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Evaluating the Warriors 2023 offseason

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Creator: Harry How | Credit: Getty Images

Copyright: 2022 Getty Images

At this stage in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green’s tenure with the Warriors (GSW), success is predicated on their ability to compete for championships. My focus today is to outline factors that speak for and against GSW’s ability to continue to be a championship contender.

I believe that Stephen Curry, Golden State maintaining their championship trio, and the addition of Chris Paul are three factors that position them to continue to be a championship contender.

Creator: José Luis Villegas | Credit: AP

Copyright: Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Curry is 1 of 6 active NBA players to have been the best player on a championship team. Last postseason, Curry averaged a career high in playoff points per game (30.5) while doing so on 46 / 36 / 85 shooting splits. During the playoffs, Curry also scored a then NBA record 50 points in a game 7 road win against the Sacramento Kings.

Creator: House of Highlights (Stephen Curry 50 point game 7)

As Curry continues to play at a level that matches his championship production, I believe there is a strong claim for Golden State continuing to be a viable championship contender.

Draymond Green’s recent contract extension solidifies that the Curry Thompson Green championship trio will be kept intact for another season. The coming months will provide insight on GSW’s plans to retain Thompson beyond this year. While that is true, by bringing back Green and incurring a deeper luxury tax bill (~$168M luxury tax), one can assume that is a signal that Golden State will be willing to do the same next summer for Thompson.

As a trio, this group has won 4 championships and 94 playoff games together. I believe that maintaining this core is another strong claim for Golden State continuing to be a formidable championship contender.

Creator: Joe Camporeale | Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Copyright: Joe Camporeale

The Warriors headline move of the 2023 offseason was trading Jordan Poole (2 future picks, Ryan Rollins, Patrick Baldwin Jr.) for Chris Paul. Chris Paul's play style will bring diversity to Golden State’s offense, and his off-court presence should help improve GSW’s team chemistry.

This past postseason, the Warriors were at their best against the Lakers when they successfully brought Anthony Davis into the pick and roll.

Creator: ZH Highlights (Gary Payton II as the roll man in Game 4 of Lakers - Warriors)

By luring Davis away from the rim, they were able to generate high quality shots at the basket. Gary Payton II played an integral role in taking advantage of that.

Creator: Bleacher Report (Chris Paul in Game 4 against the Nuggets in 2021)

In the 2021 NBA playoffs, Chris Paul torched Nikola Jokic in the pick-and-roll. During that playoff run, Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated noted that according to Synergy Sports, there were 53 players who ran at least 25 pick-and-rolls. Amongst that group, Paul ranked 3rd in percentage of his possessions used (69.7%) and 4th in points per possession (1.18). Even though 2 years older since that playoff run, Paul’s ability to be an effective pick-and-roll ball handler is an added strength to Golden State’s offense. It will be especially relevant against the Lakers and Nuggets, the two Western Conference finals teams that GSW will be looking up to as the season starts.

Off the court, Chris Paul’s reputation as a great leader and locker room presence should help to improve Golden State’s team chemistry. Draymond Green has noted that him punching Jordan Poole during training camp last year negatively impacted his voice and influence over the Golden State locker room. In an interview with The Ringer's Logan Murdock, Jordan Poole noted that “he and Draymond Green are simply teammates that try to win games. [He] admitted that he doesn't have a special bond with Draymond.” By replacing Jordan Poole with Chris Paul, one can assume that this should help with the Warriors team chemistry.

Overall, I think Golden State’s optimism should be rooted in continuing to employ Stephen Curry, maintaining continuity with their championship trio, and adding Chris Paul, a perennial all star that offers diversity to their typical chaos and flow offense.

I believe that Stephen Curry’s availability, the collective quality of play from their championship trio as they continue to age, and Chris Paul’s declining availability and play are factors that could prevent Golden State from continuing to compete for championships. In addition, GSW’s limited financial flexibility could make it difficult to make material roster changes now or at the trade deadline to fully address reasons why they lost against the Lakers in the second round.

Stephen Curry’s availability is a trend to monitor. The team’s success is contingent on Curry remaining healthy, and in recent years, he has missed ~40% of GSW’s games. If Curry cannot remain healthy, any possibility of GSW competing for championships will be halted.

While GSW has the benefit of maintaining their championship nucleus, there are viable questions about whether this trio can continue to produce at the level they did during their deep playoff runs. The table above shows lineup data that outlines how their recent playoff performance compares to other years where their season ended in June.

Against the Lakers in the 2023 playoffs, Klay Thompson averaged 16.2 points per game and shot 34% from the field relative to 20.6 points per game on 42% shooting from the field against the Kings. The same game 7 where Curry scored a then record 50 points was complemented by Klay Thompson scoring 16 points while going 4 for 19 from the field, and Thompson Wiggins and Green shooting a combined 12 for 42 from the field for 41 points. Sometimes teams lose and it can be simplified to key players needing to play better. While that is true, I believe the question on whether the trio can continue to produce at a championship level is valid based on Thompson and Green’s inconsistent play during parts of last postseason.

