As the 2016-17 NBA season met its conclusion, it didn’t take very long for the Clippers offseason to “officially” begin.
Multiple rumors regarding Los Angeles Clippers point guard and upcoming unrestricted free agent Chris Paul have begun to spiral. Paul, who just turned 32 last month, will be set to enter free agency on July 1st. And while only competing in 61 regular season games (his lowest since the 2011-12 season) this year, Paul continues to demonstrate that he’s still constructively a top-three Point Guard in the NBA.
2016-17 AVERAGES: 18.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and 1.9 steals — on 47% field-goal, 41% three-point (career-high), and 89% free-throw.
Remaining as one of the most efficient players the league has to offer, we can’t ever forget how much Paul demonstrates his unselfish character. As nightly double-double threat to score twenty while handing out ten assists on any given night is what truly makes him special.
However, his time with the Clippers may (finally) be over.
Paul will have plenty of options on the table, and it’s expected. Outside of Stephen Curry, who just won his second NBA title with the Golden State Warriors, Paul leaving the Clippers is a much more realistic possibility — due to the fact that unlike Curry, Paul has never won an NBA title, let alone made his way to the Finals. As Paul continues to grow older, the window of opportunity begins to close even more for him. Winning a championship would cap off such an incredible career, as he is more than likely to finish in the top-five category of the NBA’s all-time greatest Point Guards.
Shortly after Los Angeles was eliminated by the Utah Jazz in a gruesome seven-game series, rumors swirled that Paul could likely join a familiar Western Conference rival. The San Antonio Spurs are a leading candidate to sign the nine-time All-Star, but we’ll be seeing a long list of other potential candidates pretty soon.
The Spurs are a reasonable destination, due to a long-tenured dynasty coming to a close. As sixteen-year veteran point guard Tony Parker went down in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals with a season-ending quad injury, San Antonio will have to (eventually) prepare for more help at the lead guard position. Not only would Paul offer another valid scoring option beside MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, but as well as a true ball-handler and distributor.
*San Antonio finished 7th in the league in total team assists in 2016-17 — ranking as their lowest since the 2010-11 season.*
And although Paul is just three years younger, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Spurs will want to upgrade from Parker, just in case he decides to retire within the next couple of seasons — which is more than likely.
There’s no doubt that the addition of Paul would help San Antonio remain a top-three team in the West. However, I don’t exactly agree that San Antonio is “the best” option for him. The Houston Rockets, another Western Conference powerhouse, are just as great — if not an even better option for Paul.
Dating back to this year’s Western Conference Semifinals, the Rockets weren’t able to capitalize off San Antonio missing both Leonard and Parker in game six — suffering an embarrassing 114-75 defeat, as the Spurs (4-1) advanced to the Western Conference Finals. And of course, their luck didn’t last long — as the eventual champion Warriors powered away with a four-game sweep to reach the Finals.
Having both Houston and San Antonio as his top options, Paul can’t go wrong with either. With more postseason experience (as well as a hall of fame coach), the Spurs have their cherished history to persuade any free agent to play for them. But what makes Houston ideal is the possibilities of a lethal backcourt of Paul — and yet another MVP candidate James Harden. A solid edge Houston has over San Antonio is the perimeter talent, which might be enough for Paul to choose them. As one of the best transition offenses in the league, Paul would thrive with so many three-point shooters.
To note that Houston and San Antonio have two very different playing styles, it’s difficult to put one over the other.
It isn’t a lock that Paul is on the outs with Los Angeles, but considering his options, he’d be nearly foolish to not do so. The Clippers are lost, and it seems like it’s been that way for the last three-or-four seasons.