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Mutual interest between Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul almost happened once. Now, 10 years later, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Paul’s family in L.A., the Point God may finally get a chance to run the Lakers’ offense.

According to Marc Stein’s latest newsletter, the Lakers are “exploring the options” regarding Paul this offseason, should he seek to move on from the Phoenix Suns. The interest could be mutual.

“I still see the Lakers as the most realistic threat to derailing the Suns’ hopes of re-signing Paul, no matter how hard it is to pinpoint a pathway for them to acquire him because of the cap complexities,” Stein writes. “The reasoning: We know Paul would want to play again in Los Angeles, where his family still resides during the season, and also that he would want to play alongside James.”

Paul, 36, has a $44.2 million player option for next season, though he could opt out and seek a three-year deal in the $100 million range.

Stein points out that Paul’s willingness to accept a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Phoenix was due to its proximity to Los Angeles. On that note, Stein deems it highly unlikely that Paul would want to play for an East Coast team, like the New York Knicks, who have ample cap room and need a point guard.

In the past — with the major exception of the Steve Nash trade — the Suns would be deeply reluctant to deal with their “rivals.” However, 2020-21 NBA Executive of the Year James Jones has a close friendship with LeBron James, and he did the Lakers a solid with Tyson Chandler in 2018.

One more nugget from Stein, which is consistent with all the buzz we’ve been hearing this summer: the Lakers are focused on improving the third-wheel role alongside LeBron and AD and are specifically looking for a backcourt playmaker. In other words: an upgrade from Dennis Schroder, who is seeking $20-$25 million per year. This has been the consistent murmur surrounding the Lakers — a normally tight-lipped organization post-Magic Johnson.

“Seemingly daily discussion about the Lakers’ interest in various veteran guards not named Dennis Schröder increasingly suggest that the Schröder’s future is elsewhere,” Stein writes.

The Lakers would ideally like to sign-and-trade Schroder for an under-contract player (therefore not triggering the hard cap). They could also let him walk, though that hurts after dealing a first-rounder for him in 2020 and obtaining his Bird rights.

Financially, Los Angeles could basically match Paul’s $44.2 million player option with a combo of Schroder ($20+ million), Kyle Kuzma ($13 million), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10ish million), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($13 million), Alex Caruso (expected $8-$10 million) or Montrezl Harrell ($9.7 million, should he pick up his option).

The Lakers could throw in whomever they select at No.22 in the 2021 NBA Draft, their 2027 first-rounder, and numerous future second-rounders.

FYI: Paul declining his option, then being signed and traded to L.A. on a more modest contract seems logical, but that would automatically trigger a hard cap and severely hamstring their flexibility.

Of course, the easiest route would be for CP3 to play on a mid-level exception or veteran’s minimum, but that’s asking a lot.

Either way, the Lakers historically find a way to land stars. Well, unless the trade is vetoed.

By the way, let’s not forget LeBron spent the NBA Finals hyping up his buddy and Bryce Maximus’ godfather.

In other words: Chris Paul to the Lakers, confirmed.