In the musical chairs game this offseason, it would appear Chris Paul is the one left standing. The Rockets traded him to OKC and attached two picks and two swaps to get Russell Westbrook – a player who is also on a supermax contract that looks very risky in the last few years of it.
OKC has a clear interest to trade him, but no-one is offering anything close to what they expect, so it appears CP3 will start the season as a player for the Thunder. There are a few elements to consider.
His game and durability have declined. Paul is past his prime and will miss about 20 games a season. That being said, he is still a very good basketball player. A lot of teams would improve if they had him as their primary playmaker. Paul’s greatest asset, his basketball IQ, will only get better with time.
Then we come to the contract. When National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul negotiated the new CBA, he managed to change the “over 36” rule. The over-36 rule prevented teams from signing players to four- or five-year deals if they would turn 36 or older throughout the contract. The limit was increased to 38 years of age. How many players had a realistic chance to get such a contract?
Team building is a value proposition. It’s not just how good a player is – you have to value him relative to his cap bite. In this phase of his career, Paul’s cap bite makes him a very expensive contract to have. CP3 will profit from this CBA change, but his career will take a hit.
In the end, we come to his character. Paul is one of the most annoying players to play with. When a Point God is annoying, you take it. When his production starts to slip, then you get Harden saying “With you, it’s always f—ing something,” Not the kind of energy you hope a veteran to bring to the locker room.
That’s why Nick Friedell said his contract is “so atrocious” the Thunder has to keep him for now. This may change in December when a lot of players become trade-eligible, and you can count on the trade rumors to pick up again.
Paul’s value isn’t only diminished because of his health issues and his expensive contract. His locker room presence is becoming a significant issue, as well. This is the one thing he has total control over. Is it realistic former to hope a former superstar can accept he needs to change?
Ask Carmelo Anthony.