratorium ends on July 6. It seems hard to envision Russell agreeing to that, though. The Warriors could trade Russell six months from now, and they are aware how much a rising All-Star could yield in more talent and draft picks. The contracts for both Napier and Graham are non-guaranteed, allowing the Warriors to waive them without consequence.

What does this mean to the remaining roster? The Warriors still remain intent on re-signing Kevon Looney. They own his Bird Rights, which allow them to spend over the salary cap. They also see him as a foundational piece to their rotation. As for everyone else? It appears unlikely the Warriors would retain the rest of their free agents in DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko and Andrew Bogut. It also appears likely the Warriors will either waive Shaun Livingston or trade him since only $2 million of his $7.7 million contract is guaranteed so long as a move is made before July 10.

As of now, the Warriors currently have Curry, Thompson, Russell, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Jacob Evans, Damian Jones and Alfonzo McKinnie under contract. They also will eventually sign contracts to their two draft picks in Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall. With not accounting for the draft picks’ salaries, the Warriors currently have a payroll at $135,732,039. Not only is that above the salary cap set for $109,140,000 million. The Warriors are also above the luxury tax threshold at $132,627,000.

Because of this, the Warriors currently owe an additional $4,657,558 in luxury taxes and an another $7,762,597 in a repeater tax, a spending penalty for teams over the luxury tax in three of the past four years. The Warriors are not worried about paying the luxury tax, especially since they will have new revenue streams available next season at Chase Center. The Warriors want to avoid paying the repeater tax, though, so they have more purchasing power next season. As of now, the Warriors can only sign players with their taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.3 million as well as veteran’s minimum deals.

Either way, the Warriors became a dramatically different team over night. And it is not just because of Durant’s departure. It also because Durant helped facilitate a sign-and-trade.

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