Chris Paul

Warriors poised to ride uniquely qualified roster once again

NBC Universal, Inc.

STATELINE, Nev. – The typical NBA champion has two or three players destined for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. On very rare occasions, one can be enough. It’s even rarer, though, that a team can roll out four.

The Warriors are saddling up four such players for the second time in five years.

Though the addition of Chris Paul -- joining the trio of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson -- comes with a considerable list of potential pros and cons, there is no denying that each man has earned his way into the Hoop Hall.

Most basketball observers consider this a good, perhaps great, thing for the Warriors. Count ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas as a member of that camp.

“You have an opportunity to get a Hall of Fame player in Chris Paul, even though when you look at his body of work, maybe his teams and his personal style has been a little different than the style will be in Golden State,” Bilas told NBC Sports Bay Area at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Resort last month. “But it’s a player who is hungry to win. It’s not going to be about him. It’s going to be about the team and doing what it takes for the team to win.

“I think it’s a great move. And I think he’ll blend in wonderfully.”

This follows the 2016-19 Warriors, which benefited from Kevin Durant joining the team’s established core. It took a couple months before the team found its groove after Durant’s arrival. Even smart players require time to digest the changes and smooth the rough edges.

Paul’s arrival, however, is markedly different from that of Durant.

Durant was 28 years old, in the prime of his career, when he became a free agent and signed with Golden State. One of the five best players in the NBA, he was an immediate starter with his new team. Expectations were that he would perform at All-NBA level, which he did in all three seasons with the Warriors.

Paul, 38, is navigating the final turn of his 18-year career. He’s not a top-five player, not a top-20 player. Expectations are that he will perform at a high level -- but not as a starter, and not averaging 30-plus minutes per game.

Paul is, in essence, Golden State’s next Sixth Man. And contrary to the popular belief that a reserve point guard should adjust his game to the team on which he is the new guy, there really is no need for Paul to alter anything he has done throughout his career.

He’s one of the smartest players in NBA history, and that high intellect – and deep reservoir of national and global experience – will serve him well once he goes to work with his new teammates.

“Look, Chris is one of the great players of all time,” Bilas said. “To have him, with his international experience – he’s had to blend in with great players before – he’s been a lead dog on his teams throughout the course of his career. He doesn’t necessarily need to be that.

“But when a switch needs to be flipped in a given situation, he can do that. That’s an awfully nice thing.”

For as much as Warriors coach Steve Kerr pushes for a fast pace, he never asked Shaun Livingston to ask more of his body than it could deliver. Livingston played behind Curry with great deliberation and precision. His pace was his pace, a change from Golden State’s preferred overdrive gear.

And it worked. The offensive change of speed did a number on the head of opponents.

Paul is cut from much the same cloth. He’s a deliberate playmaker, dissecting defense with the right pass in the right location at the right moment. Or, like Livingston, pulling up for a midrange jumper.

The Warriors are counting on quality experience as their edge. All four future Hall of Famers have made deep postseason runs. Curry, Green and Thompson own four championship rings. Paul is seeking his first. They will guide this squad to its destiny, whatever it might be.

The Showtime Lakers had three players certified as bound for the Hall: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy. The Larry Bird Celtics had three: Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish. The Michael Jordan Bulls had three: Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman. More recently Spurs had three: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker. The “Heatles” of Miami made do with two: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, though Chris Bosh was on a Hall trajectory when his career ended at age 31.

Considering that the reigning champion Denver Nuggets have, as they enter the 2023-24 season, only one such player, Nikola Jokic, the Warriors have an abundance of riches.

“They could potentially have four Hall of Fame players on the roster this year,” Bilas said. “That’s pretty good. I don’t know who would say, ‘Nah, not interested in that.’”

Kerr wouldn’t dare say such a thing. Not general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. And certainly not Joe Lacob, who for the second time in his 14 seasons as Golden State’s CEO signed off on this rare roster configuration.

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