It’s time for the 2023 NBA Draft, and the Golden State Warriors didn’t figure to do anything too interesting, since they only have the No. 19 pick. And then some news I very much did not expect to hit came through: the Warriors are trading Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul.
In addition to Poole, the Warriors are also sending Ryan Rollins, a protected first-round pick in 2030, and a second-round pick in 2027 to Washington. The Wizards are in fire sale mode, and had only just acquired Paul, after trading Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns. And just in case anyone was thinking this was just a salary dump, it’s not.
If Paul is healthy, which is admittedly a notable “if,” the Warriors get significantly better in the short run. Even at the tail end of his career, Paul is a magician of a passer, a tremendous defender, and an efficient scorer, who grades out very well in all advanced metrics. It also gives the Warriors some future salary relief, which will make it easier to stomach their tax bill this year, and work on extensions for Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. At this point in their careers, there’s no denying that Paul is a better player than Poole.
There’s obviously a notable downside, though. Poole was playing at a borderline All-Star level in 2021-22, and only turned 24 a few days ago. He’s under contract for four more years so, if he continues to shine, he’ll be an excellent player that the Warriors will have to watch from a distance.
Warriors fans notoriously hate Paul, so I’m guessing this won’t go over well with them. But he’s an all-time great, and this helps the Warriors in their quest to maximize their title chances while Steph Curry is still around.
Paul’s contract pays him $30.8 million this year, with a fully non-guaranteed $30 million owed to him next year. If he pans out, the Warriors should have no problem retaining him after the 2024-25 season for a much lower price.
A 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, and nine-time All-Defense selection, Paul had just yesterday talked about how when he was on the Houston Rockets, they spent the entire season preparing for the Warriors. He has, of course, been notorious for coming up short in his career, failing to ever make the Finals with that Rockets team or the stacked Los Angeles Clippers squad. He did make the NBA Finals with the Suns in 2021, but lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. Much of the pressure will be off him in Golden State given the stacked lineup, and it will be amazing to see how one of the greatest passers in NBA history does when paired with the greatest shooter in NBA history.
The Warriors are also betting on Paul’s iffy injury history not being an issue and, in fairness, Rick Celebrini has earned the benefit of the doubt there, most notably when they made the same bet on Otto Porter Jr.
Paul averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 assists per game last year, while shooting 37.5% from three-point line. By EPM, he ranked as the 42nd-best player in the NBA, better than every Warrior except Curry.
It will be fascinating to see what starting lineup the Warriors use, assuming Draymond Green re-signs.
The Mike Dunleavy Jr. era is off to quite a start. This probably won’t help his popularity. But if it wins the Warriors a ring...