In yet another blockbuster move this offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder sent triple-double machine Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and an array of draft picks. The Thunder have made it clear that his future isn’t with their franchise, so where is he heading to next?
Like Westbrook, Paul has a highly-unfriendly contract that’s set to earn him over $124 million over the next three seasons, including a $44 million player option in his age-36 campaign. It may be hard to find a trade partner willing to take on such an asinine deal.
Prior to Westbrook being traded to Houston, the Miami Heat seemed to be the frontrunner to land the former NBA MVP. Now, with Russ off the market, Miami may look to settle for Paul. He’s got great court vision and he’s still a strong three-point shooter which should pair up well with the Heat’s newest superstar Jimmy Butler.
Miami would have to unload a couple of big contracts to fit Paul and it’s a near-guarantee that Goran Dragic would be heading back to the Thunder. Other players earning over $10 million that could be moved include Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, or Justice Winslow. The Heat may not want to move too many assets for an over-the-hill Paul, but it’s certainly a possibility.
The Dallas Mavericks have had a pretty solid offseason, landing Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic, and Seth Curry in free agency while extending Kristaps Porzingis to a max deal. The roster looks much better than last year’s that finished with a 33-49 record. On the cusp of making a playoff push, will they push all the way and inquire about CP3?
Paul would be a terrific complement in the backcourt with the 2019 Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. The Mavericks have some ugly contracts that could be shed to acquire him, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. At this point, the only thing holding them back would be if the Thunder’s price tag involves too many picks.
Could a reunion with former Los Angeles Clippers teammate Blake Griffin be in the works? The Detroit Pistons were loosely linked to Westbrook but now they could set their sights on Paul. How exciting would the Pistons be next season with a CP3/Griffin reunion alongside Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose?
Paul would obviously add plenty of experience and shooting to the Detroit roster and would have ample assist opportunities with their two star big men. Current Pistons’ guard Reggie Jackson would almost definitely head back to the Thunder (another reunion) in this deal. Like the Mavericks, the Pistons should show interest as long as Oklahoma City’s asking price is reasonable.
Finally, perhaps the most exciting possibility, the Milwaukee Bucks. Why not team up Paul with the reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo? Milwaukee reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season but fell short against the eventual NBA Finals-winning Toronto Raptors. Is it time for them to make another all-in push?
For this trade to work, Milwaukee would likely send Eric Bledsoe and Ersan Ilyasova back to Oklahoma City along with another salary dump. However, the only other potential salary dump on the Bucks’ roster is George Hill. Because he was recently signed this offseason, he is ineligible to be traded until December. The Thunder could be enticed to wait to make this trade, but it could cost Milwaukee a bit more in draft picks in that scenario.