Steve Kerr recently referred to it as ‘the first point of business’ for the Warriors entering the 2023-24 season, and rightly so. Defense has been the staple of every successful Golden State team across the Kerr era, yet it plummeted last season in the face of some chemistry issues and lackadaisical performances on the road.
The Warriors were second in defensive rating during their 2021-22 championship season. In fact, they’ve been top two for defense in three of their four recent championship years. Last season they slipped to 14th, resulting in a sixth-placed finish in the West and eventually the second-round series loss to the Lakers.
The defensive unit we see in the preseason opener will be different to what we’ve seen in the past. Chris Paul comes in and replaces arguably last season’s worst defender in Jordan Poole — that should help even if Paul is 38-years-old and six years removed from the last of his nine All-NBA Defense selections.
Paul’s inclusion does slide Klay Thompson to the three, and defensively Kerr confirmed he’ll play at the four with Andrew Wiggins guarding the primary guard/wing option. The Lakers could prove a big early test for that theory with the potential of rolling out a frontcourt of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Christian Wood.
Understandably, the Warrior defense won’t be fully evaluated until Green returns from his ankle injury. However, the former Defensive Player of the Year only played 46 games when the team was second in defensive rating two years ago, so they’ve proven they can still be a good unit without him.