Earlier this summer, the Golden State Warriors turned heads when they acquired Chris Paul from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Ryan Rollins, a 2023 first-round pick, 2027 second-round pick and cash considerations.
After averaging 13.9 points, 8.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds last season, the 38-year-old Paul is looking to add a championship to his resume and prove that he can still produce at a high level.
This might be the most unique role of Paul's 19-year career. Not only do the Warriors already have a Hall-of-Fame-caliber backcourt with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Draymond Green regularly handles floor-general duties. This means the Point God will have to adapt.
Given Golden State's personnel, many have considered the possibility of Paul coming off the bench, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Back in August, Kerr said Paul's role is something that would be decided during training camp.
“I think that’ll be a case where you get three weeks of training camp before that first game," Kerr said, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "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 [is] 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."
When Paul was asked about potentially coming off the bench, he seemed irritated and asked the reporter his own question: “You coaching?”
Chris Paul responds to potentially coming off the Warriors’ bench: pic.twitter.com/FbDd0SGqLm— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) July 10, 2023
The 12-time All-Star has never been a reserve. Counting the regular season and playoffs, Paul has played in 1,363 NBA games and he's started every single one. Paul’s hesitation may be enough to prevent the Warriors from bringing him off the bench to start the season. Regardless, inserting Paul into the starting lineup could prove beneficial if done correctly.
Yes, Paul will have to adjust and learn how to play alongside Golden State's other starters. However, he has shown that he's willing to make sacrifices and give someone else the keys to the offense. During his stint with the Houston Rockets, Paul shared play-making duties with James Harden. While Paul and Harden were unsuccessful in their quest for a title (thanks in large part to the Warriors), Paul proved he could be effective in that role – splitting creation duties and playing off-ball at times.
However, Paul's best days are clearly behind him, and it's possible that the Warriors will ask him to accept a sixth-man role. Some legends have a difficult time transitioning to a lesser role as they get older, while others are fine with coming off the bench. Last season, there was a lot of discussion surrounding Russell Westbrook's role with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the future Hall-of-Famer ultimately came off the bench in 49 of his 52 games with the Lakers before getting traded in February.
Paul has a history of accelerating the development of his young teammates, and Golden State's second unit features a number of talented prospects who could benefit from his tutelage (including Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and Brandin Podziemski).
With all this in mind, it will be interesting to see how Kerr and his staff decide to utilize Paul entering opening night and whether he remains in that role for the entirety of the season.