In sports, trading away a 24-year-old for a 38-year-old is usually a terrible idea. And yet, the Golden State Warriors dropped one of the biggest bombshells of the NBA offseason.
Goodbye, Jordan Poole. Hello, Chris Paul.
New general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. had only been on the job for a week when he made a decision that might be a career-defining move.
Adding Paul and jettisoning Poole makes two things abundantly clear.
No. 1, the Warriors are focused on the present and not the future. No. 2, Draymond Green will likely return.
Leadership is all about making bold choices, and this is one. It’s risky because Paul is coming off a career-worst season with lows in points (13.9) and player efficiency rating (17.7). It’s also risky because the franchise that drafted and developed a young 20-point scorer who helped it win an NBA championship suddenly gave up on Poole.
None of this, of course, happens without the approval of Steph Curry. We’re not saying that Curry ordered the code red, but he gave the thumbs up on Green and Paul and the thumbs down on Poole. Will it be enough for Golden State to be a contender in 2023-24? That will depend on how much Paul has left.
At his peak, Paul was one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. Teams scored more, shot better, and were more efficient when he was on the court. As recently as two seasons ago, he led the league in assists per game (10.8) and shot 49.3 percent from the field.
But the mileage has caught up with the 18-year veteran. He played only 59 games last year and has a history of breaking down during the playoffs. Now, the Warriors expect him to be a vital cog in their championship hopes.
If healthy, Paul should be a better overall fit. While Paul has his defensive shortcomings due to age and injuries, he was still a better defender than Poole last season.
Paul had the defensive edge in box plus/minus, win shares, and efficiency rating. He’s also a lot more careful. Despite his struggles last year, he set a career-best for turnovers per 100 possessions (2.9).
Meanwhile, Poole set a career-worst (4.8). Poole is one-dimensional. He’s a shooter and can be a liability when his shot isn’t falling. In last season’s playoffs, Poole shot 34.1 percent (25.4 from three-point range) and saw his scoring (10.3) almost cut in half from his regular-season average (20.4).
Another big difference is the usage rate. Poole’s had a career-high rate of 29.4 last season, the second-highest on the team behind Curry’s 31.0. Paul’s was a career-low 19.2. Without Poole, the ball movement could be even smoother for the Warriors, who led the NBA in passes made and assist points created. Paul could also be fresher since he will have fewer play-making responsibilities. Green initiates most of the offense as a point forward in Steve Kerr’s system.
All this looks good on paper. We don’t know how Paul’s fragile body will hold up for the long haul. And say what you want about Poole’s selfishness, but he was durable (82 games played). Paul hasn’t appeared in more than 70 since 2015-16 (74).
The end is near for Paul. This will be his fifth team in eight seasons. He’s no longer the electric force he was with the Los Angeles Clippers when Lob City reigned supreme. He’s probably not an All-Star anymore. He’s more of a role player. The Warriors are gambling that that will be enough.