What’s Next for Chris Paul?

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Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers have disappointed yet again after losing to an inexperienced Utah Jazz team in the first round of the playoffs that played without Rudy Gobert for multiple games. After now six seasons of continually failing in the playoffs, there has to be major speculation about a possible breakup of this Clippers team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, and five other Clippers entering Free Agency this summer, and four more Clippers entering it next summer.

Paul is 31, and this upcoming contract is likely going to be his last for a long term maximum deal. Despite being the NBA’s 2nd all-time leader in win share rate (.250 per 48 minutes,) Paul has never made it past the 2nd round in his career. Other players of his caliber have a history of teaming up somewhere, and there are already has been talk of Paul teaming up with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Here are the possible scenarios for Paul this off-season.

Paul Recruits for the Clippers

NBA.com

This is only going to work if the Clippers completely blow up their team, but it could. The Clippers still have 111 million on the books for next season before both the NBA Draft and before they re-sign their free agents, but the right trades and Blake Griffin using his Early Termination Option could mean some cap space for the Clips.

Dwyane Wade, Gordon Hayward, and Rudy Gay have player options, Carmelo Anthony is on the move as well. Amir Johnson, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Tyreke Evans, George Hill, and Kyle Korver are just a few of the many great players available in this class to contribute to a team like the Clippers.

If the Clippers play it right, they could end up with a depth chart that looks as follows:

1 Chris Paul (22.9) Shelvin Mack (3.0) Raymond Felton (1.5)
2 Courtney Lee (11.2) Justin Holiday (1.0) Alan Anderson (1.2)
3 Carmelo Anthony (24.6) Wesley Johnson (5.8)
4 Luc Mbah a Moute (2.2) Marreese Speights (1.4) Brice Johnson (1.3)
5 DeAndre Jordan (21.2) Willy Hernangomez (1.4) Diamond Stone (1.3)

Now this is a very loose estimate. It also involves a sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin and a few other players for Carmelo Anthony and a few other players, but this trade gives the Clippers a new look. One can insert Paul George, Rudy Gay, or another star wing in place of Anthony, and different role players in place of the acquired Knicks players in this scenario or the re-signed Clippers.

On top of this option simply not being highly realistic, these roster and personel moves don’t necessarily make the Clippers better. Blake Griffin is still a force in this league, and would be missed by L.A., just as he was when Los Angeles lost game seven to the Jazz this year. J.J. Redick is a major contributor to this Clippers team, he would be missed as well. Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers are two highly used bench guards – both finished top five on the team in total minutes played.  Shelvin Mack, Justin Holiday, Courtney Lee, and Willy Hernangomez might be better on the less glamorous end of the court, but this team lacks serious offensive fire power off the bench.

Paul Teams Up with Other Free Agents and/or Stars

Bleacher Report

Chris Paul could very well team up with other stars as he nearly did in 2011 with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and the Los Angeles Lakers before former commissioner of the NBA David Stern mysteriously veto’d the trade that had Pau Gasol going to Houston, and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and the Knicks’ 2012 first round pick going to New Orleans.

That great list of free agents still exists, and some more players who have player options are Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Danilo Gallinari, and Dion Waiters.

Twelve teams already are 14 million dollars or more below the 100 million dollar mark in salaries for next season, and essentially every NBA team besides the Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs should be willing to blow up their roster to an extent to acquire Paul.

Here are some possible teams that could be formed as the result of a sign-and-trade for Paul, as well as the corresponding resultant Clippers teams:

Clippers
1 Elfrid Payton Austin Rivers Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Evan Fournier Terrence Ross Brandon Bass
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Magic
1 Chris Paul D.J. Augustin C.J. Watson
2 Jodie Meeks Mario Hezonja
3 Wesley Johnson Damjan Rudez
4 Aaron Gordon Jeff Green
5 Bismack Biyombo Nikola Vucevic Stephen Zimmerman

Elfrid Payton, Terrence Ross, and Evan Fournier are all productive and young players. Payton became a triple double machine towards the end of last season – averaging 13.5 points, 8.4 assists, and 7.0 rebounds after the all-star break on 50.8% shooting with a +2.6 net rating. He is just 23 years old. Fournier and Ross averaged 29.7 points per game from the two wing positions for the Magic as well. The Clippers would remain a playoff team in the aftermath of this trade.

The Magic would likely become a playoff contender. Not only do they have Aaron Gordon, a player who averaged 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after the all-star break as a power forward to begin with, but Paul has a history of improving the play of power forwards on his team (David West, Blake Griffin.) Bringing a scoring punch of Nikola Vucevic, Jeff Green, and D.J. Augustin off the bench before the Magic even select their draft pick (projected 5th overall pending lottery results,) this team is a playoff team under Frank Vogel.

