With the dust not yet settled on his Phoenix Suns’ NBA Finals loss, a report has already surfaced that Chris Paul could be headed elsewhere.
According to the The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in plucking Paul from their Western Conference rivals this offseason. They’re also considering a pursuit of former league MVP and Washington Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook.
According to sources, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been on the hunt for a veteran point guard, and Paul is on the list. There have also been talks about Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook being a potential candidate to move back home to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal that could include free agent point guard Dennis Schroder, forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Talen Horton-Tucker, sources said.
That the Lakers are looking for an upgrade at point should come as no surprise. They’re fresh off a first-round playoff loss at the hands of Paul’s Suns. It should be noted that they were dealing with an injured Anthony Davis (groin) and a diminished James (ankle) during that loss. But injuries to the Lakers pair of superstars shone a bright light on the lack of star power elsewhere on the roster.
Would Chris Paul bolt Phoenix to take his last shots at an NBA title alongside LeBron James? (Mark J. Rebilas/Reuters)
Starting point guard Dennis Schroder was a popular scapegoat for the Lakers 2020-21 struggles, with Magic Johnson declaring after the season “I don’t think he’s a Laker.” The five-time NBA champion with the Lakers and ex-president of basketball operations was quick to jump on the Paul bandwagon on Tuesday as soon as his Suns were vanquished by the Milwaukee Bucks for the NBA championship.
The reported interest in Paul from the Lakers and noted pal James is almost tangible. It wouldn’t be the first time the NBA’s glamour franchise coveted the future Hall of Famer. This time, there’s no David Stern presence to nix any potential deal.
No, this dream scenario for James and the Lakers would apparently depend almost solely on Paul. The 36-year-old 11-time All-Star has a player option with the Suns next season worth more than $44 million. It’s a big number. But he could conceivably secure more guaranteed money by opting out and signing a long-term deal in excess of $100 million. Would he want to give it another run with a Suns team where all reports point to a harmonious relationship with fellow stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams?
Or would he prefer to take his last shots at an NBA championship with a core that’s already won one alongside old friend James? If he does pursue that route, it would likely come with a drastic pay cut. Per Spears, the best offer the Lakers could make Paul as a free agent is a $9.5 million taxpayer midlevel exception — obviously a lot less than $44 million and an additional problem for Paul in his role as NBPA president.
Spears reports that Paul’s most likely route from Phoenix to Los Angeles would involve a sign-and-trade that would allow the Lakers to pay him more. That would involve cooperation from a Suns team with a young core that just fell two wins short of an NBA title. Would they really help the Lakers upgrade to avoid watching Paul walk in free agency with nothing in return? Would Paul play hardball to force the Suns’ hand?
It all adds up to a fascinating set of scenarios and one of the most closely watched storylines of the offseason. And that’s before addressing the Lakers’ potential pursuit of Westbrook.
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