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Chris Paul: San Antonio could really sign the Clippers’ guard in free agency

Chris Paul

The conclusion of the NBA season naturally gets everyone thinking about the offseason. For the Clippers, that means navigating a sea of uncertainty. This sea includes the pending free agency of the franchise’s biggest star, point guard Chris Paul.

Paul has an option for an early player termination. Considering he stands to earn a major payday under the new collective bargaining agreement, it is largely expected that Paul will exercise his option.

Recently, rumors already surfaced that the San Antonio Spurs were a legitimate contender for Paul’s services. Not only did reports say the Spurs would make a run at Paul, but later reports indicated that the Clippers guard would take the Spurs seriously.

Further, the Clippers are taking the Spurs threat very seriously too. They should take San Antonio’s interest in Chris Paul seriously given that L.A. is headed into one of its most crucial offseasons in reason memory. Not only can Paul leave in free agency but star forward Blake Griffin has a player option too.  The Clippers might find it difficult to fight off suitors for both of their stars. L.A. could struggle keeping either or both Paul and Griffin.

Even with Griffin and Paul, the Clippers have always maintained a choke-job or injury away from getting past the second round. Some chalk that up to the Clippers’ curse or just horrible luck. Either way, Paul may be tired of the curse and Griffin’s injuries impacting his legacy. In six seasons with the Clippers, Paul has yet to see a conference finals. Otherwise, there is no telling if a core led by Griffin and Paul can even get the Clippers past the godly Warriors over the next few seasons. Paul might think the grass is greener in San Antonio, especially given the long-term contention projections for the Warriors.

To complicate matters worse, the Clippers still need to re-sign JJ Redick who is also a free agent. Assuming they do re-sign Redick and their key starters, the Clippers will still have to fill out a roster without any draft picks and very little cap space. In fact, the Clippers do not have an incoming draft pick until 2020, per RealGM. Without the salary increases for Griffin and Paul, the Clippers are only about $5 million under the projected hard cap, per Basketball Insiders.

Plus, Los Angeles is trying to figure out their front office as they have serious interest in adding Jerry West from the Warriors. Maybe they wouldn’t need West if Doc Rivers, President of basketball operations built a better roster for himself, as he is also the head coach. Regardless, it is not like the Clippers need anymore distractions during this pivotal offseason.

Meanwhile, San Antonio has been the most consistent winner over the past two decades. Paul may want to join that stability given that he has only played for the Clippers and Pelicans. Both of Paul’s former teams underwent ownership changes as he was around.

Further, San Antonio offers an opportunity for Chris Paul to play under Gregg Popovich and play with Kawhi Leonard. Outside of Team USA, Paul has never had a coach like that on the sidelines or a dynamic, two-way player like that on the wing.

On-the-court, Paul would take over for Parker as the starter at point guard. Depending on Parker’s future with the Spurs, he could be delegated to the sixth man role which would mean he runs the second unit for Paul and plays the off-ball guard position beside Paul in certain situations.

Granted, the Spurs would have to undergo a massive roster overhaul. Even then, the most the Spurs could offer him is a four-year $152 max deal. Meanwhile, the Clippers can offer him a five-year $205 million deal.

Still, the Spurs are considered a lock for a face-to-face meeting with Chris Paul when free agency opens July 1, per the ESPN report. This is despite the face that they would need to move two of four key players including Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Danny Green to sign the Clippers point guard. Plus, the Spurs renounce rights for Manu Ginobli and other key players hitting the open market.

Thus, San Antonio is a long-shot for Paul. Nonetheless, the fact that they are even in consideration is very telling. Someone probably told you Kevin Durant was on his way to the Warriors this time last year and you thought they were crazy too. Durant turned down more money from the Thunder to end up winning a championship with Golden State. Paul could do the same thing in San Antonio.

Either way, it was reported that Paul verbally agreed with the Clippers for an extension in February, per Basktball Insiders. The Clippers reiterated this in April with reports that they would get a deal done, per USA Today. Doc Rivers even said Paul would absolutely stay, per Bleacher Report.

Given Paul’s age, could he really afford to leave more than $50 million and one-year on the table? This is especially true since Paul was a large part of the labor negotiations which allowed Paul to sign a super-max deal this late into his career.  So why is the deal not done, yet? Why are the Clippers going to lengths to say that it will get done?

Paul did not even want to talk about his future after the Clippers suffered another early postseason exit.

Why couldn’t Chris Paul just say he wants the team back another year like Rivers and Jamal Crawford have gone on record saying?

Remember, Paul was traded to the Clippers from the Hornets. Therefore, he has never experienced free agency. This may be his last opportunity to take meetings and hear outside team’s pitches. Carmelo Anthony had a similar experience a few offseasons ago when he took a bunch of free agency meetings.

Ultimately, Anthony stayed in New York for the dollars and his hometown crowd. Paul may stay with his incumbent team too. However, Anthony’s decision has not exactly panned out since the Knicks missed the playoffs the past two seasons. Maybe, Paul will take this an example of why he should ring chase.

Moreover, the money difference between San Antonio and Los Angeles becomes less of an issue when you consider taxes and endorsements. It is almost common knowledge that the taxes in Texas are far less than L.A. This is one of the reasons Dwight Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets in 2013.

Added, Paul could make a ton of money in endorsements by winning a championship. He and Leonard would become the face of the Jordan brand with a title. Paul and Griffin already have more than enough years to accomplish that feat since both are also sponsored by Jordan.

At the end of the day, the Clippers should still be considered the front runners to re-sign Chris Paul. However, the Spurs offer the stability, winning culture, and novelty that could persuade Paul into taking less money. This was enough for the Spurs to win Aldridge in free agency, even when it seemed unlikely he would join the contender in the 2015 offseason.

Assuming the Spurs do not trade him, Alrdridge might also be a formidable third option besides Leonard and Paul. This trio with Popovich’s coaching could be enough for the Spurs to challenge the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Last season, Chris Paul finished ninth in the NBA for player efficiency. He averages 18.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 9.9. assists over his career. Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in an MVP-calibur season last year. Joining the two forces should scare Golden State.

Outside of the Cavaliers or Warriors, Paul has the best chance of winning a NBA Championship by staying put or joining the Spurs. Both the Cavs and the Warriors have their point guards so Paul joining them is unlikely. Hence, the race for Paul is really between the Clippers and Spurs.

Other than money, the Clippers can only offer Paul the Los Angeles limelight and a lot of uncertainty. That might be enough to keep Paul with the Clippers. Either way, Los Angeles should take San Antonio’s threat of stealing their point guard very seriously. This is especially true given that the Clippers could lose Griffin and Redick in free agency too.