Warriors’ New Addition Chris Paul: Highlights and Lowlights from His First Game

It was a tale of two halves for Chris Paul in his highly anticipated with the Golden State Warriors. The Point God finished with 14 points, six rebounds, nine assists, two steals and just one turnover during his team’s hard-fought 108-104 season-opening loss to the Phoenix Suns, an up-and-down performance marked as much by his game-changing second half as widespread earlier struggles.

One game doesn’t make a season, especially on opening night while playing with a new team for the first time. Paul will inevitably get more comfortable in the Dubs’ system as 2023-24 wears on. Still, there were plenty of telling positives and negatives from the future Hall-of-Famer on Wednesday night that should have some staying power across the 82-game grind and beyond.

Here are the six most revealing moments of Chris Paul’s debut with the Warriors.

Chris Paul makes something out of nothing

Paul Suns, Chris Paul, Suns, Warriors, Jordan Poole

Paul’s rough numbers before intermission—two points, two rebounds and six assists on 0-6 shooting—weren’t quite an accurate encapsulation of his impact. Why? He consistently made the right play while setting the table for Golden State offensively, especially when it meant breaking from script to keep stagnant possessions moving and correct bad spacing.

The Warriors’ initial action here goes nowhere, with Klay Thompson’s ghost screen for Paul failing to create defensive confusion between Josh Okogie and Kevin Durant nor an extra sliver of space to attack. Paul puts his head down going right anyway, stopping as he nears the baseline for an ostensible pull-up two. But he up-fakes instead of settling for a fading, contested mid-ranger, seeing Gary Payton II cut toward the ball and immediately getting into a dribble hand-off. Eric Gordon jumps to Paul as Okogie recovers to the ball, leaving a small passing window for Payton on the roll.

GPII’s difficult floater in traffic doesn’t go down, but still nets Golden State an extra possessions and counts as a good shot on what could’ve been an otherwise wasted trip down the floor. Ask yourself this: Is Jordan Poole making that impromptu play with Payton look so easy and routine once Thompson’s ghost screen yielded no advantage?

Poole definitely isn’t reconfiguring spacing like Paul does on the possession below, either.

Check out how crowded the left wing is once Thompson catches from Paul on Dario Saric’s pindown, passing to Moses Moody. Rather than standing pat, getting the ball from Moody or directing Thompson to cut away, Paul takes the onus upon himself to re-space the floor. Saric’s catch and dump-off to a cutting Paul gets Phoenix’s defense in rotation, leading to a makable look from Thompson before Moody pays Paul’s extra movement off with a corner three off an offensive board.

Paul is best known as a ruthless basketball tactician, and rightfully so. But his genius extends far past set plays and perfect flow of the offense, into cracks of execution and solid defense that he often opens back up into quality possessions for his team simply through reading the floor.

Remember these sequences as Paul’s time with the Dubs continues. There will be tons of them throughout the season.

Chris Paul’s subtle two-way limitations

Paul definitely won’t be getting any longer, and at 38, he’s only going to lose more quick-twitch athleticism from here. As many triples as he put up after getting traded to the Warriors, anticipating more open catch-and-shoot attempts from long-range than at any point of his career, Paul can only do so much to hasten his release and increase his comfort letting fly from multiple feet beyond the arc. Those are subtle deficiencies, ones he more than makes up for overall on both sides of the ball. But they came to bear on Tuesday against Phoenix during a back-and-forth affair that hung in the balance until its final moments.
NBA - Après son arrivée aux Warriors, la prédiction polémique sur Chris  Paul !

Among the game’s most significant crunch-time plays was Okogie’s corner three from Devin Booker with just over a minute remaining, a long-range splash that put the Suns up by four. Booker drops an absolute dime here, manipulating both levels of the defense by using multiple screens for Jusuf Nurkic and feigning a pull-up jumper until the last possible moment. Paul does his job, tagging Nurkic on the roll while leaving a poor shooter like Okogie all alone. He tries his best to reverse course on Booker’s pass to get an effective contest, but just doesn’t have the necessary combination of length or burst to bother Okogie’s shot—an easily exploitable hazard of using a six-foot, near 40-year-old as the low man defensively.

