Chris Paul coming to the Warriors is an experiment doomed to failure. Chris Paul as a Warrior is a sickening thought. Chris Paul is a locker-room judge whose presence will poison the Warriors.
Why would the Warriors trade 24-year-old Jordan Poole, who helped them win a championship last year, for a guy whose body breaks down, who has an abrasive history with Draymond Green and is known to be a locker room judge?
Hold your sugarless lemonade. Shaun Livingston has an explanation.
“This brings in another piece that’s trusted, that can speak and be respected,” Livingston told NBC Sports Bay Area. “And (Paul) can still get it done. Maybe it’s at a slower pace ... but that’s what happens in the playoffs.
“I think they’ll benefit if they can stay healthy.”
Livingston is uniquely qualified to clarify the basketball reasons why the Warriors would dare to consider acquiring Paul, a longtime nemesis. He has been where CP3 is going.
Back in the summer of 2014, as the Warriors shopped for a veteran point guard capable of contributing behind Stephen Curry, they chose Livingston. Signing him came with a measure of risk, due to his injury history.
Golden State Warriors
Those same concerns are expressed by observers questioning Golden State’s decision to bring in Paul. Livingston’s health and minutes were carefully managed. He averaged 73.4 games per season and 17.5 minutes per game.
Paul’s numbers don’t project to be appreciably different.
Whereas Curry is a peripatetic point guard, using constant movement to scatter defenses, Livingston was profoundly deliberate, whether scanning the floor for teammates or navigating his own shot.
“We were opposites, as a matter of fact,” Livingston said.
Opposites? Much the same can be said of Curry and Paul. Indeed, many of those concerned about CP3’s compatibility with the Warriors point to his purposeful but ponderous approach as one of the reasons.
But history illustrates that the Curry-Livingston tag-team at point guard was highly effective. During Livingston’s five-year term with Golden State, the franchise reached its zenith, appearing in five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three.
While Curry generally alternated between pick-and-roll and off-ball movement, often leading to an open 3-pointers, the 6-foot-7 Livingston often sought mismatches he could exploit by maneuvering into comfortable mid-range jump shots. Curry shot 3,632 3s during those five seasons. Livingston launched 24.
Just as coach Steve Kerr would have scripted – and not much different than what is projected from the Curry-Paul tag-team. Both Kerr and Curry have cited Paul’s ability to add dimension as a factor that makes him attractive.
Contrasting styles give an offense greater range and broader scope.
“When you go back and look at our teams that were able to win on the road – and I’m talking about win on the road, which you have to do in the playoffs – you’ve got to be able to get stops. Period.” Livingston said. “But you also need a little bit of diversity in your offense. Our teams had that. Of course, we had it with (Kevin Durant). But even with the teams before he came, we had other ways of scoring.
“Chris brings that. He brings another playmaker and someone who is trusted in the moments that matter the most.”
Paul is a one-year experiment that will be judged by where the Warriors finish. It’s a bust if they go home in mid-May, a success if they’re playing into June. He was hired to contribute during the regular season and shine in the postseason.
“In the fourth quarter, he’s still a clutch performer,” Livingston said. “Nobody is running fast breaks in the last two minutes; you rarely see that. Just get him there.”
Livingston can draw parallels between his experience with Golden State and that awaiting Paul. He can identify the potential advantages, too, which is why he believes CP3 can, and will, be good for the team.
That doesn’t, however, mean Livingston is blind to potential peril. That would be in the locker room, which belongs mostly to Curry and Green, who operate with opposite approaches. Paul and Green are more alike than not.
“The key is Draymond and CP being able to coexist,” Livingston said. “Both are dominant personalities. Both are leaders in their way. Both are very prideful players with big egos. They’ve exceeded their potential and expectations. Can they coexist in one locker room?”
That’s where the low-key Livingston and the high-strung Paul differ. Kerr and Curry will have to keep their antennae up. The professionalism of Green and Paul will be needed in a full-time capacity.
The basketball part? The Warriors, not so long ago, thrived with similar backcourt construction. That should be the least of their worries.