Will we have drama? I hope not.
When the Golden State Warriors made a shocking trade for Chris Paul, one of the first questions was: Who will start?
It was hard to imagine the team moving away from its standard starting five of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, a starting five that not only won a championship together in 2022, but fits perfectly. in terms of complementary and diverse skills.
But it was also hard to imagine them trading an ultra-talented young player like Jordan Poole only to bench Paul, who has started 1,363 career games and has come off the pine exactly zero times. And that became doubly true when Paul made comments in Summer League that were terribly testy when asked about the possibility of being a reserve.
I kind of thought the Warriors could get around this “dilemma.” As an older team that likes to manage the load, I thought the Dubs could take the baseball approach and have a six-man starting lineup with one player (almost) always resting. That way, everyone would have a chance to start, tension would potentially be alleviated, players would stay healthy, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, Steve Kerr would have a good idea of what his optimal lineups would be.
But now? That’s not really an option.
New rules to limit cargo management are expected to be enacted next season. The league will make it much more difficult to rest designated “star” players, which include Curry, Paul, Green and Wiggins, but not Thompson. And as a result, the Warriors, unless they are really injured, will have to play a lot with all their players. And that means they will need to have a strong starting lineup.
You can certainly argue that bringing Paul off the bench to lead the second unit is the right decision. I think a case could also be made for putting Wiggins or Thompson in a sixth man role, although we can all agree they won’t do that with Klay.
But in my opinion, the most likely move is for Looney to be the odd man out. Despite the past year, the Warriors have had a golden history of success with small lineups, and Paul is a pretty excellent addition to that construction: He’s a quality defender and shooter, and his way of playing will allow the team to execute complex moves without ball during Curry and Thompson simultaneously. Even with his reduced athleticism, Paul is still a transition wizard who can make the team work.
The Dubs have avoided starting small lineups except in the playoffs, out of a desire not to wear down Green. But you’ll likely have between 8 and 16 minutes of Green at five for each game, so why not have those minutes at the start of each half? It would allow the Warriors to come out of the gates with their best foot forward and hopefully take a lead, before switching a guard or wing for Looney after 4-6 minutes.
Either way, if Kerr thought he could avoid the difficulty of picking an honest starting lineup, the new rules will likely take away that luxury.
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