2017 NBA Free Agency: Where Will Chris Paul Land?
Published on June 16, 2017
Welcome to the most important summer in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers. There haven’t been many important summers in this downtrodden franchise’s history, to be sure, but this one’s big. That’s because DeAndre Jordan is the only core piece of the roster contractually obligated to be a Clipper next season. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick all have the option to bold in free agency next month, if they so choose.
Paul is obviously the headliner. As great as Griffin is, Paul is a top-five-point guard in the history of the game that hasn’t really shown signs of slowing down. There is some physical wear-and-tear about which to be concerned, but he still seems to be on top of his game at age 32. No matter how you shake it, CP3 is going to command a max contract this summer, be it from the Clips or an external suitor.
So, if he does decide he’s had it in LA, where would he go? Broderick Turner of the LA Times reported on Thursday that Paul plans to meet with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets in addition to LAC once the free agency period opens July 1. More interested clubs may emerge between now and then, but those are the teams in which we know CP3 has at least minor interest.
Let’s try our hand at handicapping the field and find out where Chris Paul will be suiting up come October.
We toyed with listing the Clips at even money here, but these murmurs about other teams have us wondering if he’s seriously considering leaving Hollywood. Chris Paul is beyond obsessed with winning, and he’s still looking for his first trip to the conference finals, let lone championship series. The Clippers’ upside appears capped with the current core. Is CP3 okay with playing out his final prime years on a team that has repeatedly shown us they’re incapable of beating the Golden State Warriors?
Regardless, LAC has to be the favorite for the financial impact. Paul was a part of the player’s union that negotiated a new clause in the collective bargaining agreement that rewards superstars beyond their age-38 seasons. That only comes into play if Paul re-signs a five-year deal with LA. No other team can offer him more than four years. The Clippers can also pay him $50 more than any other team. So, there are plenty of factors in play in LAC’s favor.
The Clippers also just brought in well-respected executive Jerry West. While you’d think this would please Paul’s desire to win, CP3 is reportedly as close with Doc Rivers as he is with anybody on the team. If West’s arrival diminishes Rivers’ role within the organization, that may not sit too well with Chris Paul. Would that be enough to cause him to look elsewhere? It’s too soon to say, but it’s still something worth noting.
The Clips are still the favorites to re-sign CP3, but we’re not as confident in it was we would’ve been had you asked us a week ago. Something seems to be brewing here.
ESPN reported a couple of weeks back that the team that concerns the Clippers most regarding Paul is the San Antonio Spurs. The reasons are obvious. The Spurs have a hole at point guard with Tony Parker being past his prime, and teams are trying to load up with as much talent as possible in order to take a stab at dethroning the Warriors. Adding Paul to the current mix in San Antonio likely makes them the No. 1 challenger to the champs.
The Spurs would still need to do some roster finagling just to be able to afford him. They would have to move two of LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Danny Green as well as renounce the rights to upcoming free agents including Manu Ginobili. Would gutting the roster be worth it for the Spurs to add Paul? Probably. With a player of that caliber, you get him on board and figure out the rest later. Veterans would be willing to take less to play on a team featuring CP3, Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs have been extra aggressive in free agency in recent years. They thought they had their center of the future when they signed Aldridge, but he hasn’t really lived up to the billing in the two seasons in San Antonio. If they can find a taker for his rather buxom contract, one would imagine they won’t hesitate to move him along.
There seems to be a link between the way CP3 carries himself and the Spurs’ culture. He’ll be happy to quietly go about his business on a team that will give him the best shot at taking down Golden State. We’re highly intrigued here at +250.
We hadn’t heard any links between the Rockets and Paul until a report on Monday indicated the two sides plan to meet in the summer. This one is very interesting. Houston already has James Harden, who may wind up winning the league MVP award after shifting full-time to the point guard position. Would it make sense to add another ball-dominant player in CP3? Hmm…
The Rockets would also have to clear some cap space. They’d have to find a trade partner willing to take on Ryan Anderson’s exaggerated contract, which would likely require the Rockets to attach future draft considerations as sweetener. They’d also have to let all of their impending free agents walk and either trade or draft-and-stash their upcoming second-round picks. They’d then have to get rid of about another $7 million, which means one of Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon or Lou Williams would have to be dealt.
That sounds like a lot, but if the Rockets dump Williams, they still theoretically have a core group of Harden, Paul, Ariza, Gordon, Patrick Beverley and Clint Capela. And then fill the rest of the roster with vets wanting to take the minimum to be a part of this high-flying death machine.
Would this actually work on the basketball floor? There’s no telling, but my god, that’s a lot of offensive firepower. There’s even a reasonable chance to believe Nene would want to return for the minimum to add some hulk to this thing.
Is it enough to beat Golden State? Ehh. We’d have to see how the rest of the roster shaped up before making that extreme declaration. It’s rather insane that you can pair two players as electrifying as Harden and Paul and it still may not be good enough to even win two games in a playoff series against that juggernaut in the Bay. Still, it’s a twosome good enough to theoretically keep the Warriors guessing defensively.
Houston is the real dark horse in this race. It would not be a massive surprise to see CP3 wind up in H-Town next season.
This was the real wild card. It was surprising to see the Nuggets pop up on the list of CP3 suitors. They have a lot of young, interesting talent already in place, but it’s going to be a few years before this team is legitimately contending for anything real. They could qualify for the playoffs next season, but adding Paul to the current group probably isn’t even enough to get this team to the Western Conference Finals.
The Nuggets need some sort of veteran point guard presence, but they’re still in the midst of a rebuild. We just don’t understand why he’d go here, unless the Banana Boat crew is secretly targeting Denver as a landing spot for them all to get together in 2018. LeBron James and CP3 have talked about playing together plenty in the past, but there’s no reason to believe they’d choose Denver as the landing spot.
The Nuggets can absorb a CP3 max deal if they let Danilo Gallinari walk this summer. Watching the wizardry of Paul and Nikola Jokic together would make for some stellar highlights, but the notion of Paul leaving a semi-contender in Los Angeles to go help rebuild a straggling rebuilding side doesn’t make much sense. Paul is desperate to win a title, and the Nuggets are nowhere close. This one isn’t happening.
We’ll rank the likely destinations as follows: