As the NBA offseason continues, the Golden State Warriors find themselves in a unique situation. With the loss of Jordan Poole and James Wiseman this year, they have given up two pieces of what many thought would be the franchise’s future. After re-signing Draymond Green to a four-year, $100 million contract and trading for Chris Paul (who will be getting paid $30 million this season), they haven’t exactly set themselves up for the future. One of the major decisions they must make revolves around the potential starting lineup for the upcoming season.
Small Ball = The Answer? Historically, the Warriors have excelled with their small-ball lineups. This fast-paced, high-scoring approach was made possible by the greatest shooting backcourt of all time: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, mixed in with the defense and playmaking ability of Draymond Green. However, with the addition of Chris Paul, the Warriors would be adding one of the best facilitators in NBA history to this trio.
A potential lineup the Warriors could floor next season would see Chris Paul at the point guard, Steph Curry at shooting guard, Klay at small forward, Andrew Wiggins at the four, and Draymond at center. Chris Paul showed last season in Phoenix that he wasn’t afraid to let the three-ball fly and has made efforts to incorporate more shot-taking into his play style because teams had become comfortable leaving him open at the perimeter. With four capable shooters, three fantastic playmakers, and two very solid defenders, do not be surprised to see head coach Steve Kerr experiment with variations of this lineup very early in the year.
Chris Paul’s Impact on Spacing and Playmaking: Chris Paul has long been hailed as one of the league’s best floor generals, renowned for his exceptional playmaking and court vision. Paul has the third-most assists in NBA history, he is first all-time in assist-to-turnover ratio, and has averaged nine-point-five assists per game over his 18 NBA seasons.
His ability to facilitate and find open teammates would undoubtedly be something special to the prolific Golden State offense. By sharing the court with Curry and Thompson, Paul’s presence could create even more space for his sharpshooting teammates, and if defenses want to focus all of their attention on stopping the splash bros, Chris Paul has shown he is capable of lulling teams to sleep with his three-level scoring. However, implementing this trio together requires careful consideration, as it may disrupt the team’s current chemistry and dynamics.
Will Old Conflicts Create New Problems? Throughout their careers, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green have engaged in intense matchups and heated altercations. Chris Paul’s rivalry with the Warriors has lasted over three franchises: the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Phoenix Suns.
Despite being new teammates, Draymond Green just stated last week on Patrick Beverly’s podcast that, as he has made clear before, he does not like Chris Paul, and that is not all going to go away just because they’re on the same team now. Of course, Draymond did clarify that he looks forward to talking with Paul and working past these previous issues, but for the moment, these comments certainly create an interesting climate in that Golden State locker room. This potential for friction in the locker room must be addressed, as rumors have also come out recently that Draymond Green and 20-year-old Jonathan Kuminga have “no relationship”. Regardless, these are professional athletes and adults who should have the maturity and willingness to prioritize team success over personal rivalries. Much will depend on Steve Kerr’s leadership and how smooth his team’s transition will be.
Draymond Green’s History of Conflicts: The Warriors have faced internal challenges in the past, almost always concerning Draymond Green. It’s no secret he has had a long track record of fighting and even injuring NBA players. There was Black Griffin’s neck in 2013, Steven Adams’ groin in 2016, Lebron James’ eye in 2018, James Harden’s eye the following year, and, most recently, stomping on Domantas Sabonis’ chest in last year’s playoffs.
However, the most impactful of his conflicts are the ones with his teammates, like Kevin Durant and Jordan Poole. It was one thing to exchange words with KD, but punching a young player like Jordan Poole in the face created more problems than what we saw on the surface. But the Warriors’ decision to bring Green back and trade Poole to a new team shows they believe in his ability to grow and learn from this mistake. Bringing in a strong personality like Chris Paul demands careful management to ensure a harmonious locker room environment.
Chris Paul’s Leadership of the Warriors Bench Unit: While Paul has always been a starter, his experience and leadership could be even better for the Warriors’ bench unit. A steady and composed floor general with a young, fast, and eager group of players can provide stability and maintain high-level play when Curry or Thompson are resting. The Warriors have plenty of young talent on their bench, including Kuminga, Gary Payton II, Moses Moody, and, potentially, Lester Quinones, who can pick up the pace of play and complement Paul’s slower approach to the game. The Warriors also recently signed former Phoenix Sun teammate Dario Saric, bringing size to the second unit and familiarity for Paul. While their potential is sky-high with small ball lineups, CP3 off the bench would allow the team to sustain a competitive edge throughout the game, even during critical moments when star players are on the bench.
Offense vs. Defense: Striking the Right Balance: The combination of Curry, Thompson, and Paul in the starting lineup could significantly bolster the Warriors’ offensive capabilities, creating a “Big Three” with unparalleled scoring potential. Teams would have to essentially pick their poison and hope for a missed shot. However, the team must weigh this advantage against potential defensive vulnerabilities. Andrew Wiggins is a hard competitor and a defender capable of guarding some of the league’s best wings. Draymond Green is a former defensive player of the year. But is this enough to match up with the league’s most fierce competition, like Phoenix, Denver, or Boston? Klay Thompson has lost some of his elite-level defending after two season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Stephen Curry has always been hunted by opposing offenses, and at this stage in his career, Chris Paul might not possess the same defensive prowess he once had. Striking the right balance between offensive firepower and defensive stability will be crucial for the Warriors’ overall success.
Chris Paul’s Age, Injury History, and Declining Stats: Despite Chris Paul’s hall-of-fame resume, concerns loom about his age and injury history. At 38 years old, he faces the challenge of maintaining high-level performance in a long and grueling NBA season. Perhaps the argument of wear and tear and overall endurance is enough of a factor for the Warriors to have Paul come off the bench. It’s clear that the Warriors see something left in Chris Paul’s tank for his 19th year, otherwise, they would not have traded 24-year-old Jordan Poole for Chris Paul’s $30 million dollar contract coming off a groin injury in last year’s playoffs. Injuries have been the biggest obstacle in Chris Paul’s seasons, especially in the playoffs—which many believe is the reason he has not won a championship yet.
As a member of the Houston Rockets in 2017, Paul sustained a hamstring injury in the Western Conference Finals after taking a three to two lead on the Warriors. This resulted in him missing games six and seven with the Rockets losing both, ending with another Warriors championship. In 2021, Paul made it to his first NBA Finals with the Suns and yet again, he re-aggravated a shoulder injury and played through an injured left wrist that impacted his ability to handle and distribute the ball. The following year, he played through a quad injury in the seven-game series defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, and last year he missed three games en route to the Denver Nuggets eliminating his team from the playoffs. While age is a factor, the extended minutes he played as a starter could have contributed, so it is yet to be seen if more rest will lead to a healthier Chris Paul.
Championship Aspirations: The Warriors organization, players, and fans believe they can win a championship every year. Only in recent years has that confidence wavered a bit, and this upcoming season is probably the biggest question mark in their dynasty. Their roster is not very different from their 2022 championship team. However, age and durability are beginning to catch up to this squad, and their move for Paul is clearly a “last dance/win-now” move. They’ve sacrificed future building blocks for a veteran with realistically only a couple of years left in his career. The addition of Chris Paul, if implemented wisely, could elevate the team back to the mountain top of the NBA as champions. His leadership, playmaking ability, and basketball IQ would undoubtedly complement the core of Curry, Green, and Thompson. Nevertheless, the rest of the NBA has caught up to the Warriors, and they must address potential weaknesses and challenges to optimize their chances of competing for another NBA title.
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