The dealing isn’t done at the Chase Center, but the picture is a lot clearer.
So rather than speculate, let’s just assume Draymond Green is very happy to replace Jordan Poole with Chris Paul, and take a look at where the Warriors stand right now.
Chris Paul: The young guys need a leader, and Paul is the man for the job.
Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga ooze potential, but there was no one to really run the second unit last year. Steph Curry and Green both gave it a shot, but that took away their minutes from the top group. And Poole is ill-suited to do anything but shoot – which he can do extremely well in the right setting – so asking him to run the show simply wasn’t going to work out.
But with Paul in charge, Moody and Kuminga don’t need to worry about anything but getting to the right spot on the floor. (And if they don’t, Paul won’t be shy about reminding them exactly where that right spot is.) They will now be led by a surefire Hall of Famer who can still play (13.9 points, 8.9 assists, 37.5% from three last year) and who will make it easy for them to do what they do best.
And even though Paul is more deliberate than Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, he can certainly fit in with the starters if need be. Maybe he speeds up a little, maybe they slow down a little, but my guess is that four elite players – all of whom might wind up in the Hall of Fame – will figure out how to play together.
OK, he’ll get hurt. So will Curry. So will Green. So, in fact, will almost everyone in the league, regardless of age. But as the Miami Heat showed, all you need to do is get into the playoffs and crazy things can happen. There’s a lot of parity in the NBA right now, and there’s really not that much difference between the top teams so the only time you really need to be healthy is next April.
Addition by subtraction: Everybody wanted to make Draymond the villain for going after Poole in preseason, but as Reggie Jackson pointed out, there’s a lot more of that going on than people realize. Remember, Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr got into it in preseason one year, and then the Bulls won the title.
And the fact that the Dubs unloaded Poole and seem intent on keeping the aging Green is pretty strong evidence that maybe Poole was in the wrong, and needed to adjust his attitude. Which, by the way, he did not do during the season, playing zero defense, pouting and generally hurting more than he helped (the Warriors were 7.1 points better when he was off the court than when he was in the game).
Oh, and that contract, which could reach $143 million over four years. Some players respond to big money by working harder; others relax, and Poole definitely fell into the latter category. And the Warriors clearly felt that giving an underachiever away (pretty much) was much better than keeping him around while writing monstrous checks.
There’s one way forward: Joe Lacob felt the Warriors could somehow avoid the inevitable cycle of a dynastic run followed by a rebuild, but the addition of Paul is a clear indication that 2024 matters much more than 2027, and if there’s one more title to be had, whatever happens afterward is irrelevant.
Now Lacob, who is nothing if not extremely confident in his own abilities, may still think he can avoid a serious step back when Steph, Klay and Draymond leave the locker room, but adding Paul is an indication that he may not be as sure as he once was.
And if the Warriors can somehow have everyone healthy when the playoffs roll around – and expect some serious load management to try and make that happen – nobody will want to see Golden State on the other side of the scorer’s table in postseason. And as Miami showed, winding up in the play-in is far from a dead end.
In fact, of course, it was a path to the NBA Finals, and it’s a path the Warriors are planning to follow in the spring of 2024. Without Jordan Poole, and with Chris Paul.