Kawakami: Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s gonzo-for-a-title Chris Paul move and Warriors’ only timeline that matters

Joe Lacob loved the story so much he told it twice during Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s introduction as Warriors general manager on Monday. How ready is Dunleavy for Lacob’s call/text/talk-all-night mania? Well, Lacob said with a big smile, it was actually Dunleavy who called Lacob early that morning with an idea.

Lacob, of course, embraced the wired energy of it all. But you could tell that Lacob also liked the idea and that he thought about it. That it struck a chord. That there was something creative going on here.

I’m not saying I know this was when Dunleavy suggested the surprising Jordan Poole-for-Chris Paul trade with the Wizards that broke Thursday, just hours before the NBA draft. It could have been something else entirely. Dunleavy certainly gave every indication at the presser that he supported Poole and his contract extension, saying: “We plan to have him for at least four more years.”

But that was the day I started hearing rumblings that the Warriors were interested in Paul, that they thought he could fit in with old rivals Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and that they were hoping to check in at Paul in the wake of his reported trade from the Sun to the Wizards.

At the time, I assumed that meant the Warriors would pick up Paul too cheaply if he was released by Washington. I didn’t know the Warriors would even consider trading Poole for Paul (who is due to make $30.8 million this season). Perhaps most of this deal had not been discussed yet. But then again, there was something brewing earlier this week, and now we have our first sign of how the Dunleavy era might play out.

Folks, it won’t be boring. And it looks like it’s going to be pretty insidious.

This is certainly not the move of a timid GM learning on the job under the spotlight. This was a gonzo-for-a-title move. This was a who-cares-about-any-stinking-long-term timeline decision. This was a new GM going all in for the old veterans on the team – it should be noted that Curry, Draymond and Klay were all acquired long before Dunleavy joined the front office and that Poole was a player that Dunleavy personally scouted and recommended.

And yet Dunleavy traded Poole, who just turned 24 and has no injury history, for an at-times scrappy 38-year-old point guard who is chasing a championship but has broken down often the last five years and actually missed the last four. games in the Suns’ second-round series against the Nuggets with a groin injury. There is a ton of risk. Poole could become a top-five scorer in Washington and make the Warriors look pretty bad.

But also: If he stays relatively healthy, Paul gives the Warriors another mid-range playmaker who can run the offense when Curry is out and who can also help carry some of the load when Curry is on. Paul is so fiercely focused that he has annoyed dozens of players over the game. years, many of them in Warriors uniforms. But I suspect many key Warriors stakeholders will take it over Poole’s occasional lapses and frequent pinball.

No one has said that Curry’s stirring speech the day before Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings was specifically about Poole’s attitude and body language in the previous days, but neither did anyone with the Warriors argue when any of us speculated that it was primarily about Poole and Jonathan Kuminga.


Slater: Why the Chris Paul-Jordan Poole trade happened for the Warriors

Will Paul be the sixth man? Or maybe start next to Curry instead of Klay at times? You have to believe that Steve Kerr, Curry, Klay and Draymond have already discussed this with Dunleavy and are comfortable with the situation. The best guess is that CP3 will primarily shift into Poole’s role — leading the second unit when Curry sits, pairing with Curry for parts of the time to take Curry off the ball, and getting more than 20-25 minutes when Curry and Klay get ordinary rest days. Oh and also: CP3 will probably get plenty of nights off himself.

That plan would probably be to try to have Paul, Curry and Klay all fresher for the playoffs and prepared to play all the way through them. I can picture Curry, Draymond and Kerr smiling as they watch CP3 fight his way into the lane and hit a few jumpers in key playoff moments against the Nuggets, Lakers or Grizzlies. Which is just something Poole couldn’t do last May.

With Paul’s $30 million contract for 2024-2025 not guaranteed, the Warriors now have two direct paths to get out of the dreaded second seed before next offseason. They can either let CP3 go for nothing next July or resign him for much less or do the same with Klay Thompson after his $43.2 million final season is up. Or they can re-sign both for moderate deals.

All of this goes hand in hand with Draymond’s situation, you’d think. You don’t add another future Hall of Famer just to let Draymond leave as a free agent. I don’t think CP3 would want to be here if the Warriors were struggling in any serious way (aside from trading Poole, of course). So while anything can happen once Draymond hits free agency on June 30, it seems likely that the Warriors and Draymond have a general understanding and a general price point that should lead to him returning on a multi-year deal.

But let’s return – perhaps for the last time – to Draymond’s hit and the course of the franchise after it. The battle occurred when the Warriors negotiated with both players. As a result, Poole understandably got a bit more in his deal than the Warriors wanted, and no matter how much hitting was a factor in the talks, Draymond didn’t get a deal at all.

Could you imagine in October that eight months later Draymond would be in line for a multi-year deal and Poole would be traded for a much older player? No, you wouldn’t have imagined it. I doubt anyone with the Warriors would have predicted that. But honestly, the Poole money just never felt right. It was too much for a player who didn’t really play defense and was always behind Curry and Klay in the pecking order. Which fell too much. Who grumbled about the inconsistency of his role. Which had plenty of fans murmuring about his big new deal.

All of this seemed to weigh on Poole and the team a little last season and then a lot in the playoffs. It would only have felt heavier as the seasons and tax obligations progressed. Does that sound familiar? These are some of the same reasons the Warriors shipped James Wiseman last February. We will see about Kuminga in the future. Now Poole is gone. And the Warriors once and for all have one timeline — the Stephen Curry timeline. It’s the only timeline that ever mattered. And the extraneous, inconsistent parts of it have now almost all been eliminated.

The TK Show: Go to Tim Kawakami’s podcast page at Apple, Spotify and Athletics app.


To understand the Wizards-Warriors trade (and others), look at the contracts

(Photo of Chris Paul and Stephen Curry: Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Leave a Comment