With the NBA season careening to a close next month, possible offseason moves are a hot topic. We’re seeing rumors on what teams outside the playoffs want to do from draft strategy to recruiting free agents, even in what will be a truncated COVID-19 affected process.
One thing that has gone unharmed is the varied chases for star Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul. In a season where he was expected to take a step back on a team likely to tank, they instead shined. OKC rallied behind Paul’s strong play and the rise of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Although they were bounced in the first round by the Houston Rockets, this young team has a bright future. Trading Paul now could garner them more players and resources towards building a championship roster, in their post-Russell Westbrook era.
In other words, he’s an available hot commodity — which is odd. Paul is 35 years old, guaranteed $85 million in the next two years, and has an injury history. He’s also coming off an all-star season, so taking that into account — his value, at this exact moment is at a peak. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to figure out how plausible it is for any organization to bring in the former Wake Forest guard, using tradenba.com. In alphabetical order, we’ll have each team’s chance and whether or not they’d pull the trigger, with commentary to follow.
There is one self-imposed rule for this exercise: a limit of four players per trade. Any number higher is a Darryl Morey-esque exercise in how to use NBA rules to my liking.
Atlanta Hawks — could, wouldn’t: Trae Young is growing into his abilities. They’d have to give up their 1st rounder this year, and this team is on a long term plan.
Boston Celtics — could, wouldn’t: Kemba Walker is younger and they’re in the Eastern Conference Finals right now. They should only be trading for defensive rebounding help, in basically everyone in Southie’s opinion.
Brooklyn Nets — could, wouldn’t: You’d have to give up Kyrie Irving, a player, and take back someone with Chris Paul. Kevin Durant went there to play with Kyrie, it’d be weird in his first year of playing to stick him with Paul, no matter your feelings on how good he is.
Charlotte Hornets — could, wouldn’t: They have the deals to bring him back to his home state, but they’re also very young. If he was available after a buyout, bring him in for the leadership factor around young guys, like Vince Carter was with the Hawks, would be cool. I also see Paul doing a one-year ring chase and Charlotte isn’t on the championship trajectory yet.
Chicago Bulls — could, wouldn’t: They still don’t have a coach, so if you’re talking about hiring Paul for that, it’s not crazy. The NBPA President has high basketball intelligence and the leadership qualities to run a team. Coaching, or a general manager position, is in his future. As a player though, the Bulls would have to give up Otto Porter (player option) and either Thaddeus Young or Zach Lavine. I don’t see the Bulls, with a retooled front office, willing to move younger players to take one older player due $80 million over two years. I can, however, see the Bulls trading players like Porter, Lavine, or Lauri Markkanen when offered the right combination of players and picks.
Cleveland Cavaliers — could, wouldn’t: I can see the Cavs moving off of one of their point guards in the future, but not now. Let Darius Garland build some value and see how this “two point guards that are the same height” experiment works. Also, they’re more likely to trade Kevin Love when the right deal comes along, this offseason….or the next one.
Dallas Mavericks — could, wouldn’t: Luka Doncic does need a PG who can shoot and Paul is a PG who can shoot. If they push for a win-now move soon, then this trade is a great move. They also could wait until the 2021 offseason, which looks to be a strong free agency market. Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle could make a move to bring Jrue Holiday to the Big D. He’d be a great addition to Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Denver Nuggets — could, wouldn’t: I’m expecting them to make a trade and continue building out this team, but not this one. Jamal Murray is their present and future; it’s reckless to mess with that.
Detroit Pistons — could, wouldn’t: Paul for Blake Griffin could work. The Pistons aren’t set up to win or compete for a playoff spot anytime soon. OKC could use another three-point shooter. In accord, Detroit would be getting older, during a rebuilding stage, and that makes no sense. They should start looking for trades featuring picks and young players.
Golden State Warriors — could, wouldn’t: If you want to hear someone laugh, tell a Warriors fan “Chris Paul for Steph Curry” with your whole chest. I’ll wait.
