Oklahoma City’s season ended against the Houston Rockets in dramatic fashion. Lu Dort’s shot was blocked by James Harden and the Thunder tumbled out of the playoffs. It was an impressive run and a lot of the Thunder’s success came from Chris.
The series would never have made it to seven games if Paul was not leading from the front. Chris knocked down clutch shot after clutch shot. Paul’s shot making has been much discussed all year long.
There have been very few players who have performed as well in Chris in the most important moments of the game. It was a pleasure to watch Paul take over in Game 6.
There is a notable shift in Paul’s approach in the fourth quarter if the game is on the line. The game slows down with Paul bringing the ball up the court at a leisurely pace. He scans the court but Paul is not looking to create just a good shot; Chris is looking to break his opponent’s will.
For all that we talk about figures and analytics, basketball is a human game. Shifts in momentum can be felt throughout the game. Chris Paul is a master at taking the fight out of his opponent.
Game 6 was the perfect example of Paul going to work. Chris stopped deferring and started to hunt his own matchup. You could clearly see his cerebral streak take over. He was processing information and using his knowledge to hurt the Rockets.
The series was on the line with four minutes to go in Game 6. Oklahoma City were down by six and badly needed a few threes to cut the deficit. Chris Paul answered the call like he has done all year long.
A switch was forced; Robert Covington stepped onto Paul. Chris had his man and took his opportunity. Paul drove hard and pulled up on a dime. He launched a three which sank down through the nets. The deficit was only three.
Danilo Gallinari missed the easy look inside and Oklahoma City needed one final push to level the deficit. Paul again the received the ball and hunted Covington. Chris danced with the ball as he probed for an opening.
Covington was disciplined and did not give away any easy openings. Paul’s clutch shot making came through when OKC needed him most. Paul used his tired legs to hop back into a step back deep shot. That look tied the game and got Oklahoma City to Game 7.
In short, Chris Paul is an excellent basketball player that all contending teams would benefit from. There were question marks attached to Chris in the last offseason which he has totally answered.
The Rockets traded Chris Paul because he had slowed down due to injuries. Paul was no longer able to gain separation on drives and could not shoulder the load that Mike D’Antoni needed him to. His contract was considered to be an albatross at the time.
Over the course of the year, Paul has rehabilitated his value. Chris has shown that he is still able to produce at a high level. There are very few players who can match what Paul brought to the Thunder last season.
The financial aspect has also become less of an issue. Paul’s contract will expire at the end of the 2021-22 season if he picks up his player option. Chris will be paid over $85m over the two next years if he takes his option. This is a huge sum of money.
However, it is a relatively short time commitment. The acquiring team will only have Paul’s contract on their books for two years in a worst-case scenario. There will not be a long-term sunk cost which exists on a team’s payroll.
Chris Paul is much more attractive proposition today than he was fourteen months ago. Teams have proof that Paul can still perform at an All-Star level. That doubt has been erased.
There are also a few teams on the market who are in need of a player with Chris Paul’s skills. Milwaukee and Philly both need a facilitator from the point guard position who is comfortable creating in the big moments.
From what we know about Chris Paul, he wants to be on a contender to finish his career. A championship is one of the few achievements that has eluded Paul during his time in the league. The next few years of his career could be his last chance to achieve this goal.
I also feel that Sam Presti will treat Paul with respect during this whole process. Presti has previously listened to the wishes of star players when dealing them. Paul George wanted out of Oklahoma and Sam obliged him. Russell Westbrook wanted Houston and Sam obliged him. I do not believe it will be so different with Chris Paul.
I am a strong believer that a team like the Knicks or Bulls will not be serious landing spots for Chris Paul. I think it is more likely that Chris Paul ends up on a contending team. There are two teams that fit this criteria, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Both teams have the finances to make the deal work. Both teams have assets that the Thunder would be interested in if Paul was dealt to that particular team.
Philadelphia underperformed badly last year. The Sixers did not get even get close to the Conference Finals despite having one of the highest payrolls in the league. The Sixers need to make drastic moves to have any chance of getting out of the mess that Elton Brand has created.
Brand’s tenure as GM has been splashy to say the least. He acquired Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in his rookie season as the lead executive. The Sixers then allowed Butler to walk in favour of signing Al Horford to a $109m deal. In theory, the deal made some sense.
Butler did not want to be in Philly and Horford was proven to be a reliable, impactful contributor in the postseason. However, the Horford acquisition has not worked for Philadelphia.
The team was devoid of outside shooting and spacing was hard to come by. The 76ers struggled in the half-court all season long. The offense was just putrid at times. The Sixers’ weaknesses were highlighted by every competent team that Philly played. Philadelphia needed a solid creator in the half-court who could shoot the ball. Shake Milton, Raul Neto and Trey Burke were not enough to fill the void.
