SAN FRANCISCO — Four days remain until the Warriors’ first preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers and Steve Kerr chose to answer a looming question out the gate.
With Draymond Green sidelined due to injury, Chris Paul will be part of the starting five on Saturday night alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney, Kerr said.
“It’ll be a great talking point around the water cooler,” Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice. “As I said, we’ll try a lot of different lineups during the exhibition season. They’ll start the first game and we’ll see after that.”
The preseason starting five won’t be set in stone moving forward, but it’ll give the Warriors a look at how Paul plays alongside Curry. The lineup is small with Thompson effectively sliding into a forward position, as he did at times last year. Paul will take on Green’s role as a passer to find Curry and Thompson off-ball.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of having Chris Paul on our team,” Kerr said. “He’s one of the great point guards of all time and we’ve been competing against him for so many years, he’s one of the guys I’ve coached against and you shake your head at how good he is and how particular he is about every possession.”
Positionally, another option would have been to start third-year forward Jonathan Kuminga in Green’s place, but Paul can better fill Green’s playmaking role as a starter.
It’ll be worth watching in preseason games how that same skill can improve the offensive flow for the second unit — or as Kerr calls it, the “non-Steph minutes.” The Warriors had a 113.0 offensive rating with Curry off the floor last season, ranking in the NBA’s 35th percentile, compared to a 120.0 offensive rating (90th percentile) with Curry on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass.
“The biggest problem we’ve had since I’ve been here is the non-Steph minutes, even when we had Kevin (Durant),” Kerr said. “And that group won back-to-back championships. (Previously) in our non-Steph minutes, our whole goal is to put a great defensive team on the floor and win those minutes with defense. We’ve never generated great offense with Steph on the bench, and Chris will help us do that.”
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In this ultra-small lineup, Thompson will be guarding the power forward position, Kerr noted. It’s a drastic shift for Thompson, who defended wings and perimeter players during his pre-injury prime. Now at full health nearly three years after tearing his Achilles tendon, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard has the strength to guard up.
“He’s so physically strong and used to guarding post-up players after switches,” Kerr said. “So we think Klay can guard at the four this year and we can put him in coverage where he’s having to defend pick-and-roll as a four and that will be a different job for him. We’re planning on doing some of that and seeing how he does.”
Green injury update
Green will be out for at least two weeks as he nurses a left ankle sprain. Green was on the sideline riding a stationary bike at practice and also lifted weights Tuesday, Kerr said.
Who surprised at practice?
The Warriors scrimmaged on Tuesday with two bench teams playing against the starting five. The “red team” featuring rookie Brandin Podziemski, two-way guard Jerome Robinson, veterans Rudy Gay and Rodney McGruder and two-way Usman Garuba “dominated” the scrimmages, Kerr said.