D’Angelo Russell went bonkers Friday night. It came in an overtime loss at Minnesota, but there are going to be a lot of losses for the Warriors this season. There almost certainly will not, however, be another stat line like the one posted by Russell, who hung a career-hight 52 points on the Wolves to go with nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
He took 37 shots.
He made seven 3-pointers.
He ran pick and roll over, and over, and over again.
At this point, Steve Kerr, the most pick-and-roll-resistant coach in the league, has no choice but to simply put the ball in Russell’s hands and let him dictate pretty much everything through the pursuit of his own scoring. It is interesting, though, that he wasn’t on board with doing the same for Stephen Curry when he was healthy, opting to continue with the egalitarian structure that proved so successful when the Warriors had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup.
I suppose that’s neither here nor there given the state of the Warriors, who are almost certainly headed for the lottery, and there is a lot of context to the different deployments of these two players. Russell doesn’t get guarded like Curry. Russell is younger and Kerr isn’t worried about wearing him down.
But it is worth thinking about, at least, for when Curry comes back, whether that’s later this season or next. If Russell isn’t traded by then, will the Warriors continue to put the ball in Russell’s hands like this while Curry runs around off the ball? Will they recognize the success that Russell is having and give Curry the same opportunity? Will they go for the balance between the two that sounds good in theory but is easier said than done. How these two will co-exist, or if they even can, remains a serious question that has yet to be answered.
Speaking of Curry, let’s get back to Russell’s line against the Wolves — which was a line not even Curry has ever put up. In fact, per StatMuse, you have to go back to Rick Barry, in 1978, to find the last Warriors player to do what Russell did across the board Friday night.
Russell has such a great pace to his game, and he was in completely control all night against the Wolves. As you can see in the highlights above, he made DEEP threes. He of course got to his mid-range kill spots over and over. He had a couple nice cuts. Down the stretch of the fourth quarter he scored six straight buckets for the Warriors, all jumpers, and he really didn’t force any bad shots, which might be the most impressive thing of all given how scorching hot he was.
If the Warriors do have a quiet intention of at least exploring a trade for Russell, then this was a great time for him to have a huge game. The Wolves have long been considered a prime suitor. They were very interested in signing Russell as a free agent before Golden State swooped in. Minnesota needs a young point guard to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns moving forward. They had to seriously love what they saw from Russell Friday night.