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Monday Mailbag

Taking your questions on Chris Paul, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, Brandin Podziemski, and more.

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Chris Paul and Draymond Green on the ground after falling over Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There’s been a lot going on with the Golden State Warriors lately. In case you missed it, they traded Jordan Poole for Chris Paul, drafted lefty sharpshooter Brandin Podziemski, and then traded Patrick Baldwin Jr. for the rights to draft Trayce Jackson-Davis. Seemed like a good time to do a mailbag. So that’s exactly what I did.

Impossible to say until we see them on the court, but I will say that all signs point towards Paul and Draymond Green having good chemistry.

For starters, let’s review the traits that seem to make Green sour on people:

  1. They don’t give good effort.
  2. They don’t care about defense.
  3. They make stupid or careless mistakes.
  4. They lack commitment.

That’s pretty much it, and those things are all the antithesis of what Paul represents. There’s a reason that Dray hasn’t gotten into it with proven, veteran teammates much. Even with Kevin Durant, Green got along with him well until The Incident, and that was only because of Point No. 4 — Green sensed KD had one foot out the door which, in hindsight, sure seems to have been the case. There were certainly rumors about Green not being a fan of Kelly Oubre Jr. and D’Angelo Russell, and if you review those four points again you can see why. I anticipated there being problems with Andrew Wiggins because Wiggins’ pre-Warriors rep was as a player who lacked effort and commitment, especially on defense, but Two-Way Wiggs quickly turned that narrative on its head, and by all accounts Green adores him.

It’s also worth noting that Paul tends to sour on teammates for those same reasons. And, finally, I should point out that Green has an incredibly close relationship with LeBron James, who counts Paul among his “Banana Boat” crew of best friends. A friend of yours is a friend of mine, as they say, but more importantly, I’m guessing that Dray and CP3 have spent plenty of time together over the years.

So yeah, you just never know in the NBA, but Green and Paul certainly look the part of two players that will get along very well.

Well, let’s start with the first question, the matter of size. For starters, people always say this about the Warriors, and it confuses me a little bit every time. Do the Warriors need to get bigger? They won a championship a year ago with Kevon Looney being their only honest-to-goodness big. The only bigs they had on that 2022 championship team that are no longer on the Warriors (assuming Green re-signs) are Nemanja Bjelica (who played on the perimeter and wasn’t a defensive player) and James Wiseman (who was injured).

So while I agree that the Warriors would like to get larger, and will almost surely add a center in the coming days, weeks, or months, I just fundamentally disagree that they need to get bigger. We just saw them, with the same pieces, at the same size, win a championship just fine.

But let’s assume they do need to get bigger. First off, you’re acting like they’ve gotten smaller, which they haven’t! The primary purpose of getting bigger is to improve your defense and rebounding. The Warriors swapped Ryan Rollins for Brandin Podziemski, who is two inches taller and a substantially better rebounder. They swapped Jordan Poole for Chris Paul, who is a tiny bit shorter but a substantially better rebounder and defender. And they swapped Patrick Baldwin Jr. for Trayce Jackson-Davis. Even if you claim that PBJ is taller than TJD (they’re listed at the same height), Jackson-Davis is an honest-to-goodness big man who rebounds, defends, and is listed as 25 pounds heavier/more muscular than Baldwin who, let’s be honest, is a tall wing, not a big at this stage in his career.

So for all intents and purposes, the Warriors have gotten larger, albeit incrementally.

More importantly, free agency hasn’t begun yet. The Warriors made the draft-day moves that were available to them and good in their eyes, and now they’ll start free agency on Friday and then we can see how they address the size issue. Assuming no trades, the Warriors have four roster spots and three two-way contracts that they can dole out. There’s plenty of time to add size.

As for trading a 23 year old for a 38 year old ... it’s pretty simple. The Warriors are trying to maximize their championship opportunities in the next two-to-five years, while Steph Curry is still a best-player-on-a-championship-team-level talent. Paul, one of the 30 greatest players in NBA history, who is still ultra-talented in nearly every facet of the game, helps them more in the next year or two than Poole, and then will give them salary relief to help them with roster construction for the next year or two.

