The Golden State Warriors’ 122-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings was the decisive game in which Mike Dunleavy made the necessary offseason move.
Dunleavy had multiple motives when he made the audacious decision to trade Jordan Poole, a championship-tested player who was also youthful and talented. In hindsight, Poole’s connection with the team that drafted and cultivated him was irreversibly damaged by the Draymond Green punch.
The off-court explanation was that. However, the rationale given in court turned out to be just as valid.
Poole scored goals one after another. But far too many evenings of dubious decision-making, precarious ball security, and blatantly poor defensive work left many deeply frustrated. The preseason fiasco may have had a psychological impact on Poole, but it was clearly having a negative impact on the squad.
Dunleavy felt compelled to fire, but not for anyone in particular. He then went ahead and activated Chris Paul, the Warriors’ fierce archenemy who is almost Poole’s opposite in many aspects.
The most obvious difference is age, but age also brings experience that has been tested, a knack for control, and a loathing of turning the ball over, especially when it matters most. Paul might be the floor general on the court, an additional adult in the room for a team that saw far too many immature moments in the previous campaign.
Although the Warriors have been at the forefront of Paul’s flaws in the playoffs—a magnificent irony that is not lost on many, especially Warriors fans—Paul’s notorious determination to win is also nothing to laugh at. But one thing has always been certain, particularly during the regular season: Paul instills a winning mentality in every squad he has been a member of.
The Warriors are adept at winning, which makes their marriage to Paul, at least from a cultural standpoint, a match made in heaven.
On-court fit was a legitimate concern, though. It was theoretically a prescription for defensive catastrophe to add another guard who is barely 6 feet 2 inches tall, especially one who is 38 years old and past his peak as a defender, to a backcourt that already included 6-foot-2 Steph Curry.
Despite doubts about Paul’s ability to mesh with the Warriors’ high-velocity, fast-paced motion game, the offensive fit has been encouraging. Curry’s readiness to work off the ball and perform all the grunt labor that players of his caliber usually shun is one straightforward explanation for this.
Because of such ability, Paul has been the best replacement for Draymond Green as the Warriors’ primary distributor. He makes quick deductions about the opportunities made by those who produce them, like Curry, who is arguably the best advantage creator in the NBA.
In this read-and-react offensive, Paul is the master reader. He nearly always responds appropriately, exhibiting little hesitation and a nearly flawless record of error-free responses. He notices how Wiggins and Curry work together to receive the ball in the possession above: Wiggins dips inside at the same moment that Curry moves toward him to get it. Harrison Barnes is distracted by Curry’s weight for a brief moment, allowing Wiggins to go past him before Paul strikes him in mid-stride.
After the wild moments of the previous season, Paul is the anchor the Warriors needed. They have utilized Paul as a weapon to their advantage, but they have frequently been unable to manage. Paul has a tendency to avoid turmoil, opting instead to establish order in the half court and ensure that his teammates are positioned where he needs them to be. Paul’s 5.25 assist/turnover ratio in just two games—21 assists versus four turnovers—is evidence of his methodical and accurate passing style.
In the offseason, Klay Thompson previously remarked of Paul, “I’m excited about myself as a shooter.” I have a feeling that CP will set me up nicely and put it exactly here on the seams.