Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers is the biggest name in the 2017 NBA Free Agency. Paul is expected to opt out of his contract with the Clippers and explore free agency for the first time in his career. The 32-year-old star has been linked to several teams, but it’s a difficult decision for Chris between winning a championship and money.
Paul had another excellent campaign with the Clippers wherein he averaged 18.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.9 steals. He has a $24.2 million player option for the 2017-18 NBA season, and he will surely explore free agency. However, it was reported by Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN back on April 29 during the first round of the playoffs that Chris Paul will re-sign with the Clippers.
The nine-time All-Star is eligible to sign a $210 million deal with the Clippers, a record deal for a player in the history of the NBA. Chris Paul cannot earn that much money in any other team but the early exit of the Clippers in the 2017 NBA Playoffs leaves him possibly questioning if he can win a title in Los Angeles.
Paul is already 32-years-old and his championship window is closing with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers still dominating the league. When the 2017 NBA Free Agency hits on July 1, Chris is going to get a lot of calls, visits, and meetings with several teams. Here are the five potential destinations for Chris Paul this offseason.
The Nuggets are on the rise and they narrowly missed the playoffs. They need veteran leadership and there’s no better leader available in free agency than Chris Paul. The Nuggets are a young team with future All-Stars like Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris. Paul can certainly make them contenders in the Western Conference but they might need another veteran star to challenge the Spurs or Warriors.
Denver will have cap space of around $34 million if Danilo Gallinari opts out of his contract. They can easily sign Paul to a max contract but for only four years and less money than what the Clippers can offer. However, the Nuggets have a better chance of advancing to the playoffs next season than the Clippers with the potential departure of Blake Griffin, who is also a free agent.
Los Angeles Clippers
Obviously, the Clippers are a potential destination for Chris Paul since they can offer him the most money. Most analysts believe Paul will stay in Los Angeles because the $210 million is too much to pass up. The Clippers can still contend if they manage to re-sign Blake Griffin and add another superstar like Carmelo Anthony.
Also, it’s hard to see Paul, the president of the NBA Players Association, to not sign the mega-million deal that he fought hard to include in the new CBA last year for players like him, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and many other stars. It’s a matter of money or rings for Paul, and it seems like money is going to win again.
The potential dark horse in the Chris Paul sweepstakes is the Pat Riley-lead Miami Heat. The Heat played exceptionally well after starting the season with an 11-30 record. They were one of the best teams in the NBA and they narrowly missed the playoffs. The Heat will have over $30 million of cap space now that Chris Bosh’s salary is going to come off the books after the two sides agreed to part ways, per ESPN.
Miami already has an incredible team, and they can only get better with Chris Paul as their starting point guard. Goran Dragic might not be happy about it, but he has been linked to trades before and the Heat could explore it if they can sign Paul. Miami’s weather and no state income tax make them a great destination for not just Paul but any player in free agency.
New Orleans Pelicans
Chris Paul started his career in New Orleans, and it would be a dream for Pelicans fans to see him return to the city just like what LeBron James did in Cleveland. However, Paul has to take a massive pay cut in order to play for the Pelicans. New Orleans does not have a lot of cap space but they can make moves to accommodate Paul.
The possibility of teaming up with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins could be enough for Paul to think about returning to New Orleans. A Pelicans “Big 3” can easily pose a threat to the Spurs and even the Warriors. Paul will have to leave a lot of money on the table, and there is no guarantee that the Pelicans can give him a title.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are the biggest threat to the Clippers since there is reported mutual interest between Chris Paul and San Antonio. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Spurs are exploring ways on how to sign Paul to a max contract this summer. The Spurs do not have salary cap flexibility at the moment but if any franchise can do it, it’s the Spurs.
A trio of Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge can be a real threat to the Warriors, especially if Aldridge can get his confidence back. Paul moving to San Antonio still has a small chance of happening but with the Clippers reportedly concerned about the Spurs’ interest, it could is very possible.
[Featured Image by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]