Green's return feels like the last chance for a reset
Chris Paul out against Raptors, what will the Warriors new rotations look like?
The Golden State Warriors may finally see the heartbeat of the team return today, as Draymond Green has been cleared for a return to action. First order of business: the Toronto Raptors come to town for a pre-dinner start.
For those who may have missed it, Chris Paul broke his hand. Though it didn’t look that bad when it first happened, Paul’s hand is literally held together with pins and bolts. The non-explosive contact - an innocuous little bump chasing a rebound after a missed three - that led to this injury is alarming (again) given his long history of injuries.
It hastens the return of Green, who was recently cleared from his league imposed hiatus. Prior to that last game, the estimate for Green’s reappearance was revised in a perfectly formatted Woj quip via two tweet separated by a single hour. I guess we were right all along and that whole “ramping up” thing isn’t really necessary when it comes down to it.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (17-18) vs Toronto Raptors (14-21)
WHEN: Sunday, January 7th, 2024; 5:30pm PST
This feels like one of the last chances to reset the identity of this team
No longer elite, the Warriors need to lean into their role as a scrappy contender with a high top end scare potential. In order to be that, they’ll have to accept their middling offense and defense without Green melting down. Maybe his return - combined with the forced absence of Chris Paul - will force the Warriors and Green to find a new, healthier version of normal.
If not? There are a number of potential pivots that have all been thouroughly explored. But before any of that becomes critical, it has always been presumed that the very first question is if it can work with this core, they will make it work. Results so far this season are mixed. With the team executives continuing to point towards a recent championship, it’s not exactly clear how (or if) that lightning in a bottle championship can be run back with the current crew. But damnit, they’re going to try for as long as they can.
The Warriors’ feisty forward/center was handed an indefinite suspension from the NBA back on December 13th. The Warriors have gone 7-5 in the 12 games that he missed. Though it’s not too far out of range from how the Warriors played with Green, his absence has contributed to a fair amount of turmoil as coach Steve Kerr juggles the rest of the roster around the gaps left by both Green and Gary Payton.
Green has a chance to truly be a leader here. Golden State is at a crossroads. The inherent conflict between the old guard chasing rings in the waning years of their careers and the desire for their unproven players to prove themselves is coming to a head. There are only so many chances left in the bag, and some real honest confusion about how best to acheive success within that tightening window.
Now that Chris Paul is out for who knows how long, it gives Green a chance to help. Though known mostly for his defense, Green’s playmaking is going to be critical at this juncture. The Warriors have a 13.2% turnover percentage when CP3 is on the court, 10th-best in the NBA. Without his stabilizing hand, that number jumps to 16.2% - ranking last. That’s a huge loss for a team that is suddenly pedestrian on both offense and defense. And a great opportunity for Green to make a positive contribution when he returns.
I’m not sure that the window was enough to really work through any sort of root cause and solution, but what this separation has done is to give both sides space to evaluate where they are - and where they want to be. In the best scenarios, those paths are the same, but as is often the case, it’s way more complicated than that.
The Raptors, Siakam, and a team chasing a future that may never arrive
The Raptors are the last team that Golden State lost to in the NBA Finals. Since then, it’s been nothing but bumps in Toronto. They’ve been active recently in the trade market, first dealing OG Anunoby to the New York Knicks for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, then loudly attempting to trade an expiring Pascal Siakam. That latter one hasn’t happened yet - and may not - but it signals that the Raptors are ready to fully reset their timelines.
Potential trade partner teams will obviously need to know if Siakam would re-sign with them, which will impact how much the Raptors receive in a trade and therefor gives the player a ton of leverage. If it ever comes together, this is a scenario that Golden State frequently finds itself attached to. Some package of a vet and young player(s) would certainly be enough, but finding a mutually benifical balance is always the sticking point.
So while Toronto evaluates and explores ahead of the trade deadline, it has put their team in a sort of limbo. But in the meantime, they’ve cobbled together an interesting mix of young, promising players. While Golden State has got to be happy about getting Green back on the court, this is a Toronto team that is desperately trying to find out if what they have can work.
It’s not going to be an easy one.
Then again, you can say that about many things these days. Let’s go!