Will Chris Paul start for the Warriors?

Dub Nation is still in a state of shock. Everyone thought the Golden State Warriors would add a player on Thursday … they just thought the player would be a 19- or 20-year-old taken in 2023 NBA Draft. Little did we know that the team would also get a 38-year-old NBA legend in a monster trade.

But that’s exactly what happened. Just three days after being introduced as general manager, Mike Dunleavy Jr. Jordan Poole, Ryan Rollins, a top-20 protected first round pick in 2030 and a second pick in 2027 for one of the best players in NBA history, albeit one on the downswing of his career, Chris Paul.

And while the move certainly has a lot of positive salary cap implications for the Warriors, it’s not quite the salary dump that some people thought it might be. It’s a move also made to add a great player to the team and boost the Warriors’ chances of winning a championship in the few years they still have to capitalize on Steph Curry as a top-10 all-time player and perennial MVP -candidate. .

We won’t see what Paul looks like in a Warriors jersey for four months. And in all likelihood, the Warriors roster will look a lot different then than it does now.

But it’s still not too early to start thinking about how it will all work. In the coming hours, days, weeks, and months, we’ll have plenty of articles diving deep into that, but let’s start with the surface-level question: what will the starting lineup look like?

Before we do that, let’s make an assumption and clarify a point.

First the clarification. The biggest hurdle when it comes to making tough roster decisions is getting people to buy in. Whatever role Paul plays, the Warriors core needs to be on board. There’s no way Golden State makes this move without Curry signing it, and in fact, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater suggested Curry was pushing for it. Where Curry goes, the Warriors core follows. If he’s okay with something, so are Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. So you can bet they’re not worried at all right now.

Bonus clarification: we’re past the days when starters all played 36 minutes and bench players all played 10-15. Poole and Donte DiVincenzo played more minutes per game. game last year than Kevon Looney, and Jonathan Kuminga played almost as many. “Starter” doesn’t mean what it once did.

Second, the assumption. For the purposes of this article, I will assume Green re-signs with the Warriors. That was already clearly the most likely scenario after he opted out of his contract, and this trade only makes it more likely. The Warriors are in a better financial situation, which makes it easier for them to keep Green. They are a more competitive team in the immediate future, and they no longer have someone who was resting in the locker room, which makes it easier for Green to want to stay. And I doubt the Dubs trade a 24-year-old for a 38-year-old without feeling confident they’ll keep their championship core together after Dunleavy and Steve Kerr both said the Warriors can’t contend next year without Green .

So while a world exists where Green plays for another team next year, I’m not including that as a possibility in this exercise. This is just to look at the options for the Warriors as constructed, assuming they keep all of their starter-level players and don’t add more.

With that said, let’s look at the four clear options for a starting lineup next year.

CP3 to the bench

I think the most likely scenario is that the Warriors keep their five-man starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Green and Looney. No team in the NBA last year had a starting lineup (or a five-man lineup that got significant playing time) that had a better net rating. It is a proven equation that has won a championship very recently.

Paul may have been traded instead of opting to sign with the Warriors, but he’s still in glorified ring-chasing mode. I would assume he will have no problem conceding a starting spot for a big chance to finally put a championship ring on his finger.

He will also likely play the fewest minutes of his career this season. The Warriors will try to keep him for the postseason, and I’d guess he lives up to the 25 minutes per game. battle territory.

There are downsides. As Kerith Burke notes, Paul has started every regular-season and postseason game in his 18-year NBA career, totaling more than 1,300 contests. Part of the allure of adding Paul is putting the ball in the hands of one of the best passers in NBA history while the two greatest shooters in NBA history run around trying to get open, and it would be nice to have right in that. out of the gates. And Paul, who enters his age-38 season with a fairly long history of lower-body injuries, could benefit from starting halftime games while his body is still warm.

Wiggins to the bench

You could argue that the Warriors’ best starting lineup would be Paul, Curry, Thompson, Green and Looney. At this point in his career, Paul may not be the defender he once was or anything close to the athlete that Wiggins is, but I’d argue he’s still about as good of an on-ball defender as Wiggins. The primary reason Wiggins works so well with the starting lineup is his on-ball perimeter defense and his ability to make open threes, and CP3 does both of those things very well.

Wiggins is also more of a traditional goalscorer than Paul is, which is usually what you want from your sixth man, so he could play a nice role off the bench and replace a lot of what Poole did. Like Paul, it would be brand new for him: he has started all but one game in his career, with that game being the opener of the 2023 playoffs, returning from an extended absence.

Would Wiggins respond well to a move to the bench, just two years after being named an All-Star starter and a year after earning a nine-figure contract? Selflessness has characterized his Warriors tenure to this point, and it’s very clear that he feels indebted to the Warriors after they allowed him an unprecedented two-month in-season leave to care for his ailing father while that he kept the personal news hidden. I think he would take the role well.

Small ball

Whatever the starting lineup is, I’d guess the final lineup will usually be the new dead lineup: Paul, Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green. And I can’t wait to see it.

This might be the best lineup the Warriors can field on a per-minute basis, but there’s a reason Kerr has leaned away from starting Green at center during the regular season. It puts a lot of wear and tear on Dray, and there’s an exhausting trickle-down effect: everyone has to rebound a little more, run a little more and push a little harder. It wears you out.

It would be a dynamic lineup, but I think it’s more likely to be used for short bursts and closing minutes, rather than being the starting lineup every game.

Baseball style

If you are a fan of San Francisco Giants, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re an Oakland A’s fan, I’m really sorry and I hope you find someone to hug you.

The Giants, like most baseball teams, operate with a rotating cast of players. They have played 75 games and nobody has played in 70 of them, with only four players appearing in 60 games (and that includes games where players come off the bench). Even the best players are penciled in for a rest day every weakness.

The Warriors could do that. Paul is 38 and Curry is 35, and both have had their fair share of injuries. Greens also had plenty of injuries, and Thompson is not far removed from two major lower-body surgeries and rehabs. Looney has been in iron man for the past two years, but the Warriors certainly want to see a center with a surgically repaired hip get a few days off going forward.

I’d guess the Warriors will likely bake about 10 days of load management for Curry, Paul, Green and Thompson, and another five or so for Looney and Wiggins. When you add in injuries and other absences, the Warriors could reasonably go pretty much the entire season without playing all six in a game.

They obviously won’t go to the extreme, but they could do something similar and have a rotating starting lineup with frequent days off for players. One day Paul starts in Curry’s place. Another day Paul rests. Another day he starts in Green’s place. Another day they will be small. Instead of having a set starting five, they could let injuries, rest and matchup on a particular day determine who is on the field when the ball is thrown in the air.

other options

Those are the four options that I think could reasonably happen, though of course there are other plans if the Warriors want to go unconventional. They could move Green to a sixth-man role, but benching your best defender and a player who helps unlock a lot of what Curry does is a terrible idea. You could make an argument for benching Thompson, but my goal with this exercise was to be realistic, and I just don’t see the Warriors doing that.

So it’s probably one of those four options unless the roster changes in the next four months. Which it very well could.

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