After a promising start to the season that saw the Los Angeles Clippers sitting atop the Western Conference for a short period of time, the Clippers have returned to their normal, under-performing selves. Los Angeles now find themselves in fifth place in the West, and with Chris Paul due to be out until March with a thumb injury, the Clippers look unlikely to find better fortunes at any time in the near future.
BREAKING: Chris Paul will undergo surgery and miss 6-8 weeks to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. pic.twitter.com/01RYsFmrK2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 18, 2017
If what is looking like another lackluster season for the Clippers turns out to be just that, the prospect of Chris Paul declining to exercise the player option in his contract and entering free agency unrestricted this summer looks ever more likely. Assuming this is the case, Paul will undoubtedly have teams lining up at his doorstep to secure his services.
Chris Paul’s veteran status and team-first mentality would prove beneficial to any team in the league, so here, we take a look at the teams who could provide the best fits for Paul.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs already pose the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, and adding Chris Paul to a lineup that already includes Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would only make San Antonio that much more of a threatening match-up for the Warriors.
A move to San Antonio and the chance to play under the great Gregg Popovich would almost guarantee Paul his first trip to a conference finals, and would most likely provide him with the best chance to get past the Warriors and earn a trip to the NBA Finals through the Western Conference.
If Paul does decide to opt out of the final year of his contract, look for the Spurs to be one of the front-runners to sign him.
New York would have to allow Derrick Rose to leave the team in free agency this summer for this to be a possibility, but the Knicks can offer Chris Paul the opportunity to play alongside close friend Carmelo Anthony, should he choose to sign with them. Paul could very well be the play-maker that Anthony has lacked throughout his career, and with rising star Kristaps Porzingis in the mix, you could be looking at a team that is ready to challenge for a place in the Eastern Conference Finals.
A move to the Eastern Conference would make Paul’s path to the conference finals the easiest it’s been at any point in his career. Although he would still have to find his way past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the chance to play alongside Anthony could prove to be enough to convince Paul to make a move to the Big Apple.
Speaking of the Cavs…
The Cavaliers would likely be the most enticing free agency destination for Chris Paul by a long shot, despite what it would take from Cleveland to bring him in. A sign-and-trade deal involving Kyrie Irving would likely be necessary before either party can seriously begin to think about this, but should the details work out, the Cavaliers would have the play-maker that LeBron James has been asking for.
Similar to the potential situation in New York, Paul would get the chance to play with LeBron in Cleveland, another player whom he is known to have a close off-court friendship with. Cleveland is without a doubt the strongest team in the Eastern Conference, and although this move would have to involve losing Kyrie Irving, acquiring Chris Paul as a replacement would not be considered a downgrade by many fans.
LeBron James has led his teams to the NBA Finals in each of the past six seasons, so history would be on Paul’s side to make his first NBA Finals appearance. A lot would have to take place for this move to be feasible, but should everything work itself out, a move to Cleveland to play alongside the best player on the planet would certainly be tough for Chris Paul to turn down.
Los Angeles Clippers
With all of that being said, there is always the chance that Paul could exercise the player option in his contract or re-sign with the Clippers in free agency. The Clippers have a solid base of players, including DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin (assuming he remains in Los Angeles; he too has the option to opt out of his contract after this season), as well as an all-time great head coach in Doc Rivers.
Although staying in Los Angeles might not be the best option for Paul if he hopes to secure his first trip to the NBA Finals, there is always something to be said for consistency and stability, which is exactly what he has in the Clippers.