Going back-to-back is very hard. Last season, the Golden State Warriors reminded us of this fact. After everything clicked in the 2021-22 season en route to the fourth championship won by their current core, the Warriors just weren’t quite themselves last season. The team went 44-38, secured the 6-seed in the Western Conference, and got bounced in the conference semifinals.
Despite that, Golden State will always be viewed as a team that has to be taken extremely seriously in the West. While the Denver Nuggets are the defending champions, the Warriors have earned the respect of the rest of the league, and still are led by one of the 3-5 best players on the planet in Steph Curry. When he plays and he’s healthy, good things happen, and ahead of the 2023-24 season, the expectations (and hopes) are as high as ever for the Dubs.
Biggest Question: How Does Chris Paul Fit In?
The Jordan Poole era coming to an end probably wasn’t a surprise — his gigantic salary was a potential handcuff on the team in terms of limiting what they could do going forward, he saw a drop-off in his efficiency after signing his new deal, and of course, there was the much-discussed incident in the preseason where he got into it with Draymond Green, which ended in Green punching him. The much bigger surprise was what the Warriors got back for Poole and a future pick: Chris Paul.
Over the course of his career, Paul has seemed to take pride in battling against Curry, Green, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the Warriors. Imagine going back to, like, 2016 and telling yourself that Chris Paul would end up on the Golden State Warriors. It just doesn’t sound right! And yet, it’s not hard to see how he can really help Golden State, particularly in the minutes when Curry is on the bench — like most teams that build their offense around an elite player, the Warriors have struggled over the years when Curry rests. Paul, in theory, can give Golden State a near-ideal option to run things when Curry is off the floor, and it’s not hard to see how having him out there with Curry would make it easy for the Warriors to unlock Curry’s ability to move off the ball.
There is absolutely a path where this works, where Paul gives the team the ball-handler and floor general to deputize Curry, where his otherworldly hoops IQ fits in perfectly, where he buys into a role (either as a full-time starter or a spot starter who is primarily a sixth man) that just fits into the Warriors ecosystem. There is, also, a path where it doesn’t, where Paul just never quite gels with a team that has been an adversary of his for years, where the slow, meticulous style that he has mastered is a cumbersome fit in Steve Kerr’s wonderfully fluid side. Could they turn his contract and a bunch of other stuff into a star by the trade deadline? Who knows! This can go in a lot of different ways, which is part of what makes it so fun.
X-Factor: Jonathan Kuminga And Moses Moody
At a certain point, one of these guys has to break out and completely earn the trust of Kerr … right? The pair combined to play 222 total minutes during the team’s 13 playoff games — Moody got 161 of them, and did get a bit of run in both series. Kuminga didn’t play in three games, Moody didn’t play in one. When the chips are down, Kerr is always going to rely on Curry, Thompson, Green, Looney and Andrew Wiggins. Gary Payton II has steadily earned Kerr’s trust when he’s healthy, and maybe we’ll see Paul get to that point. The youngest guy in that group is Looney, who will turn 28 in February.
Moody being able to step in and provide some shooting and wing defense would be a very nice boost. Kuminga, who was a pretty consistent bench option in the regular season, was apparently frustrated with his postseason usage. His athleticism and age (he just turned 21) are things the Warriors could really use with an older core, and would likewise provide a very nice boost if he’s able to remain in the team’s rotation. They both present skillsets this team could use, and if either (or both) can take a leap into Kerr’s circle of trust, that could be huge for the Warriors chances.