D'Angelo Russell's new chapter is unchartered territory for his NBA career.
The new Warriors guard was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft, joining a franchise coming off of Year 2 of what would become a six-season playoff drought. He was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, after they had combined to win 41 games during his first two seasons in the league. Russell helped guide the Nets back to the postseason after a three-year absence last season, his best as a professional.
After the Nets brought in Kyrie Irving and former Warrior Kevin Durant this summer at the onset of free agency, Russell joined Golden State in a sign-and-trade. Following four seasons in cities with low expectations, Russell now is on a team which has made it to each of the last five NBA Finals and won three. He is embracing the challenge.
"I think you can only get better from it," Russell told GQ's Kevin Lincoln in an interview published Tuesday. "When you’re going to a championship organization, being around Hall of Fame players and Hall of Fame coaches, it forces you to be that level, too. You are what you're around. I’m a believer in that. I think I have nothing but knowledge to learn from being around all those guys."
The Warriors still have coach Steve Kerr and franchise cornerstones Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but Golden State's 2019-20 season has the potential to be much different than its previous five. Thompson is recovering from tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and the Warriors are no longer clear-cut title favorites. The Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz all loaded up this summer, and the presence of Anthony Davis (Lakers), Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) in Golden State's own division alone threatens the Warriors' superiority in the Western Conference.
As a result, Russell's fit is one to watch next season. A smooth integration into the starting backcourt in Thompson's absence -- and then alongside him and Curry when Thompson returns from injury -- could keep the Warriors formidable. Any extended growing pains, however, and Golden State is looking at a season like they haven't experienced in recent memory.
Despite all of that uncertainty, more is expected of the Warriors than has been of any team Russell has played on in his career. All things considered, he doesn't think that's a bad place to be.
"[It] could easily be a thing where you go to a situation that’s worse than the situation you were in," Russell continued. "That’s another part of being on the high side of free agency, since it could easily go the other way."