Clippers
1 Rajon Rondo Jerian Grant Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Denzel Valentine
3 Luc Mbah a Moute Austin Rivers Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Bobby Portis Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Bulls
1 Chris Paul Cameron Payne Isaiah Canaan
2 Dwyane Wade Michael Carter-Williams
3 Jimmy Butler Anthony Morrow
4 Nikola Mirotic Paul Zipser
5 Robin Lopez Cristiano Felicio Joffrey Lauvergne

This trade gives the Clippers Rajon Rondo to take over the point guard duties fresh off of an excellent playoff performance in which he averaged 11.5 points, 10.0 assists, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 steals per game . Rondo thrived under head coach Doc Rivers in Boston, and the pick and roll potential with Rondo and Griffin is comparable to that of Paul and Griffin. This trade also gets the Clippers great young talent across the board at the positions: Jerian Grant at point guard, Denzel Valentine on the wing, and Bobby Portis in the front court.

This trade allows for the Bulls to pair Chris Paul with Jimmy Butler. These were two top-ten players in the league when healthy last season, and they get to go into the playoffs with Dwyane Wade right there as well. The potential for a deep playoff run is ever present, especially if they can hire an adequate head coach, and surround those three with perimeter shooting and front court bruisers.

Clippers
1 Reggie Jackson Austin Rivers Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Stanley Johnson Luc Mbah a Moute Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Henry Ellenson Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Pistons
1 Chris Paul Ish Smith Darrun Hilliard
2 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Beno Udrih Michael Gbinije
3 Marcus Morris Reggie Bullock
4 Tobias Harris Jon Leuer
5 Andre Drummond Aron Baynes Boban Marjanovic

Reggie Jackson might have had a horrible season last year, but that doesn’t change that it was just the previous season that he averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game while helping lead Detroit to the playoffs. The Clippers also get a player with the potential of Stanley Johnson, the 8th overall pick in 2015, and they also get Henry Ellenson, who was projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 draft behind freshman year numbers of 17.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game at Marquette, but slipped out.

With Chris Paul joining the Pistons, suddenly every player in that starting line-up is a fringe all-star or better level player. Watching Andre Drummond finish lobs from Chris Paul might be even more dazzling than with DeAndre Jordan, and Caldwell-Pope, Morris, and Harris would get so many open looks. This team would excite on its way to 50+ wins.

Clippers
1 Goran Dragic Austin Rivers Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Justise Winslow Luc Mbah a Moute Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Brice Johnson Brandon Bass
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Heat
1 Chris Paul Josh Richardson
2 Tyler Johnson Dion Waiters  Wayne Ellington
3 Rodney McGruder Luke Babbitt
4 James Johnson Josh McRoberts Udonis Haslem
5 Hassan Whiteside Willie Reed Okaro White

Consider this trade similar to the Pistons trade. The Clippers get a high level point guard in Goran Dragic, who averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game last season, as well as a lottery level talent with all-NBA athleticism in Justise Winslow.

The Heat have a great core with Paul and Hassan Whiteside, but this team is inacurate of what Pat Riley would put together. He always finds a way to get talent on his Heat teams, even last year when all hope was supposedly lost after Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all left Miami. Even if they don’t disband, subbing in Chris Paul for Goran Dragic on a team that was already 41-41 would make for at least a 45 win playoff team and a sleeper in the playoffs.

Clippers
1 Malcolm Brogdon Austin Rivers Matthew Dellavedova
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Jabari Parker Wesley Johnson Brandon Bass
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Thon Maker Mareese Speights
Bucks
1 Chris Paul Jason Terry Gary Payton II
2 Khris Middleton Rashad Vaughn
3 Tony Snell Michael Beasley
4 Giannis Antetokounmpo Greg Monroe Mirza Teletovic
5 John Henson Spencer Hawes

This Clippers team would get two tough nosed guards in Brogdon and Dellavdova that Rivers, Redick, and Crawford simply aren’t. They also get Thon Maker, a lottery pick from last year and a 7’0″ prospect with guard skills. Most importantly, however, is Jabari Parker, who averaged 20.1 points and 6.1 rebounds on 49.0% shooting last season before the injury. The Clippers front court would be a match-up nightmare with Griffin and Jordan as well.

The Bucks have the opportunity to pair a once in a lifetime talent like the Greak Freak with an all-NBA point guard like Chris Paul, and they still have a decent supporting cast as well. Khris Middleton is an excellent third fiddle offensively, Greg Monroe is a high quality big man to bring off the bench, and Snell, Teletovic, and Hawes can all hit threes in the front court. Definitely a high quality Eastern Conference team.

