$124M. That’s how much money Chris Paul (aka CP3 is owed over the next 3 seasons, an extremely steep price for a 34-year old PG. To make things worse, the 3rd year of his deal is a player option worth $44M. Simply put, Chris Paul has one of the worst contracts in the NBA today, even though he is one of the most underrated players in the NBA.
Trading him away will not be easy for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
OKC has had a fantastic and surprising season, despite being seen as a team in rebuild mode. The team has been spearheaded by a quality mix of veterans and young prospects, with Paul being the point of the spear. He's led the team to a 40-24 record, good for 5th in the West.
He's been able to recapture his efficiency as a PG after seeing a steep decline in his numbers with the Houston Rockets the year prior. He's quieted the talks of him no longer being one of the best PGs in the NBA. After this successful season, he's back on the radar of contending teams in need of veteran PG leadership.
Amongst these contending teams is the 'once seen as a juggernaut' Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have somehow put together a season filled with promise and uncertainty. At some points of the season, they looked the part of a lead contender; at other points, they looked like a team that couldn't get healthy and gel enough to truly compete with the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Even with a somewhat up-and-down season, the Clippers managed to go 44-20 and stand with the NBA's 4th best record up to this point, only 2 games behind the Toronto Raptors.
With uncertainty creeping into their season, the Clippers may need another player that can help stabilize the team; at least enough for their 2 stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, to carry the team throughout the playoffs. This is where Paul can come in. Yes, Chris Paul does come with his own uncertainties, mainly his health through the playoffs. However, he seems to have solved those issues this season.
With a new diet and workout regimen, Paul managed to play 63 of his team's 64 games, the highest percentage of the season he has played since '14-'15. A CP3 and Clipper reunion may be a match made in basketball heaven.
The Clippers are set for next season, returning the vast majority of their rotation. Their lone big-name Free Agent will be big man Montrezl Harrell. Although Harrell is a great fit for the Clippers' lineup, the chances of bringing him back are slim to none. The Clippers own the Bird Rights to Harrell, allowing them to offer him a contract even with them sitting only $1M under the salary cap.
However, bringing him back on a large deal would reduce their ability to re-sign either Leonard or George in the future as both are on player options following this upcoming season. Letting Harrell walk may be an obliged casualty.
Matching Paul's salary next year of $41.36M is a laborious task. The 2 large contracts that the Clippers have are George and Leonard, 2 players they'd want to keep while adding Paul.
Therefore, they'll have to improvise in a move for Paul. Including Harrell is a sign-and-trade is a must for this deal to work. How much he desires and how much the Thunder are willing to pay him is the trick though. The Thunder should be willing to pay Harrell near max money ($23-29.5M) as a way to shed the larger contract that Paul is owed.
On top of Harrell, the Clippers would also have to include a combination of players: Patrick Beverley being their favored player to add (salary purposes). They can also offer either of their 2 youngest talents, Mfiondu Kabengele or Terance Mann. Harrell and Beverley are enough to match salaries, adding a young talent would simply entice the Thunder a bit more.
If the Thunder are sold on that deal, they can also offer Lou Williams plus a few other players to sway the Thunder. The Clippers would be wise to make a move for Paul if they want to climb over the other contenders next season. If it costs them a few rotational pieces, it should be seen as worth it.
Now, if the Thunder aren’t willing to part ways with Paul without including another big contract not apart of their rebuild (i.e. Steven Adams or Dennis Schroder), the Clippers should have their targets set on Adams as the inclusion.
Yes, Adams is owed about $28M next season; but after that, his contract comes off the books. If the Clippers are willing to be a bit greedy and look to land OKC’s C Steven Adams in the deal to fill Harrell’s role, it would cost them all of their depth while leaving them with only the mid-level exception and vet’s minimum contracts to fill out the roster. This may be worth the damages for a team looking to win now. The Clippers cannot settle for a chance at winning, they need their chances to be at it’s highest point.
George and Leonard both have player options in the 2021 off-season, meaning this championship window may close within 2 years. It is ‘go big or go home’ territory for the Clippers. And with a new stadium on the way, the Clippers need a title to steal a few fans from Staples Center, known home of the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Leonard, George, Paul, and Adams, the Clippers would shockingly be well over the salary cap, and that’s with only 4 players on the roster (plus whomever they select with their lone 2nd round pick in this 2020 NBA Draft).
Can the Clippers invest so much in 4 players and still expect to compete for a title? Possibly.
The good news for the Clippers is that free agency will be filled with veteran players looking for contracts as the rest of the league continues to look for young talent to fill their rosters.
The Clippers should have a plethora of options to fill out their rotation as well as add reserve depth. Veteran players like Carmelo Anthony, Marc Gasol, and Langston Galloway aren’t guaranteed to get many offers from teams. The Clippers should be able to land a few of these guys with ‘Winning a Championship’ as their selling point.
Possible Vet Minimum Contract Options:
F Carmelo Anthony
G/F Kent Bazemore
C Tyson Chandler
G Langston Galloway
G Matthew Dellavedova
F Jared Dudley
C Marc Gasol
F Jeff Green
G Reggie Jackson
PG Shabazz Napier
G/F Garrett Temple
F/G Evan Turner
G Brad Wanamaker
F/C Marvin Williams