Houston Rockets — could, wouldn’t: I imagine Darryl Morey called no trade backs.
Indiana Pacers — could, wouldn’t: They just brought in Malcolm Brogdon and they need to hire a coach that can maximize what potential they have. A trade of Myles Turner and a contract for someone who can play off of Domantas Sabonis better looks to be a stronger possibility.
Los Angeles Clippers — could, wouldn’t: Do Paul and Doc Rivers have beef? An inquiry needs to happen before that trade. Also, they’d either have to trade Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, or some combination of three players featuring Patrick Beverly. This team looks like they’re going to make some tweaks this offseason, not blow it up in any way for someone older than their current stars.
Los Angeles Lakers — could, waiting for buyout: After LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they have the contracts for this. A better option: if he gets bought out in Summer 2021, I’d imagine Paul’s phone could be blowing up from Rich Paul, I mean Rob Pelinka, calling him every day to sign up and go ring chasing.
Memphis Grizzlies — could, wouldn’t: Ja Morant is the future and even though they have a nice mix of young vets, it’d be hard to break this team down now just to add a vet with a contract like Paul’s in a small market.
Miami Heat — could, maybe: They’d have to sign and trade Goran Dragic, throw in Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Kelly Olynk. That’s a pretty good package, even without draft picks — the mix of youth, shooting and height is always desirable. Jimmy Butler and Paul look like they have the same competitive fire. Could be a match made in heaven. In accord, you can send the same package to Houston and see if you could get Russell Westbrook. Hell, someone calls Darryl Morey and see if he’ll do that deal.
Milwaukee Bucks — could, should: Functionally, it’d be Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, and a contract or two adding up to more than $7 million, along with their 2020 first-round pick from Indiana, for Paul. That’s not crazy. The issue is how much this eats into their cap when they want to give Giannis Antetokounmpo a super-max extension. Are the owners worried about the luxury bill? Apparently not. Do you want to have two top-five contracts on your roster for even one year, since championships aren’t guaranteed, to keep Giannis happy? Yes. Stars are hard to come by, especially now in the player empowerment era. The effort to keep the Greek Freak happy could be reciprocated in him wanting to stay, and that’s important for the midwest team’s future.
Minnesota Timberwolves — could, shouldn’t: On paper, trading D’Angelo Russell, James Johnson (player option), and their 2020 FRP from Brooklyn for Paul is considered +24 wins. The issue is this: when COVID hit, Minnesota had 12 games with the former Ohio State point guard. I think they need more time together to get the team going. I also think that GSW, Brooklyn, and MN should have negotiated a three-team trade last offseason to move Russell to Minnesota, Durant to Brooklyn, and Andrew Wiggins to Golden State, but hey that’s just me.
New Orleans Pelicans — could, maybe: Maybe the Pelicans trade Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, and Jaxson Hayes for Paul and Terrence Ferguson, for example. Maybe they do it because they want to bring the past and the future together. Does this create winning basketball now? No, not automatically. Does it help build culture? Yes. Honestly, Holiday could leave in 2021 and sign up with anyone who wants his brand of defense and ball distribution, so they should be working to get ahead of losing him for nothing.
New York Knicks — could, maybe: I know they didn’t get Zion Williamson or Kevin Durant or Kyrie, but they have RJ Barrett, and he’s not a terrible future to hitch your wagon to. Team president Leon Rose is Paul’s former agent, so the connection is already rumor-inducing. Does Paul attract another star to join him? Maybe. The combination of a new front office and a star would help. They have enough contracts to make this work, own their own picks going forward, and Paul maybe gets them on the cusp of the playoffs. New York could also play the long game: keep developing younger talent, under new coach Tom Thibodeau, and see where that gets them. Or even trade for a younger star, like Booker or Lavine. Honestly, the Knicks are in a good position, so here’s hoping they don’t fuck it up.