I’m going to paraphrase what Mike Dunleavy Jr. said last week, because I think he’s telling the truth and, if he weren’t, it would be my answer of what he should do, anyway. I think they’ll try and add size, but their first priority will be to find players who are talented and fit the system, regardless of size.

During the last decade, we’ve seen the Warriors spend a lot of time playing unconventional lineups made out of players who were talented and fit the system. And we’ve seen them play a lot of conventional lineups made out of players who didn’t fit the system. They’ve won four titles with the former, and none with the latter.

The goal is to find the overlap of size and fit, and I think they should easily be able to find someone who they believe hits that goal (as they believed they had done last year when they signed JaMychal Green, even if it didn’t work out great).

Whoa there, let’s put our foot on the brakes a little bit! First off, they just did get an actual star. I know Warriors fans hate him, but let’s not forget what Chris Paul is: someone who’s been an All-Star as recently as Wiggins has been. Someone who, while the Warriors were raising a trophy a year ago, was celebrating making the All-NBA team. Someone who, by almost any advanced metric, still ranked as a top-50 player in the NBA last year while playing for a dysfunctional organization with a rotating cast of players and systems.

Chris Paul is a star. And no, they don’t have any path towards adding another unless they trade Wiggins.

As for the second part of your question ... why the pessimism? Why are we acting like the Warriors are miles away from a championship? They won a title a literal year ago. They made the second round a month ago. Their starting five was the best-performing five-man lineup this season, in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Don’t let the frustration of the season trick you into thinking this isn’t a title-contending team. It is. They don’t need Curry to get any better. Though they do need him to still be, you know ... one of the best players ever.

Stylistically? Yeah, Jakob Poeltl, Nikola Vučević, and Brook Lopez would be excellent additions to the Warriors.

Logistically? The Warriors are limited to using veteran minimum contracts and neither of those three are signing for anything near that.

No, I don’t think so. I believe Dunleavy when he says what he said, but that doesn’t mean they were going to target him there. As an example, look at what they did with Jackson-Davis: they waited to get him until No. 57, even though I’m sure he was way higher than No. 57 on their draft board.

The important part about Dunleavy’s quote is he said they had Podziemski a lot higher on their board. The reality is, most other teams probably did not, and the Warriors likely knew this. I didn’t see a single mock draft that had Podziemski going higher than the Warriors, and most mock drafts are based on intel from front offices. I believe the Warriors had Podziemski in the top 10 of their big board, but expected him to be available at No. 19 ... and that if they had heard someone right in front of them would draft him, that they would have just moved up a few spaces, instead of trying to jump to the top of the lottery.

Also worth noting that I never actually saw the rumor that they were trying to move up reported by anyone reputable.

Anything can happen, as the last few days have shown, but I lean towards the Warriors not trading Jonathan Kuminga. With the moves the Warriors made, they’re not nearly as young and raw anymore, which makes it easier to use a roster spot on Kuminga even if they don’t know what they’ll get. I also think Kuminga will benefit massively from playing alongside Paul, and I’m guessing the Warriors think that too. And while there’s been a distinct shift as they start to target fit and basketball IQ over raw athleticism, having a few all-world athletes is still a really valuable thing. Even if they’re unsure about Kuminga, I’d expect them to keep him, see what happens in the first few weeks or month of the season, and then move on if they need to.

But then again, if the right offer presents itself...

Great question, but unfortunately I have no clue what’s going on there.

Well, first off, Gary Payton II has to be in there somewhere. And second off, they haven’t even started free agency yet and still have four roster spots to fill. So ... way too early to figure out what an eight-player playoff rotation would be.

How I feel about it is that I feel your question isn’t particularly fair or, crucially, accurate.