Chris Paul’s declining health and play are also potential deterrents from Golden State continuing to compete for championships.

Chris Paul has a consistent track record of being unavailable in the playoffs.

Chris Paul’s pick-and-roll effectiveness along with his playoff production took a significant step back last year. He was brought to Golden State to bring diversity to their offense as an elite pick-and-roll player. If Paul can no longer be that player, it is hard to envision how he will materially impact the team. In addition to Paul’s declining play, Golden State’s roster lacks the traditional pick-and-roll partner that Paul has thrived with in other destinations. (e.g., Blake Griffin, Clint Capela, Steven Adams, Deandre Ayton). Without a typical big man adept at finishing at the rim and capitalizing on Paul’s playmaking, I wonder what the true impact of Paul’s addition will be for GSW.

It should be noted that Jonathon Kuminga could be the roll man to step into that role.

In addition to Paul’s declining offense, he is also no longer the same defensive threat. Patrick Beverly famously referred to Paul as a traffic cone after Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks repeatedly targeted Paul during the 2022 playoffs. Paul’s size and defensive limitations will be accentuated against bigger teams like Denver and LAL. It follows that if Paul cannot stay healthy and be a serviceable two way player, one can argue that his impact on GSW’s title contention claim will be immaterial.

GSW is currently ~$40M into the luxury tax with a ~$180.6M luxury tax bill. ~77% of their cap space is dedicated to Curry Thompson Wiggins Paul and Green. The Warriors impending luxury tax bill, their highly concentrated financial layout of their roster, and their deficiency in tradeable contracts will make it difficult for the team to make material upgrades to their roster. This in turn increases the arduous nature of GSW fully addressing why they lost against the Lakers in the second round.

Lack of front court scoring, lack of consistent rim pressure, and lack of size were issues that plagued Golden State against the Lakers, and that would trouble the team against Denver.

GSW will still deploy a lineup that includes two non scoring threats in their front court. This is noteworthy because it shrinks the court for GSW and impacts the level of success they can have attacking the basket.

Creator: Always Hoops (Anthony Davis defense in Game 3 of Lakers - Warriors)

Against the Lakers, this lent itself to AD camping in the pain and negating shots at the rim. In game 1 & 2, GSW combated that by making 21 threes in both games. (The NBA playoff record is 25 made threes). As the series proceeded and GSW shooting cooled off, GSW adjusted by bringing AD into the pick-and-roll. However, once LAL adjusted by attaching AD to whatever non shooter they had on the floor, GSW’s offense struggled to consistently generate good looks. For what it's worth, GSW did sign Dario Saric, who shot ~39% on threes last year, as a potential reprieve to this problem. The opportunity cost of playing Saric would be in how he handicaps Golden State’s defense. (For his career he averages 0.6 blocks and 0.2 steals with a -0.7 defensive box plus/minus).

The Warriors took 24.9% of their shots at the rim last season. That is in juxtaposition to the Lakers taking 32.9% of their shots at the rim. Not being able to consistently generate offense there hindered the Warriors against the Lakers. That is especially relevant when you consider game 1 against LAL where they outscored them by 45 points on the three point line but still lost. The Lakers shot 29 free throws to the Warriors 6 that game.

GSW improving their rim pressure will need to come from the internal development of players like Jonathon Kuminga and Moses Moody. How much GSW can rely and trust those guys remains to be seen. To date, Steve Kerr has shown a reluctance to call their number as evidenced by their 7.7 and 10.6 playoff minutes per game.

Being at a size deficit against the Lakers also negatively impacted the Warriors.

Creator: House of Highlights (Anthony Davis in Game 1 of Lakers - Warriors put up 30 points & 23 rebounds)

Anthony Davis absolutely had his way in the paint against the Warriors. (Davis has averaged 26.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 15 career playoff games against the Warriors). This is a problem that is not unique to playing the Lakers but would also show up against championship contending teams like the Bucks with Giannis and the Nuggets with Jokic. (Giannis averaged 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists in 1 game against the Warriors last season. Jokic averaged 31 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game against the Warriors in the 2022 playoffs. show relevant statistics against the Warriors).

GSW’s reinvestment in small ball with Chris Paul, who has an x cap hold, will put the team at a size disadvantage. Even if GSW elects to go small with a lineup of Paul Curry, Thompson Wiggins and Green. That lineup will still need to contend against teams like Denver and LA who can match their skill will maintaining a size advantage. This could lead to additional wear on Paul and Curry by hunting them in pick-and-roll action as the Lakers did as the series went on.

Creator: (Final stretch of Lakers - Warriors Game 4)

In crunch time, the Lakers targeted Curry on two straight possessions to take the lead in Game 4. Having Paul and Curry on the court together in crunch time would create multiple options for bigger teams like LAL and Denver to target GSW.

Overall, there are reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about Golden State’s title chances. It will be interesting to see how things evolve for the 4 time championship trio.

Thank you for reading. Any feedback on how I can be better is appreciated. - Chibuzo Ikonte

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