SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr and Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy made it known they’re a confident group going into training camp this year, exactly one week before the team’s media day.
The word “connectivity” should have been plastered behind them. Kerr and Dunleavy are focused on the present and moving on from the misfortunes of last season. They believe this group can be a more balanced roster, that Chris Paul can be a seamless fit and that their core is hungry as ever to prove themselves again.
Going into Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green’s 10th season together, the Warriors are the ones looking up at others in the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and maybe even others are considered favorites out West before the Warriors.
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Following a disappointing 2022-23 NBA season where the Warriors were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers, they appear all-in on contending right now and putting the past in the rearview mirror. Here are the three biggest storylines to watch going into Monday’s media day to kick off training camp.
Chris Paul’s Role
What Kerr thinks is best for Paul and the Warriors and what Paul thinks is best for him and the team might be two different things. Who’s to say right now. We finally should find out.
Paul had everyone jumping at why his addition won’t work for the Warriors with two words when he was introduced to the media at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas: You coaching?
Golden State Warriors
His response was to a question about him leading a young second unit, which didn’t seem to sit well with the 38-year-old point guard. Paul is a future Hall of Famer. He’s a 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team and was traded over the summer to a team who has been maybe his biggest rivals throughout his career -- one that is led by a fellow future Hall of Fame point guard in Curry.
Kerr has said he hasn’t decided if Paul will come off the bench or start, saying the Warriors essentially have six starters he can work with. He’ll only have five, and Paul on paper looks like the perfect Sixth Man for this team. Paul can be reunited with big man Dario Saric to space the floor and the Warriors seem to believe he’s what can unleash Jonathan Kuminga.
But will CP3 accept being CPSixthMan?
"If this is going to work then everybody has to embrace it regardless of who is starting and who is not,” Kerr said. “It only works if the whole team buys in. I know these guys well. I know five of them really well and I'm getting to know Chris.
“The one thing I know about all of them is they want to win more than anything. They are an incredibly competitive group and I'm very confident that we'll figure it out and the guys will buy in and find a way."
We’re likely to see both roles in the preseason, and the on-court product will be fascinating to watch. So will what Paul has to say Monday. Nothing is more important at this point.
Both Kerr and Thomspon are entering the final seasons of their current contracts. Dunleavy has said he wants coach and player to remain Warriors past this season, and Kerr said this same of his expectations for himself Monday. Kerr also said he isn’t stressing this situation and is comfortable coaching if an extension happens before the season begins or not.
How about Thompson?
The 33-year-old shooting guard always has maintained he wants to be a Warrior for life. Curry, 35, is under contract for three more seasons. Green, 33, signed a four-year contract this summer that has a player option on the final season. Thompson is sure to be questioned about his contract status and his quotes should be worth the wait.
Thompson is said to have had a great summer. The previous offseason he admitted to having a mental block from his prior two season-ending leg injuries. He didn’t play in pickup games and wasn’t part of scrimmages for a bit. Thompson this offseason frequently was on the court and put in hours with trainers like Chris Brickley and Jordan Lawley.
A motivated Klay usually is one to count on. Thompson started last season extremely slow and showed his frustrations. Starting strong would be huge for the Splash Brother who led the NBA in 3-pointers for the first time last season.
“Continuing Klay's career here as a Warrior is really important to us,” Dunleavy said. “I think last year he showed for the most part he can really still play at a high level. In some ways, I think missing two full seasons, he may make up a little bit on the back end and I think he's primed to have a really good mid-30s career.
“I know he's put a ton of time in this offseason, so I’m excited for the year he's got ahead of him.”
Make Or Break
The Warriors gained 14 years of experience in swapping Jordan Poole for Paul on the day of the NBA draft, but also added 14 years of age for a team whose star core is turning 36, 34 and 34 years old next spring. They moved on from James Wiseman (21 at the time), Patrick Baldwin Jr. (20) and Ryan Rollins (20 at the time). That leaves Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody as the two left from what not too long ago looked like the Warriors’ future.
Kuminga turns 21 on Oct. 6 and Moody did so on May 31. The Warriors’ two lottery picks have seen their status fluctuate up and down Kerr’s rotations their first two years and expected to take a leap in Year 3. In reality, though, the spotlight is much brighter on Kuminga and the question marks are much bigger.
Moody averaged 7.8 fewer minutes per game than Kuminga in the regular season, but 7.3 more than him in the playoffs. Kuminga was a DNP (Did Not Play) in three of the Warriors’ 13 playoff games and averaged only 6.1 minutes after playing 20.8 minutes a night in the playoffs. Moody was a DNP in the Warriors’ first playoff game but didn't receive another after, averaging 13.4 minutes over the next 12 games.
When Kuminga’s role diminished coincided with the Warriors getting Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II back. Those two negate a lot of Kuminga’s main skills and they’re back at full strength headed into training camp. The Warriors have stated their encouragement in Kuminga throughout the offseason ahead of a huge camp.
“I'm excited about JK,” Kerr said. “He's had a really good summer. I was getting reports routinely when I was overseas and the coaches were all raving about him saying that he's really worked hard and understood what's needed from him.”
Upside can only last so long. No player on the Warriors has the same kind of upside or potential as Kuminga. The hypothetical player has to match the real one.
Now is the time for the Warriors to know if Kuminga is their kind of player. A resounding yes unlocks a new world for this Warriors team and future ones.