Would another player have affected Okogie’s jumper, causing a miss? It’s certainly plausible, especially considering Golden State had Andrew Wiggins and Payton watching from the bench. On the other hand, maybe that’s Curry guarding Okogie in the weak corner if the Dubs went with another wing on the floor or Draymond Green was healthy.

Whether Curry would manage a better close-out than Paul is really beside the point, though. The issue is that the Warriors were faced with playing two small guards defensively in crunch-time, one only really remedied by sitting Paul on the bench.

Just like he can only do so much about ground coverage defensively, Paul can only improve so much as a spot-up shooter some two decades into his legendary career. He went an ugly 0-6 from three against the Suns, with some bad misses coming both on and off the dribble. But the most telling triple of Paul’s debut with Golden State is actually one he didn’t take.

There’s no getting around it: This needs to be a catch-and-shoot three. Kevon Looney could’ve stretched the defense further by taking an extra dribble, coaxing an extra step toward the paint from Okogie, but it looks like Paul made up his mind to drive from the moment he catches the ball on a well-executed ‘shake’ opposite a Thompson ball screen.

Again, Paul is stuck at six feet or a hair below it, and his elongated release is built into his basketball DNA by now. He can be a deadeye spot-up shooter when given time and space. If he feels rushed or doesn’t have his feet set, though, it’s inevitable that some Warriors possessions that would normally end in clean looks from deep turn into driven close-outs or ball reversals.

The Point God giveth to the Warriors and taketh away from the Suns

Chris Paul, Golden State Warriors

The Warriors overcame a 15-point halftime deficit in large part due to Paul’s two-way impact. They felt it most during the third quarter, after Curry picked up his fourth foul, leaving Paul to run show the solo—exactly the type of scenario that would’ve spelled doom for the Dubs a year ago. Instead of crumbling without Curry running defenses ragged, Golden State outscored the Suns by six with him on the bench, wresting control of the game back behind Paul’s 10 points, four rebounds and two assists in the third.

How many times have you seen this pick-and-roll, mid-range movie before? You’ll see it again, again and again in empty-side action when teams dare play drop against the Warriors.

Paul struggled in isolation early, thwarted by the likes of Yuta Watanabe and Drew Eubanks. When the hulking Nurkic got caught on him in the second half, though, Paul proved much too fast and decisive attacking off the dribble, twice netting and-1s at the rim.
Chris Paul Opens Up On His Fit With The Warriors - How To....

Paul is at his best attacking bigs on switches when he goes fast, taking advantage of his remaining burst rather than dancing with the ball from side to side. Keep an eye on that dynamic as the season progresses and teams wary of giving Curry and Thompson daylight to launch switch across five positions.

Paul was rock solid at worst on defense Tuesday night, consistently in the right place as a helper and covering up teammates’ mistakes. Matched up with Durant one-on-one, he even turned back the clock to the mid-2010s, getting under the former back-to-back Finals MVP with the Warriors to draw a charge. Paul lacks the lateral mobility to be an All-Defense candidate anymore, but still has the processing speed to make massive plays on that side of the ball when his team needs them most.

Barely more than a minute after pulling the chair on Booker in transition, creating a turnover, Paul preyed on Okogie’s hesitance to shoot when contested with a perfectly timed close-out. As the Suns wing drives baseline, getting half a step on Paul, Looney comes to stop the ball, giving Paul the opportunity to effectively “peel” onto Nurkic for a huge crunch-time steal.

Paul’s lack of size and mobility defensively will be a problem against the best teams, most notably when points are hard to come by in the clutch. But he can still give a bit more than he takes away on that side of the ball, a far better equation for the Dubs than when they were forced to play in similarly defining situations last season with Poole.

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