The departure of Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the 2019 NBA offseason left the Oklahoma City Thunder with no choice but to take a different route. Luckily, in the blockbuster deals that sent George to the Los Angeles Clippers and Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, the Thunder managed to acquire assets that could help them speed up the rebuilding process.
Aside from multiple future draft picks, the Thunder received young and promising players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who is expected to be one of the cornerstones of the title-contending team that they are planning to build in the post-Westbrook era.
However, according to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, the presence of Chris Paul on their roster will slow down the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into a legitimate NBA superstar in the league. If they are already determined to rebuild the team, Swartz believes that the Thunder should get rid of Paul as soon as possible.
“Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the main prizes the Thunder received in the Paul George trade, and he should immediately be given the ball and a starting job after an impressive rookie season. That’s unlikely to happen with Paul on board,” Swartz said.
“Not wanting to attach a collection of draft picks to offload Paul’s contract, the Thunder should be searching for trade partners that could use a veteran point guard and have a sizeable contract to send back. Moving him would clear the way for Gilgeous-Alexander to establish himself as one of the faces of the franchise and maximize his development right away.”
As Swartz noted, one of the NBA teams who could express strong interest in trading for Chris Paul is the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the proposed trade deal by Bleacher Report, the Thunder will be sending Paul and Danilo Gallinari to the Timberwolves in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and a lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick.
For the deal to work financially, the Timberwolves will be needing to add more players to match the Thunder’s outgoing salary.
If the trade becomes a reality, it will help both the Thunder and the Timberwolves in filling up the needs to improve on their roster. Pairing the face of the franchise, Karl-Anthony Towns, with All-Star caliber veterans like Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari would strengthen the Timberwolves’ chance of making a huge noise in the deep Western Conference next season. At 34, there is no doubt that Paul is already on the downside of his NBA career.
However, being on a team where he would no longer need to share the backcourt with another ball-dominant superstar like James Harden could help him bring back his former game.
Meanwhile, the deal may not help the Thunder obtain salary cap flexibility but in exchange for Chris Paul’s lucrative deal, they would be acquiring a young and promising talent who could be part of the rebuilding process. At 24, Andrew Wiggins still fits the timeline of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Having a fresh start with a rebuilding team could help Wiggins live up to expectations from a No. 1 overall pick.