Despite entering his 19th year in the NBA and with more limited playing time, the Golden State Warriors are still expected to make a surprise call in naming Chris Paul as a starter to begin the 2023-24 season.
The Warriors made waves in early July when they pulled the plug on their ‘two-timeline’ experiment, shipping out Jordan Poole as part of a package to the Washington Wizards for the veteran point-guard in Paul.
Instantly, Dubs fans were skeptical of the fit. How would CP3 — a 38-year-old who thrives in a half-court setting where he, and only he, can dictate the tempo and flow of the game — mesh with a squad like the Warriors, who keep the ball moving, poking and probing the teeth of the defense until it inevitably makes a mistake.
Although many around the league dismissed the idea that Chris Paul would start for the Golden State Warriors, he indeed will according to Andscape’s Marc J. Spears.
“I do expect him to start, I do”, Marc J. Spears told Yahoo! Sports’ Vince Goodwill on his “Good Word” podcast earlier this week.
"“I think it’s in five-minute spurts. I don’t know that they really want his minutes to be high, but I think they’re gonna try it. I could be wrong, but that’s the gist I’m getting. This isn’t an opinion that he’s expected to start. It’s what I’m hearing. He’s never not started in his career.”"
In his 19 years as a pro, CP3 has never been named a reserve. He’s graciously transitioned out of the prime of his career, demonstrating his leadership on and off the court while maintaining his efficient style of offense at each stop along the way to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
Paul’s services as a floor-general have been critical at his last few destinations. He manned the backcourt alongside James Harden in Houston, balancing Harden’s iso-ball with his traditional pick-and-roll approach. Paul continued that trend in Oklahoma City, and almost exacted revenge against Harden’s Rockets in a seven-game battle during the 2020 “bubble” playoffs. In Phoenix, Paul led a menacing Suns offense with budding superstar Devin Booker as his two-guard.
Paul came up just short of his first NBA title in a thrilling six-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks the following campaign, but even at age 37, there appeared to be a pep in his step. However, Paul took a noticeable step back last season, averaging career-lows in points per game and steals per game. He struggled to keep up with the offense at times and he battled nagging groin and hip injuries that visibly slowed him down.
CP3’s dip in overall production was a cause for concern among the Suns fan base throughout the year, and most of the Warriors’ faithful has echoed that unsettlement amid his arrival in the Bay.
If Paul really is to start for the Warriors this season, what will his minutes look like? Part of the justification for the acquisition of an aging guard like Paul, is that he doesn’t have to see the floor for too many minutes to make his impact on the game.
Paul has one way of doing things, but that way is efficient and highly effective. He still possesses the ability to manipulate defenses like puppets on a string, hypnotizing the opposition with his tight handle, while changing paces on dime.
But where his intangibles are still on point, his physical tools have started to let him down. He is nowhere near the athlete he once was, and as an undersized guard he’s especially had to rely on his quickness during final stages of his career That said, CP3 is an asset to any offense and he remains a starting caliber player in the NBA.
Inserting Paul into the starting lineup would probably bump out Kevon Looney, making Draymond Green the starting center. We’ve seen the small-ball method work in the past, but it has its flaws. Going small will leave the Warriors susceptible to bigger, more athletic teams on defense and though they can both be scrappy, a Curry-Paul backcourt isn’t stopping anyone on it’s own. That’s a lot to ask of Green who isn’t getting any younger in his own right.
Let’s remember, being named a starter doesn’t mean that Paul will always share the floor with the first unit. In fact, many have speculated that CP3 will spend the majority of his minutes leading the second unit, providing a different look to counteract the Warriors up-tempo, free-flowing, offense.
Golden State’s system is one of a kind, and unlike most offenses, its parts aren’t interchangeable. But granting the players the freedom to innovate can get the Warriors in trouble, as it did during their second-round clash with the Los Angeles Lakers during last year’s playoffs.
Golden State’s motion offense was stifled by a more athletic, defensive-minded Lakers squad, and the Dubs ran out of options down the stretch of the series. Both Steph Curry and Steve Kerr expressed concern with the Warriors’ one-dimensional attack following the defeat.
Now with Chris Paul in the fold, Golden State can offer an alternative approach, led by the ‘Point God.’ He’s got plenty of pick-and-roll partners in Green, Looney, and another new addition in Dario Saric. The Warriors could also opt to close games with CP3 depending on the scenario, but when he’s out there with the B-team, Paul will be encouraged to enforce his style, and he has the pieces around him to do so.
Again, nothing is official yet, and there will be plenty of kinks for Steve Kerr and his coaching staff to work out during training camp which begins for the Warriors on October 2nd.