Chris Paul expected to start for Warriors, play in short spurts

It will be one of the most watched NBA storylines when training camps open next month:

Will Chris Paul start for the Warriors or come off the bench?

While coach Steve Kerr kicked the can down the road saying, “We’ll just look at all kinds of different combinations” in camp, ESPN’s Marc Spears said in an appearance on Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill’s podcast “Good Word with Goodwill” (hat tip USA Today) he has heard Paul will start and play in short spurts.

“I do expect him to start. And I think it’s like five-minute spurts. I don’t know that they really want his minutes to be high, but I think they’re gonna try it. I could be wrong, but that’s the gist I’m getting. This isn’t an opinion that he’s expected to start. It’s what I’m hearing. He’s never not started in his career.”

If this were just a basketball decision it would be an easy one, CP3 would come off the bench. The Warriors can roll out the same starting five from last season — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney — that was one of the league’s best lineups and had a +22.1 net rating (via Cleaning the Glass). For context, that lineup was nearly 10 points per 100 possessions better than the Denver Nuggets starting five.

However, coaching an NBA team is much more than Xs and Os — it’s more about buy-in and managing personalities. Paul’s reaction to a reporter when asked about playing with the second unit — “You coaching?” — suggested he wasn’t ready to give up a starter’s role. At least not yet. It might be easier on the Warriors locker room in the near term to have Paul start, play a “short spurt” then come out, only to return with the second unit. One of the key reasons the Warriors need CP3 is to prop up the second unit, which has fallen off a cliff for the past couple of years when Stephen Curry has sat.

What really matters is who is on the court for the Warriors to close games, and CP3 is going to have to earn his way into that fivesome.

Also, what the Warriors’ starting five looks like when they host the Suns on opening night, Oct. 24, and what it looks like by Christmas Day against the Nuggets — or when the playoffs start — could be very different.

If the Warriors can blend Paul into their rotation, see a step forward from Thompson (one more year removed from his injuries), get some strong bench play from Jonathan Kuminga and Dario Saric, and if Curry is Curry the Warriors are a threat to win it all. They don’t have the margin for error they did at their peak, but if CP3 can be among the things that comes together for these Warriors, they are legit contenders.

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