The much-debated topic ever since Chris Paul was traded to the Golden State Warriors was the question of whether he’ll be included in the starting lineup — most likely relegating Kevon Looney to the bench, forcing Steve Kerr to play Draymond Green at the 5, and playing a small lineup — or playing off the bench in a super sixth-man role.
It’s important to note that the Warriors’ traditional starting five — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Green, and Looney — outscored opponents by 21.9 points per 100 possessions last year, statistically making them the best five-man lineup during the regular season. The problem, however, was that this grouping played only 331 minutes in 27 games together.
It’s hard to break up a formula that worked in favor of Paul starting. While he is a future Hall-of-Famer and one of the best point guards in the history of the NBA, it’ll be difficult to start him next to Curry due to his size. At 6-feet flat, having him try to defend opposing backcourts alongside the 6-feet-2-inch Curry might be too much of a responsibility placed upon both of their shoulders, especially with Paul (38 years old) and Curry (35) getting up there in age.
There’s also a trickle-down effect to consider. Starting Paul means that Green will shoulder more of the defending responsibilities against the larger centers in the league. Having him do that for 82 games is untenable and might cause him to break down physically at a much faster rate. It also takes him away from what he does best as a defender, which is to roam and rotate help-side.
If Paul is to be believed, however, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win — and that includes a possible role off the bench, something that he’s done before as a member of the 2008 Redeem Team squad in the Olympics.
Chris Paul on the starting lineup question: “I actually got the opportunity in ‘08 to come off the bench for the Olympic team. Anybody that knows me knows I’m all about winning.” pic.twitter.com/gd53p554AG— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 2, 2023
That is a promising sign that Paul is willing to come off the bench, all in the name of collective success, which is something Paul has yet to achieve. If he does agree to such a role, Steve Kerr will find it easier to formulate lineups with defined responsibilities, such as Paul leading a second unit that is more akin to his style of play: a deliberate half-court offense centered around the pick-and-roll.