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Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Lakers

Chris Paul or Bradley Beal? Ranking the better fit for the Lakers

The 2020 NBA transaction period hasn’t even started yet, and the Los Angeles Lakers are already being linked to Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.

Paul, who is best friends with Lakers superstar LeBron James, could be on the move this offseason since the Thunder may embark on a rebuild after head coach Billy Donovan decided not to come back. Paul and the Thunder lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2020 playoffs in seven games. Donovan opted not to sign a contract extension with OKC and joined the Chicago Bulls as their new leader.

Beal, meanwhile, recently bought a house in Los Angeles, so of course, Lakers fans are trying to connect the dots. One of the best players in the NBA, Beal would make the Lakers the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions in 2021, as a Big Three of LeBron, Anthony Davis and Beal would be impossible to stop on offense.

However, the Lakers don’t have the trade assets to acquire Beal from the Wizards, who have consistently said they aren’t going to move the All-Star sharpshooter. After all, it makes no sense for the Wizards to trade Beal since All-Star point guard John Wall will be back in the lineup next season. The former No. 1 overall pick missed the entire 2019-20 season recovering from his Achilles tear.

Since it appears the Lakers will strike out in Bradley Beal trade talks with the Wizards should general manager Rob Pelinka pick up the phone and call Washington, it makes all the sense in the world for Los Angeles to acquire Chris Paul from the Thunder despite how expense his contract is moving forward. The future Hall of Famer will make $41,358,814 in 2020-21 and has a player option worth $44,211,146 for the 2021-22 season.

With the Thunder in 2019-20, Paul averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from beyond the arc and 90.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Lakers would surely have to part ways with Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker and multiple future draft picks to get Paul, and even that may not be enough for Thunder general manager Sam Presti to pull the trigger on the deal.

However, for the sake of this piece, let’s envision a scenario where the Lakers acquire Paul and plug him into the starting point guard spot and move James back to the small forward post. Los Angeles, assuming Pelinka takes care of his pending free agents, could have a starting five of Paul, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, James, Davis and either JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard for the 2020-21 season.

Howard becomes a free agent this offseason and KCP can become one as well if he declines his 2020-21 player option. For what it’s worth, multiple reports have already stated Caldwell-Pope is going to test the market, so the Lakers have to make a conscious effort to bring KCP back since he showed his true value in the 2020 Finals on both ends of the floor against the Miami Heat.

Even though James led the NBA in assists per game in 2019-20 by playing at the point guard spot, it’s always good to have multiple ball-handlers and guys who can initiate the offense on the floor. The IQ level between James and Paul is off the charts, meaning the Lakers would likely have one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA with Paul, James and Davis leading the way.

Moreover, the addition of Paul on the Lakers would lessen the offensive burden for James since CP3 is arguably the best point guard of his generation. Even though LeBron is universally recognized as the best passer in the game, Paul is a better mid-range shooter than James and he would work better with Davis in the pick-and-roll game from the mid-range area due to his prolific shooting skills.

Both Beal and Paul would make the Lakers even more explosive than they already are with LeBron and Davis as the main cogs on offense. However, it’s hard to envision the Wizards trading Beal unless they have a change of heart, embark on a full rebuild and trade Beal and Wall at the same time.

With that being said, the Lakers should do whatever it takes to get Paul from the Thunder this offseason. Although he’s getting older and his contract is hefty, Paul is the ideal floor general and playmaker to pair next to James and Davis, especially if the Lakers lose Rajon Rondo in free agency.

The Lakers thought they had Paul in 2011, but the late great David Stern vetoed the trade and CP3 landed with the Los Angeles Clippers instead. Nine years later, it’s going to be fascinating to see if the Lakers can get Paul this time around.