Chris Paul needs to get out of LA. With the recent firing of Vinny Del Negro, and subsequent blame put on CP3 for the firing, it seems more likely that Paul will leave the Clippers, sending them back to square one. Most analysts think Paul should and will re-sign with the Clippers, pointing to the fact that they can offer him $28 million more than any other team and won 56 games this year, a franchise record. I’m not convinced though that the Clippers are set up for a chance at a title, unless Blake Griffin takes a giant leap. Griffin may have already peaked. Simple as that. Look at his career stats and you’ll see his production from 22 points and 13 rebounds in his first season to 18 points and 8 rebounds last season. There’s no reason for someone so freakishly athletic as Griffin to only average 8 rebounds per game. Griffin is one of the worst post defenders inthe league. Griffin holds the keys to the Clippers future, and without massive improvement, the Clippers are only a first or second round playoff team. Meanwhile, the Clippers other big man DeAndre Jordan is young and way overpaid. He’s a highlight reel dunker who plays no defense and makes Dwight Howard look like Steve Nash from the free throw line. To make matters worse, it’s been well-documented that Jordan and Griffin don’t like Chris Paul. Chris Paul doesn’t have time for these kinds of issues at this stage in his career. Two overrated post players who won’t bring CP3 a title anytime soon and are more concerned with making viral Youtube clips are not what Paul needs. Luckily for Paul, he’s a free agent and there are a few destinations with a brighter future than the Clips. Let’s look at where Paul may end up playing next season.
Los Angeles Clippers
There is reason to believe Paul will stay with the Clips. Aside from the chemistry issues in the locker room, Paul gets to live in the beautiful LA weather with one of the most promising players in the league in Blake Griffin. The Clippers do need a serious makeover if they want to be legitimate contenders though. As it stands, they are behind the Thunder, Grizzlies, Warriors, Nuggets, and maybe even the Spurs next season. They have serious frontcourt issues, but even in their backcourt, Jamal Crawford and Caron Butler aren’t getting any younger. This team is going in the wrong direction.
Paul would not solve all the Rockets’ problems, but he would probably make them instant contenders in the West. A backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden would easily be the best in the league. The Rockets play a fun up-tempo style, spreading the floor with shooters, and would be very attractive to the best point guard in the NBA. The Rockets though may not be as interested in Paul as they are in Dwight Howard. Either way, the Rockets have tons of cap space this summer and will be looking to cash in on a max-level free agent. CP3 and Harden would be must-see TV every night, and probably the most popular League Pass team in the league, but we know Paul is interested in winning titles.
This scenario doesn’t make as much sense for CP3, but it’s obvious that Mark Cuban has been waiting for Paul to be a free agent for a while. Remember, Cuban basically tore apart his championship team to get ready for the CP3/Dwight Howard/Deron Williams sweepstakes, and looked like a fool when he ended up empty-handed. The Mavs’ only real selling point is having Dirk, one of the most likable and unselfish superstars in the league, but he’s getting old. Knowing the Mavs don’t have the cap room to sign both CP3 and Howard though most likely knocks the Mavs out of the sweepstakes. Cuban will land someone this summer or next, but Dallas is far less attractive than it’s been in the past.
This is the best option for Paul, but it probably won’t happen. The team that chose Marvin Williams over Chris Paul in the draft nine years ago is the most attractive free agent destination for CP3. When Atlanta traded Joe Johnson last summer, they were clearing up cap space so they could make a run at Dwight Howard, an Atlanta native, and Chris Paul this summer. The only players on the books for Atlanta next season are Louis Williams and Al Horford, two very nice building blocks. The Hawks are the only team on this list with the cap space to sign CP3 and Dwight Howard.
A core of CP3, Howard, Horford, and Louis Williams would automatically vault Atlanta into the top of the East, with a team capable of challenging the Heat. The Hawks would be in the upper echelon of the East with the Heat and Pacers, and a chance to win it all. Paul and Howard have tried to play with each other for years, and they finally could in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Lakers
Good God, let’s hope Paul doesn’t end up on the Lakers. Word on the street is that he wants to play for the Lakers, but it’s nearly impossible for them to acquire him. The only likely scenario involves a sign-and-trade involving Dwight Howard. CP3 would be on a team with Pau Gasol, a bunch of scrubs, and maybe Kobe near the end of the season if his achilles injury was improving ahead of time. The only reason Paul could find the Lakers enticing is their history of attracting talent and being the top free agent destination in the league, but Paul is not in the stage of his career to be able to wait a few years for LeBron or other free agents to join him in LA. The Lakers are the biggest wild card on this list, and Clippers fans everywhere would probably just put their Lakers jerseys back on, and pretend they never jumped on the Clippers bandwagon.