Chris Paul is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Clippers so he can test free agency, and he and the Spurs reportedly have “mutual interest.”
In basic theory, the mutual attraction makes sense: at this point in his career, Paul wants a title. The Spurs want to overtake Golden State, and they’re probably one star away from making a real run at it. Paul is one of the 20-or-so best NBA players of all-time, and he's still performing at an elite caliber.
In practicality, the situation is a lot more nuanced. The Spurs’ hands are tied with the cap and their current roster. (One example: Pau Gasol has a $16.2 million player option that he'll almost certainly be accepting.) It could happen, but it’d take a lot of maneuvering.
Nonetheless, the Clippers are taking the threat of the Spurs seriously, according to Marc Stein.
The Clippers, I'm told, take the threat of a Spurs free-agent pursuit of Chris Paul very seriously despite SA's current lack of cap space.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 26, 2017
The Clippers may have reason to fear Pop and company's lurking eyes. The Spurs are one of the shrewdest organizations in professional sports. If they decide they want a player, they can probably figure out a way to get him, even if it involves some contract jockeying.
The Clippers could give Paul five years and $210 million, or he could command four years and $153.5 million from another squad. He’d be leaving quite a bit of money of the table if he signed with anyone other than the Clippers. But he doesn't seem to want a Melo-esque fate.
Say he does really want to join the Spurs, passing up money for a better chance to win the title. Could the Spurs make it happen? They could, though it would likely involve trading away an important player like Danny Green and letting Jonathon Simmons and Patty Mills go elsewhere. There’s a good breakdown of the full “what would need to happen” on SB Nation.
Say all the pieces can fall into place. Should the Spurs do it? That depends on what the organization’s highest priority is—which I certainly can't speak to.
If it’s winning now and overtaking Golden State next year or the year after that, then yes, Paul makes them a better team. He fits well with their pieces, particularly LaMarcus Aldridge, who could undergo a career resurrection with Paul's assistance. They would make a lethal pick-and-pop duo. With Paul at the point, Kawhi Leonard on the wing, and L.A. on the block, San Antonio’s ability to control the pace and space the floor may give Golden State all it could handle.
If San Antonio is building for five years down the road, however—if they consider the next couple years a lost cause—they probably need to pass on the 32-year-old point guard and focus on holding onto and developing their current pieces. Simmons (27), Mills (28), and Dewayne Dedmon (27) are all championship-caliber rotation players, and Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ 20-year-old point guard, has shown some promise.
It would likely make more sense to commit less money to a free agent point guard like Kyle Lowry (Tier II), George Hill (Tier III), or Jeff Teague (Tier IV). The Spurs also have the 29th pick in this year's loaded draft. They could either look to move up the board and pick an elite prospect or stay put and select a guard who's being slept on, such as Dwayne Bacon (Florida State), Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga), or Josh Hart (Villanova).
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