Clippers
1 Jamal Murray Austin Rivers Emmanuel Mudiay
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Malik Beasley
3 Wilson Chandler Gary Harris Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Nuggets
1 Chris Paul Jameer Nelson
2 Will Barton Mike Miller
3 Danilo Gallinari Juan Hernangomez
4 Kenneth Faried Darrell Arthur
5 Nikola Jokic Roy Hibbert

Jamal Murray is a great prospect. He was the only freshman to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists as a freshman in a power five conference besides Michael Redd and Carmelo Anthony, and Murray proved he was worth his chops as a rookie in the NBA last season with 18 games having 15 points or more. Chandler is coming off a great season with 15.7 points per game on 46.1% shooting, and Harris had 14.9 points on 50.3% shooting and 42.0% from three himself. Mudiay and Beasley are two great young prospects, with Mudiay as a 20 year old and former lottery selection, and Beasley at 20 as well and right outside the lottery.

The Nuggets get to pair Nikola Jokic, the best point center in the NBA with 19.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game on 59.1% shooting for Denver since the start of December, with Paul, and unbelieveably play maker himself. Two high level play-makers on this team with scorers like Barton (13.7 ppg, 37.0% 3P,) Gallinari (18.2 ppg, 38.8% 3P,) and Faried (16.3 points per 36 minutes, 54.9% FG) would be a work of art offensively. With Paul to hold some accountability defensively over these Nuggets, their league-worst defense would improve too. Even without a defense, Denver still won 40 games last season; who knows what they could do with Paul?

Clippers
1 Ricky Rubio Austin Rivers Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Andrew Wiggins Wesley Johnson Brandon Bass
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Timberwolves
1 Chris Paul Kris Dunn Tyus Jones
2 Zach LaVine Brandon Rush
3 Omri Casspi Shabazz Muhammad
4 Gorgui Dieng Nemanja Bjelica Adreian Payne
5 Karl-Anthony Towns Cole Aldrich Nikola Pekovic

Ricky Rubio is a great playmaker; he had 9.1 assists per game last season. The holes in his game are in scoring and defense, but with Griffin, Wiggins, Crawford, and Redick, scoring will never be an issue for this team, and Jordan is an imposing interior defender who can bail out Rubio defensively from time to time. The opportunity to get Andrew Wiggins is most intriguing, however, as the Canadian has produced impressive but empty volume stats like 23.6 points per game but only 4.2 win shares last season. Perhaps his success could change on a now-steady organization like the Clippers.

Giving up the immense talent of Wiggins as well as Rubio might be hard for Minnesota, but pairing Karl-Anthony Towns with Chris Paul is a dream come true. The Timberwolves would replicate much of what the Clippers have been in recent seasons, but perhaps better. Towns can match Griffin’s offensive production while beating his defensive production. LaVine is younger and can be a better volume scorer than Jamal Crawford can. Dieng can be that secondary front court defender that DeAndre Jordan is, and what he lacks in rim protecting ability he makes up for in versatility. This team doesn’t have a J.J. Redick, but Rush, Casspi, and Aldrich are all veterans with winning experience.

Clippers
1 D’Angelo Russell Austin Rivers Tyler Ennis
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Wesley Johnson
3 Brandon Ingram Nick Young Brice Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Thomas Robinson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Lakers
1 Chris Paul David Nwaba
2 Jordan Clarkson Corey Brewer
3 Luol Deng Metta World Peace
4 Julius Randle Larry Nance Jr.
5 Ivaca Zubac Tarik Black Timofey Mozgov

The Clippers get D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram out of this deal: two number two overall picks the last two seasons that averaged a combined 31.7 points per game last season after the all-star break. They also get Nick Young, who despite all his antics still was a 40.4% shooter from three last year. They also get Thomas Robinson, the former lottery pick, and Tyler Ennis, the 22 year old point who came on for Los Angeles late last season.

The Lakers get Paul after all. pairing him with Deng and Clarkson on the wings, and Randle and Nance Jr. inside, this is a fringe playoff team already, and with a high draft pick in 2017, they would have a playoff level core soon enough.

Clippers
1 Austin Rivers Jarryd Bayless Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Dario Saric Luc Mbah a Moute Brandon Bass
4 Blake Griffin Jahlil Okafor Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
76ers
1 Chris Paul T.J. McConnell
2 Justin Anderson Gerald Henderson Nik Stauskas
3 Robert Covington Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot Alex Poythress
4 Ben Simmons Richaun Holmes Shawn Long
5 Joel Embiid Tiago Splitter

The Clippers could also ask for the 76ers pick this year in the draft, which would most likely land them a top-five prospect, but even without the pick, Dario Saric averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game after all-star break in his rookie season, while Okafor averaged 17.5 and 7.0 for his entire rookie season in 2015-16. Being on the 76ers inflated these numbers, yes, but these are still two top tier front court prospects. Jerryd Bayless only sweetens the pot with a veteran point guard at a good age (28.)