Chris Paul is the perfect player to fix this problem. Paul is a savvy playmaker when the game slows down. Chris is also an excellent scorer from all three levels. In my opinion, his mastery of the point guard position is world class.
The Sixers could move Ben Simmons to the four, a more natural position for the Australian, and run Chris at the point. The Sixers would have at least three players who can space the floor in the starting lineup.
It is easy to come up with a deal that makes sense for both sides involving Chris Paul and Al Horford.
Al Horford, Matisse Thybulle, Mike Scott and a top-15 protected pick in 2021
Chris Paul, Terrance Ferguson
I think that this is an amenable trade package for both sides. Philadelphia are able to get off Al Horford’s fairly painlessly while acquiring players who can legitimately help them in their quest to win a title.
Sam Presti does this deal as the Thunder are able to get back a good young player in the form of Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle was one of the players who I identified in my Draft deep dive last year.
I loved Thybulle’s defense and I thought he would have fitted nicely on the Thunder as a 3&D wing. His first season in Philadelphia has only solidified my opinion. Thybulle was excellent on defense and his jumper was solid from deep.
Matisse shot 35.7% on 3PA last season. He was an effective catch and shoot option for the Sixers; Thybulle shot 37.4% on these looks. Thybulle would give the Thunder a competent option at the wing position to partner with Luguentz Dort.
Thybulle and Dort would be a frightening pair of wings that the new coach could throw at the other’s team best player on any given night. Thybulle is the prototypical 3&D wing; every team needs somebody like that.
I would be happy with this trade. I like Thybulle a lot and think that Horford is a better player than his performances last year with the Sixers. Al Horford has such a versatile skillset and was a very good center with the Celtics.
Milwaukee are another team who did not meet their expectations. I expected the Bucks to make a deep playoff run; it was not inconceivable that Milwaukee might win everything. However, the Bucks were slapped around by the Miami Heat.
It was an embarrassing loss for the Bucks. The Heat outplayed the Bucks throughout the series and Milwaukee’s winning machine was taken apart piece by piece. There have long been concerns about Coach Bud’s ability to adjust in a postseason setting and these criticisms came to the fore again.
Budenholzer was slow to make adjustments and did not play Giannis or Middleton nearly enough minutes. Coach Bud also failed to adjust his defensive scheme to reduce the number of good looks that Miami got from deep.
The biggest issue for Milwaukee is that their much vaunted depth did not show up. Eric Bledsoe played terribly throughout the Heat series. Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver struggled to find good looks throughout the game. The Bucks need a better creator at the point guard position. Chris Paul is arguably the best shot creator on the market right now.
The acquisition of Chris Paul would be a statement of intent to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis hits free agency in 2021 and will have free reign to choose his destination of choice.
Giannis has spoken about his desire to stay in Milwaukee but talk is cheap in my opinion. I heard Kevin Durant declare that Oklahoma City was home before choosing to play in Oakland. It is simply impossible to say definitively where Giannis will end up.
A championship will be the best way to convince Giannis that Milwaukee is the best place for the prime years of his career. Chris Paul is a player who knows how to win and can elevate a great team into an elite level organisation.
The Bucks have real incentive to make this move happen regardless of finances. There is no point thinking about long-term roster building if Giannis walks in a year. The endgame is within the next year for Milwaukee; it makes sense for the Bucks to commit to the short-term.
Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Donte Divincenzo and the Bucks’ 24th Pick in the 2020 Draft
This is a reasonable trade deal in my eyes. Milwaukee are able to acquire a top-tier offensive facilitator who will inevitably improve their chances of winning a title. The Thunder get an interesting package of assets.
Bledsoe and Lopez have no real value to the Thunder but they are players who will command assets in the trade market. Eric Bledsoe would be a useful contributor for a team like the Pelicans if they choose to deal Jrue Holiday in the offseason.
Brook Lopez would be a valuable asset on the Thunder’s books. He was a superb defensive presence for Milwaukee this past season and knocked down threes at a fairly efficient rate. A stretch five who is a strong defender is a desirable player in today’s NBA.
Donte DiVincenzo is arguably the core of this trade deal. DiVincenzo had a really promising season as a shooting guard off the Bucks’ bench. He has made serious strides in refining his scoring arsenal and would be a useful rotation piece to have off the bench for the Thunder.
At this moment in time, his game needs polish but he has great feel for the game. DiVincenzo has displayed a good understanding of space and timing during his short NBA career. When I have seen him play, I have been impressed by his ability to make timely off-ball moves that create good looks for himself.
Wherever Chris gets dealt, the Thunder should not sell themselves short. There is a market for Paul and there are at least two urgent buyers. Sam Presti should feel no need to compromise his demands in order to get a deal done. OKC have a good opportunity to extract further assets and improve the team's rebuilding position.