Just want to repost this
Would CP3 leave the Clippers?
Chris Paul can test the free-agent market this summer. Will he leave L.A.?
Until Chris Paul spoke Saturday, this was supposed to be a dull free-agent season. To many of us, all NBA transactions are interesting; however, the 2013 free-agent class seemed unlikely to have a major impact on the landscape of the league. Dwight Howard has been the most oft-discussed member of the class, and while there is a bit of intrigue regarding his next contract, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that he'll stay put with the Los Angeles Lakers. Besides the fact that the Lakers are a destination franchise, the fact of the matter is there are a limited number of possible suitors for star-level free agents this summer. Paul will find that out soon enough.
All along, it has been assumed that Paul would simply re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers -- and that remains the default position. Los Angeles can offer Paul a five-year, $107.5 million deal, and he can't get more than four years from another team. You also don't want to read too much into the emotional words of a player still stinging from a disappointing loss. Despite the Clippers' early exit, Paul led all players in PER during the first round, so he's certainly not to blame for the defeat. Given his comments, it seems likely that his quest for a championship is going to outweigh the monetary aspect of his free agency. The money will be considerable either way, and he's still got those Cliff Paul spots running to pad the bank account.
In terms of bottom-line value, Paul is easily the best player available this summer, the kind of performer whose signature alters the fortunes of any franchise he joins. Howard may challenge Paul's place atop the pecking order of free agents because of the scarcity of elite centers, but either way teams will be salivating over the prospect of bringing Paul aboard. So the questions then become: Does remaining with the Clippers offer Paul his best chance at a championship? If not, then where could he go?
1. Los Angeles Clippers
In the end, the Clippers remain the overwhelming favorite to retain Paul's services. However, they may need to demonstrate a willingness to pay significant luxury tax money because as Amin Elhassan pointed out, if they bring back the same core, it's going to be difficult to fill out the rest of the roster. The Clippers' success this season was built around Paul and Blake Griffin, but the team's depth also played a large part. Only five Clippers currently have fully guaranteed deals for next season. Consider the case of Matt Barnes, who just completed his age-33 season by scoring 30 points in L.A.'s elimination game, and finished third on the Clippers in WARP during the regular season. Barnes wouldn't get it, but in a fully open marketplace his production would be worth about 10 times the amount he was actually paid. It seems unlikely he'd be willing to play for the minimum again when teams across the league will be willing to use cap exceptions to pay more.
As for adding a third core member to team with Paul and Griffin, L.A. general manager Gary Sacks would have to dip into the team's young depth with Eric Bledsoe serving as the centerpiece of any trade. In the end, the middling, cap-clogging contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler may prevent the Clippers from making any impactful moves. Paul could survey the situation and decide that this year's team got about as far as this group can get. He may be wrong, but players often are when it comes to evaluating their own teams and others around the league. If Paul were to leave, it would be just the latest sorry chapter in the star-crossed history of the Clippers.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks -- who could have drafted Paul in 2005 when they selected Marvin Williams -- have just three players with guaranteed contracts for next season: Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins. Obviously that's not enough to entice Paul from the standpoint of maximizing title odds. However, Atlanta might have a slight geographical edge because Paul was born, raised and went to college in ACC country. Then if you recall the fact that Howard is an Atlanta native, suddenly things get more interesting. The idea of Paul and Howard joining forces has been floating around for some time, and in Atlanta, it could actually happen.
This would require some bold decision-making on the part of Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, and some financial collusion on the part of Paul and Howard. Ferry would need to renounce every free agent on his roster, a process which would include declining to make a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Jeff Teague. If he did that, Ferry could get his cap commitment down to about $26 million for the aforementioned trio, Atlanta's two first-round picks and a number of minimum cap holds. If the cap comes in at, say, $60 million, then that would be $34 million for Howard and Paul to split. Not the max, but this scenario only works if the pair decides to follow in the path of Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Atlanta would end up with a core of Howard, Paul and Horford, plus an elite bench scorer in Williams, a promising shooting specialist in Jenkins and two first-round rookies. Ferry would also have a full battery of cap exceptions -- this would become a likely landing spot for Barnes -- and with Howard and Paul on top of his talent pyramid, the Hawks would become a preferred destination for the top minimum-salary veterans. The Hawks haven't been to the Finals since the 1950s, so why not think big? There are several teams that could maneuver enough to free up a salary slot for Paul, like Dallas, Houston or Boston. The Hawks are the only team, though, that can do so while also offering the possibility of an instant power trio.
3. The field
Yeah, that's about it -- a very short list. With every other team besides the Clippers and Hawks, there are obstacles too big to overcome, though a surprise is always a possibility. First, the NBA is point guard dominated right now, and quite a few teams are set at the position. Sure, Paul is the best PG in the league, but do you really want to gut the rest of your roster to upgrade the one position you haven't filled? Some teams -- the Lakers for one -- can't go after Paul because tax restrictions prevent them from taking back a player in a sign-and-trade deal. As mentioned, the Mavericks, Rockets and (possibly) the Celtics have money to spend. Would Paul consider a two-star team with Dirk Nowitzki an upgrade over his situation with the Clippers? Would he want to share the ball with James Harden in Houston? In Boston, he'd be the centerpiece of a rebuild, which would be the case with more than half the league.
It's that lack of viable options that means Paul is likely to decide the grass is greenest with the Clippers at Staples Center. However, in a summer that probably won't have a lot of high-level intrigue, at least the Hawks give us the possibility of some real excitement.