While the 2020 NBA Finals have just finished, NBA franchises are already turning their attention to next season. Consequently, the trade rumor mill is already in overdrive.
Long-serving point guard Chris Paul is one of the latest names to be bandied about. After all, the 35-year-old had an excellent season with the Oklahoma City Thunder since Houston traded him in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
Paul was indeed one of the shining lights for the Thunder this season. He helped them on their way to the playoffs, only to fall in the first round, ironically against Paul’s former employer Houston. Despite his heroics, there’s still plenty of rumors coming out of the Thunder camp that Paul could be traded after only 12 months with the franchise.
Is Chris Paul too expensive for the Thunder to retain?
Should the Thunder look to trade Paul, there is no shortage of potential suitors.
Chris Paul has always been a multi-talented professional, both on and off-court. A little know fact is that Paul has also been a regular feature in the biggest celebrity poker events. There, he honed his beginner poker strategy against some of the biggest poker pros on the planet, like Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth has even labeled Paul a “pretty good player,” which is high praise indeed for the so-called “Poker Brat.”
Despite his off-court talents, Paul certainly has plenty of fuel left in his basketball tank to generate trade interest from practically every NBA team. The New York Knicks are reported to be one of the main interested parties should the Thunder be looking to go in a different direction after the sacking of coach Billy Donovan.
Paul is the biggest earner on the Thunder roster and set to make $ 41,358,814 in the upcoming season. Trading him could give Oklahoma City some much-needed scope to rebuild for the future.
Strings attached to a trade
Multiple NBA sources have suggested that the Thunder’s general manager Sam Presti is ready and willing to deal with the Knicks for Paul. However, there are likely to be several clauses attached. Most noteworthy, the Thunder will demand a first-round pick from the Knicks, as well as one of their young prospects with a rookie contract.
The most likely rookie used as a makeweight to bring Chris Paul to the Knicks is Kevin Knox. The 20-year-old endured an underwhelming season. Therefore, the Knicks may be prepared to ditch him to bring some superstar glamor to their roster once again. Knox played college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats, making such rapid progress that he was an early entry draft pick in 2018 (9th overall by the Knicks).
Knox was snapped up by the Knicks with an impressive pedigree, having picked up two gold medals on international duty with the American national team at U16 and U17 levels.
Despite showing early promise, picking up the NBA Rookie of the Month award in December 2018, Knox has been unable to cement himself as a mainstay in the Knicks’ roster. Although the Knicks employed one of Knox’s former coaches from the Kentucky Wildcats, Kenny Payne, in a bid to bring out the best in the young prodigy.
The prospect of a renewed Paul-Anthony dream duo at the Knicks
Should the Knicks make their move for Chris Paul, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could also attempt to get free agent Carmelo Anthony, reuniting him with Paul after their successful spell together with Houston.
Carmelo Anthony regained his form with Portland this season and has said publicly that he “prays” to sign back with the Trail Blazers for another season. Nevertheless, Anthony and Paul remain in close contact, and news of Paul’s move to the Knicks may tempt Anthony to reconsider his plans for the 2020/21 season.
News of an Anthony-Paul combination for the Knicks would suggest that the team’s president Leon Rose ( a former agent) is keen to go all-out to end the team’s seven-year absence from the NBA playoffs. Providing that Paul still has the legs to keep going at 36, the All-Star regular could change the mentality of this Knicks team and add an extra dimension, thanks to his chemistry with Carmelo Anthony.
Victor Oladipo a cheaper alternative
Aside from Chris Paul, other reporters suggest that the Knicks also have their sights set on a trade for combo guard Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks’ general manager Scott Perry selected Oladipo during his time with the Orlando Magic, and the pair have stayed in contact ever since.
It would certainly have to be a straight choice between Chris Paul and Victor Oladipo for the Knicks hierarchy. Absorbing the $85 million remaining on Paul’s two-year contract with the Thunder would swallow up most of their remaining salary cap.
The biggest issue for Oladipo is his fitness. Although he may be a more cost-effective addition as a free agent, he has failed to return to the level he showed previously since tearing the quadriceps tendon in his right knee last January. With question marks over Oladipo’s fitness, Paul may get the edge despite his aging legs and ballooning salary.