Chris Paul, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid could honestly dethrone LeBron James in the East one day if they all live up to their potential. Embiid showed unbelievable things as a rookie before getting sidelined yet again, and Simmons showed the potential to dominate in James-esque fashion even for a weak LSU basketball program. Simmons possesses similar physical and basketball attributes to LeBron, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the NBA. Covington, Anderson, Henderson, Luwawu, Holmesm and Splitter are all great supporting cast players. McConnell can lead a bench unit with the best of them.

Clippers
1 Jrue Holiday Austin Rivers Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Alan Anderson
3 Luc Mbah a Moute Solomon Hill Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Brice Johnson Brandon Bass
5 DeAndre Jordan Mareese Speights Diamond Stone
Pelicans
1 Chris Paul Tim Frazier Quinn Cook
2 E’Twaun Moore Jordan Crawford Axel Toupane
3 Dante Cunningham Quincy Pondexter
4 Anthony Davis Donatas Motiejunas Cheick Diallo
5 DeMarcus Cousins Alexis Ajinca Omer Asik

This one gets the Clippers Jrue Holiday, a buy-low candidate right now, but a player who averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.5 steals for New Orleans last year, and Solomon Hill, a good wing defender, and the Clippers would likely get a few first round picks out of the deal as well.

The Pelicans franchise not only gets Chris Paul back, but the opportunity to pair him with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the two most talented big men in the league. This big three could reign among the West’s top three for years to come if it pans out among the three stars, the supporting cast, Alvin Gentry or whoever becomes coach, and management.

Clippers
1 George Hill Dante Exum Raymond Felton
2 J.J. Redick Alec Burks Alan Anderson
3 Austin Rivers Luc Mbah a Moute Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Brice Johnson Mareese Speights
5 DeAndre Jordan Jeff Withey Diamond Stone
Jazz
1 Chris Paul Shelvin Mack Raul Neto
2 Rodney Hood Jamal Crawford Joe Ingles
3 Gordon Hayward Joe Johnson
4 Derrick Favors Trey Lyles
5 Rudy Gobert Boris Diaw Joel Bolomboy

This trade lands the Clippers with four players who all bring something. Hill is an unbelievable player coming off his best season. He averaged 16.9 points on 47.7% shooting and 40.3% from three. He is a terrific defender as well, and actually guarded Paul relatively well in the first round of the playoffs this season. Burks has lost much of his career to injuries, sadly, but averaged 13.8 points and 37.2% three point shooting in the three preceding seasons to 2016-17. Withey does a great job of backing up Rudy Gobert; he had offensive and defensive ratings of 124 and 100 this season, and he also had 1.8 win shares at a rate more than double the league average (.205 per 48 minutes.)

The Jazz get a championship team essentially. While Hill is a great player, he just doesn’t compare to the future hall of famer Chris Paul. This team has a complete starting five, the personel to play versatile (small-ball, big, etc.,) and players both in their peak form (Hayward, Favors, Gobert, Hood, Ingles) and veterans to help guide through the difficulties of competing (Paul, Johnson, Crawford, Diaw.) This team already had one of the best defenses in the league, with Paul at point, they might even reach number one.

Clippers
1 Patty Mills Austin Rivers Dejounte Murray
2 J.J. Redick Jamal Crawford Jonathan Simmons
3 Danny Green Kyle Anderson Wesley Johnson
4 Blake Griffin Luc Mbah a Moute Brice Johnson
5 DeAndre Jordan Dewayne Dedmon Mareese Speights
Spurs
1 Chris Paul Tony Parker
2 Manu Ginobili Bryn Forbes
3 Kawhi Leonard David Bertans
4 LaMarcus Aldridge David Lee
5 Pau Gasol Joel Anthony

The Clippers get a plethora of talent from the best organization in the league. Mills, Green, Anderson, Dedmon, Murray, and Simmons are all important to the Spurs franchise, and they have helped them get the league’s 2nd best record each of the past two seasons. The Clippers get unbelieveably deep with winning players and have star power with Griffin and Jordan – it’s the best of both worlds.

The Spurs get the chance to create a super team. If it were five years ago, Paul, Ginobili, Leonard, Aldridge, Gasol, Parker, and Lee would likely three-peat, but even now, that team is insanely talented, and the organization would predictably find some players in the middle of nowhere to complement the star power well like they always do.

Nothing

Of course, the chance always remains that Paul, Redick, Griffin, and Jordan aren’t ready to throw in the towel. Perhaps injuries really were the reason they’ve lost each of the past few seasons. As a player who’s never been to the Conference Finals before, leaving a perennial 50 win team might sound scary for Paul. Only time will tell what he decides.

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