Thursday night, the Houston Rockets pulled off a blockbuster deal that has the potential to go down as the most significant trade in franchise history. They acquired nine-time All-Star and 2017 MVP winner Russell Westbrook in exchange for multiple first-round picks that will go through the summer of 2026.
In addition to trading away a big chunk of their future, the Rockets also included Chris Paul in the deal, using his salary to match Westbrook’s massive supermax contract. While most involved in this trade seem to be getting what they want, the same cannot be said for Paul.
As he heads to an organization that has undoubtedly begun a full rebuild, the chances for Paul continuing his career in Oklahoma City are murky at best. Which bring up an interesting question, what is next for Chris Paul moving forward?
At 34-years old, Paul has entered the twilight of his career, but can still play a significant part on a championship-contending team.
Starting with his offense, Paul can still put the ball in the bucket and will excel in a system where he can be the third scoring option. Despite having the worst statistical year of his career, Paul still played an important role within Houston’s offense, as he averaged 15.6 points on 42 percent shooting from the field.
However, while his scoring has dropped a bit from his heyday, the best asset Paul can bring to a team is his excellent skills as a floor general. Despite his age, Paul is still one of the best playmakers in the league, averaging 8.2 assists last season. And since he will no longer be playing alongside a ball-dominant guard in the likes of James Harden, one can expect Paul’s assists number to possibly even increase.
On the defensive end, if a team is looking for a player who can help improve their perimeter defense, then Paul would be a reliable option yet again. Sure, his defense is not on the level that once awarded him seven All-Defensive First Team honors, but Paul is a solid one-on-one defender with a defense net rating of 104.2 and averaged 2.2 steals per game.
Of all the contending teams who could utilize his services, at least on paper, I’d love to see him with the Milwaukee Bucks. After losing Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers in free agency, Paul would be the perfect replacement that could fill the void of what Brogdon left.
Playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Paul would act as the primary ball-handler and playmaker, while becoming the Bucks’ third scoring option on offense. And while teaming alongside George Hill on the defensive end, Milwaukee could have a chance to put together one of the best perimeter defenses in the league.
Unfortunately for Paul, a deal to the Bucks is likely just a fantasy, as his massive contract is prohibitive. In fact, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Miami Heat may be the only team interested in trading for the aging star. And even they are said to be cautious about it at the moment. Whether he goes to Miami or not, any team trading for Paul will be taking a huge risk due to his injuries and big, fat cap hit.
Houston hoped to find third-team destination preferable to Chris Paul, but ultimately leaves it OKC to execute next step once Presti confers w/ CP3 agent Leon Rose. Miami remains possibility for Paul (3 years, $124M) -- and OKC obviously has picks to incentivize deal, if needed.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2019
Over the past two seasons, Paul’s hamstring woes have caused him to miss a significant amount of time, playing just 116 games out of a possible 166. Factor in his balky hammy with the fact that he is scheduled to make $124 million over the next three seasons, and you see why many of his potential suitors would greatly hesitate before making a move.
There’s also been some rumors swirling about the Lakers, but getting him there wouldn’t be easy. It’s also possible he stays in OKC, at least for the time being, until an appropriate suitor is found.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Paul’s agent, Leon Rose, is expected to meet with the Thunder general manager, Sam Presti, in the next few days to find a solution to the uncertainties surrounding the future of Chris Paul.
Regardless of where he ends up, Paul always has place in Rockets lore as part of the 65-win team in the 2017-2018 season, which was the most regular season wins in franchise history. Thanks, CP3!!