clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The new rules will force Steve Kerr to choose a starting lineup

Will we get drama? Hopefully not.

Chris Paul and Steve Kerr talking at a Team USA practice Photo by Joe Amati/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Golden State Warriors made a shocking trade for Chris Paul, one of the first questions was, Who will start?

It was hard to imagine the team moving away from their standard starting quintet of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney — a starting five that not only won a championship together in 2022, but that fits together fairly perfectly in terms of complementary and diverse skillsets.

But it was also hard to imagine them trading an ultra-talented young player in Jordan Poole just to bench Paul, who has started 1,363 games in his career and come off the pine exactly zero times. And that became doubly true when Paul made comments at Summer League that were awfully bristly when he was asked about the possibility of being a reserve.

I kind of thought the Warriors could skirt this “dilemma.” As an older team that likes to load manage, I thought the Dubs might take the baseball approach and have a six-player starting lineup in which one player was (almost) always resting. That way everyone would get the chance to start, tension would potentially be eased, the players would stay healthy, and by the time the playoffs rolled around Steve Kerr would have a good idea as to what his optimal lineups would look like.

But now? That’s not really an option.

New rules to limit load management are expected to be enacted for the upcoming season. The league is going to make it much harder to rest players that are designated as “stars,” which includes Curry, Paul, Green, and Wiggins, though not Thompson. And as a result the Warriors, unless actually injured, will have to play all their players quite a bit. And that means they’ll need to have an entrenched starting lineup.

You can certainly make a case that bringing Paul off the bench to lead the second unit is the right move. I think you could also make a case for sliding Wiggins or Thompson into a sixth man role, though we can all agree that they will not do that with Klay.

But the most likely move, to my eye, is that Looney is the odd man out. Last year notwithstanding, the Warriors have had a golden history of success with small lineups, and Paul is a fairly excellent addition to that construction: he’s a quality defender and shooter, and his playmaking will allow the team to run complex off-ball movements for Curry and Thompson simultaneously. Even with his reduced athleticism, Paul is still a transition wizard who can get the team out and running.

The Dubs have shied away from starting small lineups except in the playoffs, out of a desire to not wear down Green. But they’ll surely be baking in 8-16 minutes of Green at the five for every game, so why not have those minutes come at the start of each half? It would allow the Warriors to run out of the gates with their best foot forward, and hopefully build up a lead, before swapping a guard or wing for Looney after 4-6 minutes.

Either way, if Kerr thought he could avoid the difficulty of picking an honest-to-goodness starting lineup, the new rules will probably take that luxury away from him.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Golden State of Mind Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Golden State Warriors news from Golden State of Mind