Future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul is an aging veteran on a massive contract. Weeks ago, it was reported that the Phoenix Suns were looking to relocate the point guard or release him into free agency, allowing him to explore other options. A lot of teams could use the services of a 12-time All-Star.
1. Phoenix Suns (on a cheaper contract)
The first option is one that we shouldn’t rule out. Although they are exploring multiple options as of right now, there is a chance that Phoenix could release the Hall-of-Fame point guard and re-sign him to a cheaper deal, if they can’t find a suitable package. This would allow Paul to remain part of the same core that made the NBA Finals just two seasons ago while giving the Suns the opportunity to afford the depth that they so desperately need.
If the Suns do end up releasing CP3 and do not re-sign him, they would need to find another point guard to replace him. While the numbers from this past season don’t stand out, Paul has an impact as a floor general that not many point guards have in today’s NBA. Unless they know for sure that they can get a guy like Damian Lillard, James Harden, or any player on that level, the safe option is probably the best option.
Not to mention, the Suns lack two things: defense and depth. Re-signing Paul at a better price means they keep a point guard that averaged 1.5 steals per game, plus they still have the ability to go after bench players to bolster their roster.
2. Boston Celtics
It seems like Boston is always right there to compete for a title, year after year, but they can never get it done. After falling short of pulling off the greatest comeback in NBA history, there’s no doubt that if the Celtics had a guy like Chris Paul on their team, they would’ve pulled off the comeback or may not have even been in a 3-0 situation in the first place.
Boston had a plethora of players at point guard this season. Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Derrick White all shared time taking the ball up the court, and it’s time they get their guy. Getting CP3 would likely mean a starting lineup of Paul, Smart, Jaylen Brown (pending trade rumors), Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford/Robert Williams III.
The amount of experience, combined with the depth and talent on both sides of the floor instantly makes them the favorite to win the Eastern Conference in 2024. CP3 has two stars to look for in Tatum and Brown. Brown’s lack of ball-handling skills was evident throughout the playoffs, so we would see fewer isolation possessions from him and more opportunities to score off of the ball. CP3 would be a big-time acquisition.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Another team that fell in the Conference Finals, the Lakers similarly need a better fit at the 1. D’Angelo Russell, while a major contributor to LA’s playoff run, was not the best option for an offense revolving around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He was a scorer when they needed him to be a floor general and distributor, plus he lacked on the defensive end. There’s a reason Darvin Ham started Dennis Schroder over Russell in Game 4 against the Nuggets.
A trade surrounding Russell, some of the Lakers’ depth, and Paul could work for both sides. If Phoenix doesn’t think DLo is an ideal fit but wants to keep the depth from LA, Russell could be moved shortly after for a point guard that better suits the Suns’ system. They could also keep him and try to see if he could work with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
In another scenario, if Phoenix releases CP3 into free agency and gets scooped up by GM Rob Pelinka, Russell could work as a sixth man, propelling the bench when James, Davis, and Paul sit. The Lakers finished the season strong post-trade deadline, going 18-9 and finishing above .500 after starting the season 2-10. That tells you they aren’t far off from a title. Paul only increases their chances against teams like Denver and Boston.
4. Miami Heat
Miami is in an interesting spot because while they were a Play-In team, they were also a Finals team. The biggest need is offense, which is why Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley most likely have their sights set on Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal, rather than a guy like CP3.
However, if you take a look at what the Wake Forest product can do for South Beach, a trade/signing with the Heat would actually make sense. Miami typically had Jimmy Butler bringing up the ball and running an offense that, when the Finals rolled around, looked out of sync. He had to create for himself on isolation plays and although they got good looks from shooters like Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, and Caleb Martin, they simply aren’t good enough scorers because of how one-dimensional they are.
Paul adds a style of play that takes a load off of Coach Spo’s shoulders. Trade pieces would most likely include Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love, and draft capital, but this is the highest their trade value will be. For Miami it makes sense, so the only question is, does Phoenix basically swap Paul for Lowry at the 1? He certainly proved he can be a spark plug in the Finals, being a nice weapon off of the bench.
I say, “Why not?” This means a starting lineup of Lowry, Booker, Durant, Love, and Ayton (pending trade rumors) in the Valley, and Paul, Strus, Butler, Martin/(insert another role player here), and Bam Adebayo for the Heat.
On the flip side, if the Suns end up releasing CP3, the Heat wouldn’t lose any depth, making them scary for next year’s playoffs. They would have a true PG and plenty of weapons off of the bench. It’s an interesting thought, but there might be other options out there for both sides.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Chris Paul would only be beneficial for the 76ers if they kept James Harden, or got a player equally as talented to replace him. After reports came out that Harden would likely decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent, it should be imperative that GM Elton Brand keeps Philadelphia’s roster good enough so Joel Embiid is happy.
Doing so would be trying to go after someone like CP3. Again, there are better options for Philly, like there are for many teams, but if the organization could somehow convince Harden to stay, and then bring in Paul on a solid deal, this team only gets better.
This would mean that Harden can go back to his traditional role as a scorer, allowing Paul to distribute to The Beard and Embiid. Plus, having PJ Tucker, a former teammate of Harden and Paul when they shared the floor together in Houston, is beneficial for team chemistry. Then, you have a starting lineup of Paul, Harden, Tobias Harris, Tucker, and Embiid. Is it an ideal destination for CP3? Probably not. Would it be interesting to see a reunion of three guys from a team one win away from the NBA Finals? Hell yes.
Say what you want about how he has zero rings, Chris Paul is an experienced veteran with the ability to lead an offense. Just three years ago we were raving about him taking an Oklahoma City Thunder squad to the playoffs after being a projected lottery team. Teams could use him right now, especially franchises that need one more piece to get over the hump.