Chris Paul has played in 1,214 NBA games and he has started 1,214 NBA games. Not once in his illustrious career has the future Hall of Fame point guard come off of the bench, and when he was asked about it in July, he didn't seem especially enthused by the idea of doing so for the Golden State Warriors. "You coaching?" he remarked to a reporter who assumed he'd be a reserve next season, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr told ESPN's Tim Bontemps at Team USA camp Friday that no decisions had been made.
"I think that'll be a case where you get three weeks of training camp before that first game," Kerr said. "We'll just look at all kinds of different combinations.
"The main thing is we know all those guys are going to play a lot of minutes. But the luxury of having Chris Paul to add to this group that we've been lucky enough to have for a decade ... pretty remarkable. He is one of the great competitors in the game. He's one of the great point guards of all time. I think he's a great addition for us, because of his ability to control games, control tempo, take care of the ball."
Golden State's starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney outscored opponents by 145 points last season, the second-highest mark in the league. They were topped only by the starting five for the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, which played more than twice as many minutes as Golden State's starters. That group of five led the Warriors to the 2022 championship, and the three-man combination of Curry, Thompson and Green has won four championships together.
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On the surface, there does not appear to be an easy way to slot Paul into the starting five. Curry and Thompson have been the NBA's best backcourt for nearly a decade now, and as team icons, it would be extremely difficult to ask either to come off the bench. Paul could start alongside them, but having three guards start would deprive the Warriors of needed size. Andrew Wiggins, the current small forward, is their only strong, traditional perimeter defender, and asking him to defend power forwards would be a misuse of his talents. Green can play center, but the Warriors prefer not to abuse that privilege in the regular season for the sake of preserving his body. Looney is the team's best rebounder by far.
On paper, it makes far more sense to bring Paul off the bench so he can focus on running Golden State's bench units, which have struggled mightily for basically Curry's entire career. Of course, convincing a legend like Paul to be a reserve isn't always easy. Perhaps it would be easier now that he is 38, but Paul didn't sound eager to come off the bench in July. Perhaps the matter will solve itself organically at camp, but at this rate, it seems nearly certain that someone in Golden State will be stuck with a bench role they don't particularly want.