Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers could join the San Antonio Spurs in pursuit of Clippers free agent Chris Paul when NBA free agency starts on July 1.
Every summer, it seems just about everything in free agency (and on the trade market) is connected to LeBron James in some form or fashion – and this off-season will be no different.
Fresh off an NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors, there is no way that LeBron will allow the Cavs to come back with the same roster when camp opens in September. There may be some change for sake of change moves that go down in Cleveland (expect Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony to be back on the table), and LeBron will absolutely push – first and foremost – for his banana boat buddies of Paul, Carmelo and Dwyane Wade.
FOX Sports even raised the idea of trading away Kyrie Irving, which would open the door for the team to go after Paul in free agency. That is highly unlikely, however, as it would take a ridiculous amount of salary cap maneuvering for the Cavs to free enough money to sign a player of Paul’s caliber. Oh ya, and 25-year-old Kyrie Irving is already a top 10 player in the league. Trading him away this summer, even if they’re afraid he might eventually jump ship (he has a player option in 2020), would be foolish.
As for the Lakers – the LeBron-to-LA in 2018 free agency rumors were born last week, which means Magic Johnson could use the 2017-18 season simply as a tool to attract LeBron to LA. Somehow signing away Paul from the Clippers this summer would be the best move they could make on that front. The Lakers would have to shed considerable salary in order to sign Paul, which is problem No. 1. Problem No. 2 is that Paul plays the same position as Lonzo Ball, who the Lakers are likely to pick with the No. 2 overall pick next week.
Could Paul and Ball play together? Absolutely. Ball is 6-foot-5 and Paul is 6-foot-0, so it wouldn’t be the smallest backcourt ever, and Magic would love the ball movement that backcourt would generate.
If you buy the idea that the Lakers are starting to get scared off by Ball because of his dad and that he reportedly had a bad workout, they could also take swingman Josh Jackson with the No. 2 pick. That would fit a little better for the Lakers if their ultimate intention is to finally get Paul and LeBron to Staples Center.
The buzz on Paul to the Spurs has quieted down some this past week, but expect it to heat up again after the draft. It makes a ton of basketball sense for both Paul and the Spurs to join forces, but the Spurs too have salary cap issues. They would likely have to trade Pau Gasol, waive Tony Parker and let all of their in-house free agents (Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, Jonathan Simmons) go elsewhere in order to create enough cash to lure Paul.
Paul would also be giving up over $50 million in salary to jump to the Spurs, Lakers or Cavaliers this summer. This will all come back to how much Paul wants to win a title – and how tight he is with LeBron.