Chris Paul is a veteran point guard on a rebuilding team who’s still absent of an NBA championship. The Miami Heat sign-and-traded for Jimmy Butler this offseason, but still need a facelift and jolt to catapult up the Eastern Conference. See where this is going?
Why Paul needs the Heat
The Houston Rockets traded Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason in a move that netted them Russell Westbrook. Regardless of whether he wants to stay in Oklahoma City, it doesn’t make sense for Paul and the Thunder to stick together, from a basketball standpoint.
For starters, the Thunder traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for four first-round picks, two pick swaps, budding young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and veteran forward Danilo Gallinari. After trading Westbrook, the face of their franchise, it’s difficult for the Thunder to sell people that they’re trying to contend. Plus, they’re going to want the ball in Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands, as the soon-to-be sophomore guard is a savvy two-way player and steady floor general.
Paul only has so many years left of his prime, and time is running out for him to win an NBA championship. Meanwhile, he’s still one of the best floor generals in the NBA. He slows the game down, is an advanced ball handler, an efficient shooter, and superb defender. Last season Paul averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and two steals per game.
Playing for a team likely on the outside looking in at the playoffs for a season, or perhaps the remaining three years of his four-year, $160 million deal isn’t in Paul’s best interest; he has to prove himself in a winning situation.
Regardless of whether there’s truth to it, a stigma surrounds Paul that he’s not a team player and that no one wants to play with him because he’s basically a player coach.
Being surrounded by young players and a team not built to contend is unlikely to bring out a new version of Paul. The only way he can disregard the recurring notion surrounding his game and breathe new life is if he’s traded to a team who can compete.
Now, the Heat didn’t make the playoffs last season and aren’t a championship contender, as currently constructed. But they have Butler, and if he thrives playing alongside the two-way wing, Paul could paint himself into a brighter light, as Butler has been portrayed as someone who stirs the pot.
At this pace, Paul is going to be the best player of his generation to never win a ring. There’s a strong chance that he wouldn’t win one with the Heat either, but maybe they could persuade a third star to call Miami home, or swing a trade for a high-profile player, persuading players on Paul and Butler being a great duo as is and becoming lethal with a third star.
It’s also the Eastern Conference, which is top heavy. The bottom half of the playoff picture is wide open, and there are few, if any surefire playoff teams in the conference. With training camp and reps under their belt, there’s no reason why Paul, Butler, and friends couldn’t make noise in the East. That’s all Paul needs: a chance.
Why the Heat need Paul
Acquiring Butler was a great start, but it’s not enough for the Heat to contend. Throw Paul into the mix, and it’s a different story.
Yes, we went through the Chris Paul and James Harden marriage, which ended in shambles, and Butler has been painted into a negative light in the past, but Paul and Butler should be able to coexist alongside each other. While he occasionally brings the ball up the floor, Butler usually plays in isolation, or initially touches the ball when the offense begins a play in a halfcourt set. This means Paul can run the team’s offense.
Given Paul’s court vision and ability to find the open man with ease, he can find Butler in all the right places and serve as the team’s second source of offense. Now, the Heat would need other scoring outlets, and in a potential trade for Paul, the Heat would have to match salaries, meaning a combination of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Kelly Olynyk would be traded. But the Heat have the depth to withstand even three departures from the aforementioned players.
Center Bam Adebayo has a well-rounded and athletic skill set on both ends of the floor; Derrick Jones Jr. is a physical specimen, most notably exemplified by his dunking ability; rookie wing Tyler Herro is an efficient shooter who can score off the dribble; Meyers Leonard sticks outside jump shots and is a dependable inside defender.
Isn’t it time for the Heat to get back on the NBA map? They’ve been swimming in mediocrity for three years and finally made a big-boy move for a star this offseason (Butler). They should be all in on winning with Butler and building a team that can be a conference threat. A duo of Paul and Butler doesn’t top the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks, but they’d certainly have a fighting chance given their depth and the energy that would be flowing through American Airlines Arena with a potent team.
Butler and Paul are in their primes; who they’ve been the last three years is who they’ll be in the 2019-20 NBA season. But if they join forces, they can be the NBA’s next tantalizing star duo and make the Heat an intriguing foe. How long are one of the most renowned franchises in sports, run by one of the most notorious figures in the NBA, Pat Riley, going to sit back and put forth yawning seasons?
The Heat have been a roster of impulsive contracts clogging up their payroll; it’s why they had to trade Josh Richardson and others to get their hands on Butler, who was part of a stacked free agent class this summer. If your payroll is going to be near the top of the sport, it might as well be as such with a couple of stars. Yeah, Paul’s contract is bad and only going to get worse as the dollar signs go up with the years, but it’s no worse than a group of players on contracts holding back a team’s spending ability.
Plus, next summer’s free agent class projects to underwhelm. DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kyle Lowry, Otto Porter Jr., and Marc Gasol are proven commodities, but they don’t provide anywhere near the same buzz this summer’s free agent class did. Meanwhile, next summer’s big fish, Anthony Davis, was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. How likely is it that Davis bolts Los Angeles after one year?
They have some young kids who can play and bring different skill sets to the court, but generally speaking, Miami’s core of wings such as Richardson, Waiters, Johnson, and Winslow has been continually mediocre in an underwhelming conference.
Paul needs the Heat, and the Heat need Paul.