If Chris Paul is in the starting lineup for the Golden State Warriors on opening night, it will be a look that doesn’t sit favorably among most fans, particularly those already skeptical about his fit with the franchise.
When the 12-time All-Star was acquired by the Warriors in a draft day trade, the expectation was that he’d simply take the sixth man duties vacated by Jordan Poole. Yet since that point nearly three months ago, persistent conjecture on his role continues to simmer ahead of training camp.
Chris Paul’s potential place as a starter for the Golden State Warriors is a matter of perception more than it is on-court production.
Paul has publicly pushed against the assumption of a bench role, and most recently Andscape’s Marc J. Spears stated, “I do expect him to start”, adding that it’s what he’s been hearing rather than his own personal opinion on the matter.
In reality, arguing against Paul’s place in the starting lineup may be making a mountain out of a molehill in regard to on-court production. He could play the first four or five minutes, sub out for Kevon Looney, then re-enter and run the second-unit when Stephen Curry heads to the bench.
That could very well work effectively for Golden State. Either Paul remains a high-level point-guard capable of leading an NBA offense, or he’s a 38-year-old on the decline who isn’t going to have the impact the Warriors want or need. Whether he comes off the bench or not, there should be ample opportunity for everyone to evaluate the answer to that question.
The issue is less with whether Paul is a starting caliber player, and more on what it could represent in terms of his dynamic within the team. A starting role externally symbolizes the prospect of putting himself above his teammates, rather than selflessly taking on a bench role akin to what Andre Iguodala did at the start of the 2014-15 season.
A starting role would signify the ambition to upset the usual make-up of the team. Despite Golden State’s struggles last season, the five-man unit of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney was the best in the league. Why wish to change that?
A starting role would declare a 6’6″ Green as the Warriors’ starting center. Even if Looney played the same realm of minutes off the bench, that’s a full-time shift that sits askew despite the league’s push towards a smaller style of basketball in recent years.
After a training camp altercation seemingly ruined Golden State’s chances of back-to-back championship before it began, they can’t afford to begin this season with their wheels misaligned and with needless question marks. Starting Paul would begin a storyline that could unravel quickly if things don’t begin on the right foot.