Oklahoma City Thunder — 50/50: This is the part where I should remind people they don’t have any players who they’re offering maximum level extensions to, this offseason. Gilgeous-Alexander is going into his third year and is a star in the making at 22 years old. They’re the 9th youngest team with the North Carolina native there, and drop to an average age of 22 without Paul. He’s been a great leader on a good team, who could sign and trade Danilo Gallinari to wherever the Italian wants to go, in order to continue adding pieces. Or maybe Gallinari wants to stay there, who knows what his free agency market looks like. Nonetheless, wave enough players and picks, they could be interested.
Orlando Magic — could, wouldn’t: They were the eighth seed and would have to give up Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon, and a contract over $4 million, to close the financial gap. They have a lot of good, young pieces and it makes more sense to trade guys like Gordon to get a wing or two, to make up for Fultz’s poor jump shooting.
Philadelphia 76ers — could, should: A package of Tobias Harris, Zhairre Smith, the OKC pick the 76ers own and a protected pick in 2022, or another contract, should be enough. This trade commits to the idea that Ben Simmons will be playing power forward going forward, which did not look out of place whatsoever. Honestly, with a new coach coming in, whoever that could be, getting a leader like Paul helps more than it hurts. Plus, he’s a career 37% three-point shooter, so that helps on multiple fronts. Philly fans probably dream of a three-team scenario that also gets them Bradley Beal and removes Al Horford from the equation, too.
Phoenix Suns — could, wouldn’t: Financially, they’d have to trade the core of the team, in Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, and Cameron Johnson to get the 35-year-old, along with their lottery pick this year. Tell me Presti isn’t demanding everything he can from teams and I’ll show you a liar. Is this a guarantee the Suns are a playoff team next year? No. Does it get them closer? Maybe. Devin Booker made a leap this past season; Deandre Ayton improved his game all over; Mikal Bridges is coming together as a two-way player. Their 8–0 run in the bubble is a product of continued all-around improvement under Monty Williams. Natural growth could yield better dividends. Could they use a better option at power forward? Yes. Call Chicago then and see what they want for Markkanen.
Portland Trail Blazers — could, wouldn’t: Moneywise, it’d be Damian Lillard and maybe Zach Collins for Paul, but that’s reckless. Lillard is the franchise and you can’t trade the franchise player for anything less than another team. Alternatively, a trade of CJ McCollum and Zach Collins for Paul just creates a logjam at point guard, so it’s a no-go.
Sacramento Kings — could, wouldn’t: De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, and a first for Paul is the dumbest trade on this list because Sacramento isn’t challenging for a championship tomorrow, so why throw your best young player away for Paul? Because he’s cool? I’m cool, will they sign me?
San Antonio Spurs — could, wouldn’t: Financially, this makes sense if it’s LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan, a guard, and their lottery pick for Paul. He’d add intelligence and experience to a pretty full backcourt though, along with an expensive price tag, on a team that doesn’t usually spend a lot. They should call him for a coaching gig when he’s done playing. The Spurs are great at cultivating talent at every level of their organization.
Toronto Raptors — could, wouldn’t: Paul for Kyle Lowry gets Masai Ujiri fired. Next.
Utah Jazz — could, maybe: In my opinion, the 2019 offseason was the perfect time to go after Paul. He’d handle the more pressing point guard duties that Donovan Mitchell is still picking up — passing, creating for others. Also, you think there are rumors about Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s beef if he’s there? Maybe not. Maybe it is handled internally a lot better. This offseason though, trading Paul for Mike Conley and a contract to even everything out isn’t ridiculous. It gets OKC out from under a mammoth-sized deal a year earlier, so the thought has to be there.
Washington Wizards — could, wouldn’t: Paul for John Wall is an automatic +24 wins, because Wall is coming back from basically two years recovering from injuries. Sam Presti gets this offer and laughs Tommy Sheppard off the phone.