While it’s been far from flawless, it’s fair to say that Chris Paul’s first two games with the Golden State Warriors has been an undoubted success.
The veteran point-guard has controlled each of the first two games for significant periods, particularly in the third-quarters where the Warriors have outscored their opponents by a combined 33 points. Golden State are a +3 in the non-Stephen Curry minutes through two games — nothing spectacular but a nice change from last season that can be largely attributed to Paul’s introduction.
In more ways than one, the return of Draymond Green could provide the first real test for Chris Paul’s career at the Golden State Warriors.
Although the 38-year-old’s ability to orchestrate the Warrior offense with Curry on the bench is an extremely valuable element, he will ultimately be judged by his ability to fit next to the franchise’s veteran core.
So far that has been the definition of steady — the starting lineup of Paul, Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney has recorded a net rating of 0.0 in 24 minutes together. The Warriors are set to get a major boost on Sunday though, with veteran forward Draymond Green to return from an ankle injury against the Houston Rockets.
Green’s return could provide a major test for Paul on multiple fronts, and really acts as the final question mark on his fit with the team. In fact, you could go as far to say this may be the defining difference in determining whether the Warriors are a championship-contending team.
Firstly, Green’s return could see the 12-time All-Star moved back to the bench, something that was mooted but not always openly embraced by Paul early in the offseason. He did come off the bench positively in one preseason game, but fans will want to see it in action again before declaring it a non-issue.
If head coach Steve Kerr does remain with Paul in the lineup over Kevon Looney, that’s going to put increased pressure on an already undersized Golden State team. All of a sudden it makes the 6’6″ Green a starting center, opening up plenty of opportunity for criticism if things don’t go well from a defensive and rebounding standpoint.
Perhaps just as importantly, there is an overlapping skillset in Paul and Green’s offensive game. While the latter has made a playmaking career feeding Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as they frantically run off screens, the former has been able to do that in his absence across the first two games.
With both of them on the floor together, can each be effective enough when the ball isn’t in their hands? The duo’s lack of scoring and shooting (Paul is 0-8 on threes this season) has to be a concern, on top of the obvious defensive question marks and the starting lineup issue.
The Warriors believe the pair’s incredible and collective basketball IQ, their innate desire for success, and their general competitiveness, can overcome any apparent issues that may arise. If that’s the case, this team may actually be on the precipice of something special this season.