First off, Green had absolutely no impact on the Warriors trading Rollins, Baldwin, or James Wiseman. None whatsoever. If any player had an impact on those players being traded it’s Curry, who has been the most vocal about wanting the team to maximize his title window.

As for Poole ... what Green did was wrong and indefensible. No doubt about that. But I don’t think it changed the end result. In the aftermath of the trade, plenty of Warriors beat reporters have hinted or outright talked about people around the organization souring on Poole. The Athletic’s Anthony Slater wrote that, “Poole grumbled about his fluctuating role, and his relationship with Kerr had strained.” I probably don’t need to tell you that young players grumbling about minutes on championship teams doesn’t usually end in walking down the aisle hand in hand. Curry’s famed speech in the first-round of the playoffs was apparently targeted largely at Poole, and you can bet the players, coaches, and front office took note that a young player already with a larger contract than Green, Wiggins, or Looney had to be forcefully reminded to be a team player during the postseason.

So while the Warriors would have tried to patch things up had Poole not been traded — and probably would have been optimistic that they could — it’s abundantly clear that there was a whole lot that needed patching up. Green punching Poole certainly gave them more to patch up, and made it harder to do so, but we don’t get here from there without there being some fundamental issues with how Poole’s style and attitude fit with the team. Kerr can’t talk about the trade yet, because it can’t be made until Friday, but he’s already said, “We sensed we needed a shift. Didn’t mean we needed an overhaul, but we needed a shift of some sort. I think everybody in the organization sensed that.” There’s only so much of that blame that you can put on Green.

And finally, as for Kuminga and Moses Moody ... those two are extremely close with Green. Kuminga and Green seem to have a great relationship, and anyone who follows either of them on social media can see that it extends off the court. And remember when the Warriors first started meeting with the media after the punch? Moody was one of the few players who was willing to talk about the incident. He was supportive and complimentary of Poole and how he handled it. He then fielded a question about his relationship with Green by saying, “It couldn’t be better.” When someone asked how he felt about the team not suspending Green, and instead bringing him back to practice, he said, “I support the decision. Ready to get our OG back.”

So yeah ... I don’t think the Warriors getting older has anything to do with Green, nor do I think the moves of the last week have at all strained the strong relationships between Draymond and the youngsters who are still on the team.

Watch out folks, we’ve got a sarcastic internet tough guy!

Jokes aside, here’s the reality: Podziemski is a No. 19 pick. Most No. 19 picks fail. It won’t be after one year, because all rookies have guaranteed two-year deals and, barring some heinous off-the-court behavior, someone thought of highly enough to go in the first round is going to get a little bit of a grace period.

But yes, the odds are against Podziemski being a good NBA player. That’s not a knock on him, and it doesn’t prove your point. It’s just the reality of the situation. Look at the last 10 players picked No. 19:

2022: Jake LaRavia — Barely played last year.
2021: Kai Jones — Played 63 minutes as a rookie, barely played second year.
2020: Saddiq Bey — Traded during third season, mediocre player getting decent minutes.
2019: Luka Šamanić — Has played 43 games in four years, is on a non-guaranteed contract.
2018: Kevin Huerter — Good career.
2017: John Collins — Good career.
2016: Malik Beasley — Decent career, has bounced around.
2015: Jerian Grant — Out of the league after five years.
2014: Gary Harris — Good career.
2013: Sergey Karasev — Out of the league after three years.

So yeah, if I were Podziemski I wouldn’t be putting a down payment on an in-progress San Francisco home that won’t be finished until 2030, but .... Podziemski was a top-10 guy in the draft by most analytics and computer metrics, and probably the best shooter in the draft. Those guys usually hang around for a while.

Yeah, absolutely. Kerr is good at developing rotations that allow for a lot of different things. Paul, whether he comes off the bench or starts, will spend a lot of time playing alongside Curry, and a lot of time running the team while Curry is on the bench. If he’s hooping and winning, he’ll be happy.

Thanks for the great questions, everyone!

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