The new-look Golden State Warriors are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season with the offseason addition of Chris Paul, but there are certainly questions about his fit. The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer rose to excellence by having the ball in his hands and operating almost exclusively out of the pick-and-roll. Now he finds himself on a team with two other primary creators in Steph Curry and Draymond Green, in a Steve Kerr system that prioritizes ball and player movement over pick-and-roll -- often to the great despair of Dub Nation.
One person not worried about the fit, however, is Curry. Coming off one of the best seasons of his storied career, Curry said on Thursday that he and Paul have played "a lot" of pickup this offseason, and the two are already thriving.
"It's mad fun," Curry said of playing next to Paul. "I get the rebound and push, I can throw it ahead in transition knowing he's pretty sure with the ball. He makes the right decision. He's been really good catching and shooting when he's open, moving without the basketball. ... It's pretty seamless, really, to be honest."
Paul is no stranger to playing with superstar guards, and history suggests that operating alongside Curry won't be a problem. In Paul's first year next to James Harden, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Devin Booker, the Rockets, Thunder and Suns all had significant success when the duos shared the floor.
|Chris Paul's first year on floor with star guards
James Harden (2017-18)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2019-20)
Devin Booker (2020-21)
As you can see, the "there's only one ball" theory has never been an obstacle for Paul, who has become an elite spot-up shooter. He ranked in the 98th percentile in catch-and-shoot efficiency last season with the Suns, per Synergy Sports, and in the 94th percentile in spot-up situations. The guy knows how to get it done without the ball.
The bigger issues, as Curry pointed out on Thursday, will come on the defensive end. With Paul standing at an even six-feet and Curry at 6-2, the duo could be challenged by some of the league's bigger, stronger guard pairings, and potentially hunted by opposing stars in a playoff setting.
"There's challenges in terms of how we match up, making sure we're defensively sound and how we play on that end of the floor and how we adapt with the other three guys that are out there with us, whoever that is," Curry said. " ... You obviously have to rebound, and there's an attention to detail on mechanics and reads that can help us do our work early, so you're not just trying to get rebounds above the rim. Matchup-wise, it depends on the game, what the scouting report is. We'll be able to adapt to that."
A nine-time All-Defensive selection, the aging Paul will rely on his basketball IQ and relentless tenacity to make up for whatever he's lost athletically. The 35-year-old Curry, meanwhile, has continued to add muscle and improve defensively over the latter half of his career. The two will also have the benefit of defensive stalwarts Green, Andrew Wiggins and/or Kevon Looney on the floor with them.
Watching how Paul fits into a Warriors team seeking another title will be one of the most intriguing early storylines of the 2023-24 season, which begins on Oct. 24 when Golden State hosts Paul's most recent former team, the Phoenix Suns. (The first preseason game will be Saturday night, when the Warriors host the Los Angeles Lakers.)
"That's the beauty and the challenge of what we have in terms of our roster," Curry said. "Because each five that you put out there is going to have a strength and they're going to have a weakness. You have to be able to adapt as we go through."