Lakers Must Stay Away from Chris Paul
With Chris Paul now on the Oklahoma City Thunder, the speculation is that the Los Angeles Lakers may be a potential trade partner.
When the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade news broke, the immediate thought was that Paul would never suit up for Oklahoma City. Instead, the point guard was expected to get flipped once more, but to a team planning on competing for a title. Enter the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have long been a popular destination for pretty much every big name out there, and this time is no different. Plus with LeBron James and Chris Paul being close friends, it only added more fuel to the fire.
But according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Paul, and general manager, Sam Presti have both warmed to the idea of the future Hall-of-Famer staying put in OKC. But it doesn’t mean that it was either of their initial choices.
Presti’s attempts to move the veteran point guard have stalled, but not for lack of trying. Paul’s contract is a financial burden no one wants to take on, nor could afford to take on.
If a trade doesn’t happen before the season starts, then the next date to look forward to is December 15, when all newly-signed free agents could be moved. And then the focus may turn to the Lakers because they would be able to assemble a package that makes sense asset-wise and financially.
But if the opportunity arises, Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka, must not succumb to the temptation of trading for the aging guard.
Optically off-the-court, it wouldn’t be a great look. LeBron James, Rich Paul, and Klutch Sports are a significant reason as to why Los Angeles is back to title contention, but the front office should not act solely to appease them. And acquiring Chris Paul would have James’ and his agent’s hands all over it.
But this is the Lakers, and no player or agent, no matter how popular and influential should be able to control such a prestigious franchise.
Beyond that (and more importantly), his fit on the team isn’t great. He’s a 34-year-old with an injury history and albatross of a contract. Per Spotrac, he’s owed $79,865,296 over the next two seasons, with a $44,211,146 player option for his age-36 season.
That means Los Angeles would have to sacrifice the depth they’ve built up just to get the contracts to match. All their defense and shooting would disappear with a snap of a finger, just to add an aging, injury-prone max contract.
Paul is also a deficient defender coming off a career-worst season. He was limited to just 58 games for the second-straight year and averaged 15.6 points (career-worst), 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds on 41.9% shooting from the field (career-worst), and a below-average 35.8% from three (career-worst).
Then there’s the fact that James and Paul are both de facto point guards. Paul learned to play off-ball in Houston, but he’s at his best with the ball in his hand and had a falling out with James Harden last season over ball distribution.
No one is going to supplant LeBron James as the primary ball-handler, and there’s also Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma who are going to want their share. Can we expect the aging veteran to take a backseat to two, potentially three players?
We can’t say for sure, but a huge ego usually means it’s the guy in the mirror who realizes last that he doesn’t have it anymore.
And speaking of Harden, Paul’s tenure with Houston was further evidence that he may not be the greatest of teammates. We all thought Rajon Rondo called the former All-Star a “horrible teammate” out of spite after their run-in early last season, but comments from former players such as Glen Davis, Ryan Hollins, and Kendrick Perkins either doubled-down on Rondo’s statement or alluded to him being correct.
Paul also left the Clippers on bad terms after having a falling out with Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan before his tumultuous ending with the Rockets. And numerous on-the-court occasions showed that he can be hard to root for.
He’s not a locker room issue worth having, especially at his salary and the asset cost it would take to get him. And the vet would add yet another big ego for new head coach, Frank Vogel to handle.
This isn’t to say that Chris Paul is a lousy player. He’s still productive and can help many teams; he’s just not what the Lakers need. He’s old, expensive, injury-prone, not the best schematic fit, and could be a problem in the locker room.
The Lakers already have a squad that should contend for a title so why try to fix something that isn’t broken yet?
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