About this time a year ago, the Golden State Warriors were continuing their championship celebration through the end of the offseason. No one outside the organization thought it would be possible for this group to return to the top of the NBA world, yet Stephen Curry and co. achieved the feat, setting high hopes for them entering the 2022–23 season.
However, drama ensued for the defending champions, beginning with a brawl before the start of the season in which four-time All-Star Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole. After that nothing seemed to go right for the Warriors, and they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
About six weeks later, the Warriors stunned the NBA world by packing the pool with other assets to acquire future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul from the Washington Wizards. Besides what happened to Pool and Green before the season, and Pool’s struggles in the postseason for Golden State, there were several other reasons why this trade happened.
The Warriors have never hesitated to spend money to remain a championship contender over the years, as they have consistently topped the league’s payroll and tax rankings. However, with the introduction of new CBA rules it was necessary to cut costs, and Poole became the odd man out in the team’s equation as he promised them $128 million over the next four seasons.
While he is set to earn $30.8 million this year, Paul’s contract is non-guaranteed through the 2024-25 season, meaning the Warriors can use the veteran as a one-year rental without any long-term obligations or penalties. This leaves the Warriors with roughly $30 million in salary savings next off-season.
It’s also worth noting that Patrick Baldwin Jr. is also involved in this. The Paul-Poole trade saved the Warriors a lot on luxury taxes, as evidenced by his $2.3 million contract for the new season.
Someone was being moved this off-season to cut costs for the organization. Even though he is a talented player, now is the best time for the Warriors to move on from the pool. However, they could have gone out and replaced him with anyone, which is why it’s interesting that the Warriors wanted Paul.
The Warriors’ Argument for the Chris Paul Trade
From a financial standpoint, this trade made sense for Golden State, but that may not be the only point in acquiring Chris Paul. Talent-wise, Paul could aid the Warriors as a primary ball handler and facilitator, allowing both splash brothers to do what they do best: run off screens and shoot threes. With a high understanding of the game and the ability to influence wins throughout his career, Paul fits the mold of a veteran player that the Warriors have pursued over the years in their quest for more titles.
The deeper meaning of this trade may not have gone unnoticed since the arrival of new GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. Took its first signed step last month. Warriors fans may be familiar with this type of move, especially since a similar move was made with D’Angelo Russell prior to the 2019-20 season.
Knowing that Kevin Durant was leaving for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, the Warriors decided to add Russell to their roster to not only recoup lost value, but to still compete at the highest level possible, especially with Klay Thompson recovering from his ACL injury. Things didn’t go according to plan for the team, as Kevon Looney, Curry and Green all battled injuries that year, leading to Golden State winning only 15 games.
Despite all his struggles, a significant trade was made for the Warriors during the 2019–20 season. If this deal had never happened, they would not have won their championship in 2022. He benefited from swapping Russell for Andrew Wiggins during a losing season, so the 2023-24 season could see a very similar approach with Paul.
At this point, the Warriors consider the veteran point guard a vital part of their roster and someone who can help them compete for their fifth title since 2015. Then again, there’s no telling how the first half of the new season might play out and which teams around the league might need a player like Paul more than the Warriors.
Financially, Poole had to be traded away, even though Golden State developed him and liked his skill set. Retaining Paul through the 2023-24 season isn’t necessary, so all of a sudden, the Warriors have their options open this offseason to explore month-to-month in the new year.
The 12-time All-Star and 38-year-old guard are useful to this organization. If the right opportunity comes their way, they won’t hesitate to move Paul for added value, especially if it means adding one or two younger, more dynamic players who can boost their Championship outlook. As they did with Russell a while back, taking Paul with a non-guaranteed clause on his contract ahead of the trade deadline could give the Warriors a high-impact player like they did with Wiggins.
Chris Paul’s role in the starting lineup or bench
It will be very interesting to see how the Warriors use Chris Paul’s skills, especially since his role in training camp will be undefined. One of the smallest teams in the league last season, Golden State didn’t really add any size this season despite signing Dario Saric to a one-year contract.
Often, the Warriors’ main starting rotation consists of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Green, and Looney, with Looney being their tallest player at 6’9″. If the Warriors add Paul to the starting rotation, it would mean Green starting at center and Wiggins at power forward, making Wiggins their tallest player at 6’7″. This is why Paul’s role is a major topic of discussion this offseason, as there is a possibility that he may come off the bench for the first time in his career.
In his 18 years in the league, Paul has played 1214 games for five different franchises. Paul never came off the bench as CP3 made 1,214 career starts as a point guard in the NBA.
But at this stage of his career, the veteran lacks a championship ring. If coming off the bench gives his team a better chance of winning everything, Paul would be more than willing to accept such a role. Needless to say, he is in a completely different team than the one he is used to playing in!
“It will all happen in training camp. Until we get everyone on the field, we won’t be able to assess what’s best for our team and what everything is going to look like,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr recently said of his team’s starting lineup entering the new season, via Shayna Rubin of The Mercury News. “But I have full faith that it will work. We’ve got great people and we’ve got great champions, great competitors. There is one goal next year, and that is to win at the highest possible level. Everything else will unfold according to the season.
Despite the locker room possibly not being as connected as it used to be, the biggest flaw with the Warriors during the 2022-23 season was their second unit being a complete mess every single night. Poole presented a lot of uncertainty as the team’s sixth man and leader of a bench that really struggled at times, especially later in the season.
When you look at the Warriors’ championship teams in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022, it’s hard to ignore the stars who led them, but each of these teams had significant, reliable, experienced contributors coming off the bench in the playoffs. Last year’s team didn’t really have an experienced presence or leader on their bench, which is why Paul accepting a role as the team’s sixth man, much like Shaun Livingston did when he arrived at the Warriors in 2014, could prove hugely beneficial for both sides.
With younger, more dynamic talent in the Warriors’ second unit like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, Paul could not only play to his strengths, but he would also give this team a jolt of production and consistency that they’ve been missing off the bench. That doesn’t mean Paul couldn’t start a few games, as it’s unlikely Curry and Thompson will play in all 82 games during the 2023-24 season, and the same can be said for CP3.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, the Warriors have a blueprint for how they want to use one of the best point guards the league has ever seen. There is no doubt that Paul will play a big role for Golden State early in the new season, but considering what could happen at the trade deadline, the Warriors are definitely a team to keep an eye on given the options Paul has.