When the Houston Rockets traded Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook, we viewed it as a move that needed to happen for the sake of the franchise. Paul and superstar James Harden did not get along on or off the court, and an argument during the 2019 playoffs ultimately strained their relationship beyond repair.
When Paul got to OKC, many media pundits thought they would move him quickly for more draft capital, as the Thunder were in a rebuilding mode.
That hasn’t happened yet, so today we will look at two teams that were in play for Paul, and determine if they can move him before the All-Star break.
Minnesota and Miami in the Chris Paul market?
The first team everyone expected to make a play for Chris Paul was the Minnesota Timberwolves. That would have been very intriguing for several reasons.
The team currently has Jeff Teague at point guard, and the obvious swap for financial purposes would have been Paul and a few first-round picks for Teague and Andrew Wiggins. That deal would have given the Thunder a capable roster of competing for the final playoff spot in the West.
Miami was also viewed as a potential fit, and the duo of Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler would have brought a toughness the team hadn’t seen since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade teamed up for their four-year run. The Heat have Goran Dragic at the point, but we think Paul would have still been an upgrade during the regular season.
Why did the teams back out?
The main reason both teams seemed to have backed out is because of the quality of play for their current rosters. As of Dec. 9, Miami is 17-6 and third in the Eastern Conference standings, and Minnesota is seventh in the West.
Jimmy Butler has played at his consistent All-Star level, and the revelations of Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic have made them a tough team to face so far this season.
Karl-Anthony Towns is playing like an MVP candidate in Minnesota, and Andrew Wiggins is having a career year, as head coach Ryan Saunders is giving him more opportunities to handle the ball more. If Wiggins weren’t put into a deal for Paul, it would simply stunt his growth, as Paul is a ball-dominant point guard.
Will OKC be able to move Chris Paul?
The Thunder currently sit at 11-12 and in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, but should they shoot for a playoff spot to get blown out in the first round by a team from Los Angeles?
Or do they continue to look towards the future and acquire more draft picks from a team desperate for a veteran presence as we near the trade deadline?
We think he will be moved to a team in the East, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see him go to a young upstart team like Orlando or Detroit (where he could reunite with Blake Griffin) and help them surge toward a late playoff push.
Paul’s hefty contract (the second highest in the league at three-years and $124 million) is the only real obstacle when trying to make a deal, but we think there are a few packages that can be built to land the former All-Star.
Should the Thunder keep Paul on the roster?
Will it be a safer play for the Thunder to keep him on the team this season and move him before the start of the 2020 free-agent class? We expect the Thunder to get a lot of suitors for Chris Paul throughout the year, and it wouldn’t surprise us if the team traded him this season when he could help a fringe playoff team get over the hump.