Before the NBA's hiatus, the Los Angeles Lakers were poised to make a long playoff run. They were first in the West with a 49-14 record and were top five in both offensive and defensive rating.
Still, there are questions about what they can do come playoff time. Do they have enough to beat teams like the Clippers and Rockets? Can LeBron James continue to lead this team at 35-years-old?
With doubt creeping up and James getting older, the team is considering calling in some reinforcements. According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, the Lakers may consider trading for OKC's Chris Paul this offseason.
Paul already played for one Los Angeles team. He was viewed by many as a safety star for the other. But the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis and spent their cap space elsewhere, while the Clippers emptied their vault for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. By the time both were done, they couldn't even make a trade work under the cap. Now? A trade is at least possible for one. It's downright tempting for the other.
Roster-size constraints wouldn't be an issue in the offseason, and some of those players would likely be directed elsewhere anyway. The Lakers would need to include a young asset to entice the Thunder. Kyle Kuzma would suffice, or if he is still viewed as untouchable, both their 2020 and 2027 first-round picks become tradable immediately after the 2020 NBA Draft.
There's obviously a tremendous upside to a CP3 deal. Even at 34, his offensive brilliance is unmatched and he can help points come a little easier for LeBron and Anthony Davis.
With Paul’s 2020-21 salary set at $41,358,814, the magic number they would need to reach would be $33,087,051.20 in outgoing salary (80 percent). It would cost a fortune in depth, but the Lakers can hit that number provided those options are picked up. Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green and Avery Bradley would have to be in the deal. McGee would push it over the top, or the Lakers could package Talen Horton-Tucker and Quinn Cook (provided they guaranteed his 2020-21 salary).
Of course, he wouldn't come cheap and his contract s crazy expensive for a star at this stage of his career. It's something the team will have to give some serious thought, for sure.
It ultimately boils down to preference. The Lakers preferred a three-star construction to a deeper lineup last summer, when they pursued Leonard, but even in his revitalized state Paul can't match Kawhi's value. LeBron James' friendship with Paul would almost certainly be a factor. So would this year's roster's unbridled success. The Lakers might need a 2020 postseason to make this decision.
This season in OKC, Paul averaged 17.7 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game on 48% shooting. It's clear that he can still be a productive player and, for the Lakers, his friendship with Bron would be very valuable. But is it a risk the team is willing to make?
We'll just have to wait and find out.