Chris Paul's fit, looming contracts among biggest storylines for Warriors' 2023-24 season

ByKendra Andrews ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

As Golden State Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. and coach Steve Kerr spoke to the media on Monday for the first time this season, their message was clear: The Warriors head into the 2023-24 season confident and connected.

They feel that everything that plagued them last season -- fractured relationships, wild road-home splits and a second-round playoff elimination -- is behind them. With their championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green still intact, the Warriors aren't entering a completely new era. But with Bob Myers, the architect of their dynasty, stepping down as general manager and former rival Chris Paul arriving as the team's biggest roster addition, Golden State still has quite a few questions to answer.

Where and how will Paul fit in? Are the moves the Warriors made during the offseason enough? Have they identified what caused their struggles away from Chase Center? How will this season impact future contracts for Kerr and Thompson?

Here's a look at the biggest storylines facing the Warriors with a week remaining until training camp.

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Perhaps the biggest question facing the Warriors since trading for Paul in July: How will the 38-year-old guard fit?

There still isn't a clear answer.

"I haven't decided yet what we're going to do," Kerr said. "I want to see training camp. We are going to try different combinations and take a look."

If the Warriors opt to start Paul, he would most likely be replacing either forward Andrew Wiggins or big man Kevon Looney. Removing Looney would create one of the smallest starting fives in the NBA. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, a lineup of Curry, Paul, Thompson, Green and Wiggins would be the first opening night starting group since the early 1970s Baltimore Bullets in which everyone is 6-foot-7 or shorter.

"We'll look at that [small lineup] for sure in camp and exhibition games," Kerr said. "It's hard to imagine that that wouldn't click pretty well, given that you've got a lot of talent and versatility and scoring on the floor. ...

"We've started Loon and Draymond. We are still throwing two bigs out there and it's worked well, but we've always had the changeup of going small."

When the Warriors acquired Paul in a trade that saw guard Jordan Poole dealt to the Washington Wizards, conventional wisdom suggested Paul would slide into a sixth man role, giving Golden State a more reliable veteran presence off the bench.

While Paul has never come off the bench throughout his 18-year career, he does have experience anchoring a second unit and sharing lead ballhandling duties with an MVP point guard.

Paul's 2017-2019 stretch with the Houston Rockets saw Paul join forces with a high-volume guard in James Harden, something Paul had not done to that point in his career. It worked. Only two teams had a higher offensive efficiency than the Rockets had when Paul played without Harden: the Rockets (as an entire team) and the Warriors.

This season, the presence of Paul should help the Warriors during the minutes their MVP guard sits. In 2022-23, Golden State's offensive efficiency dropped nearly eight points per 100 possessions with Curry off the floor.

Will last season's road woes carry over?

The Warriors dropped their first 10 games on the road and finished the season 11-30 away from Chase Center in 2022-23.

The numbers behind the Warriors' home-road splits were staggering. They went 33-8 at home. Their defensive rating was 108.4 in San Francisco, third best in the NBA, but it ballooned to 118.3 on the road, third worst in the league.

Kerr, Curry and Green continuously said they just lacked focus and effort away from Chase Center. Fractured chemistry in the locker room, stemming from the preseason incident between Green and Poole, hovered over the team. Kerr said after the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated the Warriors from the playoffs that the team never fully recovered from the punch.

Golden State won't have to wait long to see if things have changed. This season, seven of its first 10 games are on the road, with four coming as part of a back-to-back set.

One added task for the Warriors, who are projected by ESPN Stats & Information to be the league's second-oldest team behind the Milwaukee Bucks, is managing the new rules for resting star players.

The Warriors are expected to be impacted, as their head of sports medicine Rick Celebrini has never shied away from sitting players. For the past two years, Celebrini has held Thompson out of one end of back-to-backs as he came back from ACL and Achilles injuries.

"I don't think [the new rules] will impact anything," Kerr said. "Injuries are a part of the game, and there are going to be games where guys are going to miss, but we plan on complying with the league's rules and giving NBA fans everywhere as much opportunity to see our guys as possible."

How will Golden State fill its final roster spots?

The Warriors have their 14th and 15th roster spots open heading into training camp. Over the past month, Golden State has hosted workouts for players including Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Dewayne Dedmon, Will Barton and Derrick Favors, a team source told ESPN.

The two-day visit from Howard caught a lot of attention, but team sources told ESPN that this was just another standard workout and part of their process, and there was not going to be any imminent deal with the eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

That's not to say Golden State wouldn't mind adding another big to send at Western Conference superstars such as Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Team sources told ESPN that another option would be adding a veteran wing.

"We have good versatility and optionality throughout the roster, so [there is] nothing that we absolutely have to do right now," Dunleavy said Monday. "We are bringing in a mix of different players that we think can do some different things, and we'll evaluate in camp."

Veteran reserve guard Rodney McGruder has signed a deal to compete at Golden State's training camp, a league source confirmed to ESPN.

Team sources told ESPN that the ideal fit is a "glue guy" who will not be a distraction in a locker room already juggling multiple strong personalities. Following the splintered chemistry and the blockbuster addition of Paul, it's clear Golden State wants to ensure stability behind the scenes this season.

Contract years for Klay and Kerr

When Myers stepped down as the Warriors' general manager in May, it forced the question: Is this the first of several dominoes to fall for the Golden State dynasty?

While Green's new four-year, $100 million extension has locked in one vital piece, Thompson and Kerr are entering the final year of their respective deals, setting up some massive decisions for Dunleavy.

"There's a desire to extend [and] make sure those guys are in the fold with the Golden State Warriors moving forward," Dunleavy said Monday. "I think they feel a little bit of the same. But we are optimistic, and I think we are in a good place there."

Earlier this month, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported on "The Lowe Post" podcast that conversations between Thompson's camp and the Warriors have already begun, but it's expected to be a slow process. In April, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Thompson, who is eligible to extend for up to four years, $223 million, expects a max-level contract.

Any new deal for Kerr would be a massive payday. Earlier this summer, San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich signed a five-year deal worth more than $80 million, and Monty Williams agreed to a six-year, $78.5 million deal to join the Detroit Pistons.

"I feel great about my position here. I want to be here. I know Mike and [Warriors owner] Joe [Lacob] want me here, and so I'm very confident something will get done," Kerr said Monday.

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