Since the Golden State Warriors acquired Chris Paul in June, the overriding question has always been — will he start? Plenty of fans have showcased hesitancy towards that idea, while the veteran point-guard himself has resisted the notion of a guaranteed sixth-man role.
Many arguments have suggested the Warriors can’t start a three-guard lineup with Paul, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While that’s fair based on history, it isn’t in the present as we enter the 2023-24 season.
It’s time fans and NBA analysts begin viewing Klay Thompson as a forward rather than a guard for the Golden State Warriors at this point of his career.
For the first time in his career, Thompson was primarily a small forward as opposed to a shooting-guard last season, according to Basketball Reference. That’s who the 33-year-old is now based off some necessity, but mostly the defensive decline understandably seen since his two major injuries.
Some fans, including this one, have long maintained that Thompson is still a shooting-guard. The sooner we get over that idea and accept he’s now a small-forward, the sooner we can appreciate that starting the Paul-Curry-Thompson trio isn’t all that abnormal.
The growing change in perspective may start this Saturday against the Lakers, with head coach Steve Kerr confirming Thompson will start at the three alongside Paul, Curry, Wiggins and Kevon Looney. Given Wiggins is Golden State’s primary wing/perimeter defender, Thompson will actually be guarding power-forwards on the defensive end.
"“Klay would guard the four-man. He’s so physically strong, he’s so used to guarding post-up players after switches. We’re thinking Klay can guard as a four this year. We’re going to put him in coverage where he’s having to defend pick-and-roll as a four,” Kerr said in Tuesday’s press conference."
When Paul, Curry and Thompson are on the floor together this season, we need to remind ourselves that it isn’t a three-guard lineup. Does it play an element in the whole Paul starting v sixth man debate? Sure. But it’s not the most poignant factor.
The more pressing issue is having a 6’6″ Draymond Green as your permanent starting center. That’s the factor that may make Paul as a starter simply unviable, particularly against bigger teams.
In fact, the starting lineup Kerr outlaid for Saturday actually makes some sense. Green will undoubtedly be a loss to start the season, especially with his defensive versatility, but Looney will add size and rebounding, while Paul will make up for the ball-handling and playmaking.