When Chris Paul landed in Oklahoma City last summer, there was never an expectation that he would be here for a long time. Paul and his agent, Leon Rose agreed to play out last season but this offseason is different. Oklahoma City are clearly pointed towards a rebuild while Paul wants to spend the twilight of his career fighting for a championship.
Over the course of the season, there have been a few different options proposed by various members of the media. Philly, Milwaukee and New York have all been trade destinations that have been cited time and time again during the season. In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of speculation involving the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Heat in six to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Lakers brought home the title behind the efforts of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, you cannot help but feel that the Lakers still have room for improvement.
The Lakers were stagnant on offense when LeBron James sat. The ball cycled around the perimeter and the talents of Anthony Davis were not fully utilised. This issue was somewhat solved when Rajon Rondo returned from injury but this vulnerability did not fully go away.
A deal for Paul makes sense for the Lakers. Los Angeles would get one of the best playmakers in the NBA and a point guard who can provide relief for LeBron James. Chris Paul was excellent for the Thunder last season in a role where he shared the ball a lot.
The Thunder’s offense meant that Chris Paul’s load was managed effectively. Paul did not have to carry the offense with Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the court. The system kept Chris fresh and energised for the clutch minutes at the end of games.
The Lakers would like Chris Paul to join the team and I am certain that Chris Paul would jump at the opportunity to play with his good friend, LeBron James on a contending team. In addition to these benefits, Paul would be able to move home to Encino and spend more time with his family.
In a straight deal, Los Angeles do not have the assets to get the deal done. The Lakers do not have a pick to trade until 2027 and have little in the way of young assets. Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma are the only two players that the Thunder should consider in a trade for Chris Paul.
I would even say that Kyle Kuzma is not that good of an asset for the Thunder to receive. Kuzma’s reputation does not fit his statistics. Kuzma has been an inefficient volume scorer during his time in Los Angeles and the only tangible improvement in Kyle’s game last season was his cutting. Kuzma is an elite cutter but that is one of the few elite skills that Kuzma possesses.
Kuzma is 25 and spent three years in college before being picked by the Lakers in 2017. He is not a young prospect who has a way to go before reaching their ceiling. Kuzma’s game will improve as his career goes on but it is hard to see Kyle growing past what he currently is.
I would not mind taking Kuzma as a solid bench piece in a trade if his contract did not expire in 2021. Kuzma will hit restricted free agency in that summer and his name value will inflate his value past a point where it makes sense for the Thunder. There is a little point in acquiring a player if he walks after just one season.
This is where the third team comes into play, the third team will provide the type of assets that the Thunder would be interested in acquiring. Over the last few years, the Atlanta Hawks have assembled an exciting young core around Trae Young. It is now time for the Hawks to start realising that potential and that starts with signing good veterans.
It was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic that team like the Hawks would have interest in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope had an excellent postseason and emerged as one of the premier 3&D wings in the league. KCP was arguably the third best player on the Lakers during the NBA Finals.
The Thunder, Lakers and Hawks could work a trade around KCP and Chris Paul which works for every single party. The mechanics of the deal are not all that difficult. The deal would have to involve Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being signed by the Lakers and then traded to the Hawks in order to make salaries work. Without the sign and trade, salary matching becomes very tricky.
A three year contract worth $45m would be amenable to both parties and seems like fair value for a really good wing. The Hawks have cap space and will be willing to spend if they get back someone who fits next to Trae Young. KCP’s defense shores up a leaky backcourt.
From that point onwards, matching salaries is fairly simple. The Lakers would have to send out Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Quinn Cook to match Chris Paul’s salary. The full trade details are listed below.
Acquisitions - Kevin Huerter, 2022 OKC First Round Pick, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook and 2027 LA First Round Pick
Outgoings - Chris Paul, Terrance Ferguson
Los Angeles Lakers:
Acquisitions - Chris Paul, Terrance Ferguson
Outgoings - Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook and 2027 LA First Round Pick
Acquisitions - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Outgoings - 2022 OKC First Round Pick and Kevin Huerter
This trade is balanced and every team gets what they want with this trade. Los Angeles get another All-Star to put next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Atlanta get a very good wing who will hide some of Trae Young’s defensive deficiencies. Oklahoma City get a young player and two picks to add to the stockpile.
Huerter quietly had a strong season in Atlanta; Huerter scaled up his 3-point volume without losing much in terms of efficiency while also being a decent defender. Huerter made 38% of his threes last season and took 6.0 3PA per game. That is strong offensive production and would instantly improve the Thunder’s floor-spacing.
Huerter was not an elite stopper and his lack of elite athleticism will mean that there will always be a ceiling on his defense. However, Huerter’s effort and good fundamentals means that he is a more than adequate defender. Huerter has good feel for the game and makes good reads on defense on a consistent basis.
Oklahoma City will also get two first round picks in the deal which could prove fruitful in the rebuilding process. The Thunder will likely be bad over the next two years. It makes a lot of sense for the Thunder to control their own draft pick during this time. This trade would put the 2022 pick back in the Thunder’s hands.
The 2027 Lakers’ pick is an interesting asset due to the fact that 2027 is so far away. In the last five years, we have seen the landscape of the league change multiple times. The league is hugely unpredictable and it is impossible to make any assumption about a team’s future in the long-term.
The uncertainty can pay dividends for the team who controls the pick. Boston benefitted hugely from the Pierce-Garnett trade. At the time, it was derided as a lopsided trade. Over time, those draft picks came good for the Celtics. Danny Ainge was able to take Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum with those picks. Boston set up an entire future with picks that the Brooklyn Nets originally controlled.
The same can be said for the Otis Thorpe trade in 1997. The Vancouver Grizzlies acquired Thorpe from the Pistons in exchange for a top two protected first round pick in 2003. Thorpe was simply a role player and the trade did not seem to be all that significant.
That small transaction carried out by Doug Collins proved to be valuable six years later. The Grizzlies’ pick slipped in the Draft to three and Detroit ended up controlling the third pick in one of the most talented Drafts in league history. The Pistons wasted the pick on Darko Milicic but the opportunity created should not be disregarded. It was such shrewd business.
When the trade talks started around Chris Paul in earnest, I was not keen on sending him to the Lakers. I did not believe that Los Angeles had enough assets to get a deal done and I thought that a team like Milwaukee or Philly could produce a better package.
I have to say that I really like this Lakers’ deal for the Thunder. It just makes sense for Chris Paul, the Thunder, the Hawks and the Lakers. Everybody gets what they want and executives can walk away from the deal feeling like they got a fair deal. It is a win-win trade.