Chris Paul

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether Paul, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

Heat Notes: Paul, Beal, Expiring Contracts, Waiters

The Heat and Thunder never came close to making a deal involving Chris Paul, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Miami was pursuing Russell Westbrook before Oklahoma City agreed to trade him to Houston last week. The focus shifted to a possible deal that would bring Paul to the Heat, but they don’t have the same level of enthusiasm about acquiring him that they did for Westbrook. (Twitter link). A report today indicates that Oklahoma City is pessimistic about its chances of moving Paul and may keep him on the roster for the entire season.

The Heat were only willing to take on the three years and $124MM left on Paul’s contract if OKC met certain demands, including the return of Miami’s draft picks for 2021 and 2023, Jackson adds. The Heat are reluctant to absorb that much salary because it would restrict their flexibility for the summer of 2021.

There’s more from South Florida:

  • Miami’s next chance to add a star could come if Bradley Beal turns down an extension offer from the Wizards, according to Jackson (Twitter link). He suggests the Heat will be among the teams contacting Washington about Beal if they don’t reach an agreement. Beal will become eligible for the extension, which would pay him $111MM over three seasons, on July 26. Jackson notes that the Wizards have turned aside all trade offers involving Beal so far, but he will become a free agent in 2021 without the extension.
  • Some of the Heat’s expiring contracts don’t look so bad after this summer’s spending and may prove to be valuable trade assets, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson both have 2020/21 player options, but Winderman states that Olynyk might opt out of his $13.2MM salary in view of this year’s market. Johnson is more likely to opt in for $16MM because of his age. Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard have expiring deals with no options and are expected to be trade chips.
  • Frustrated by jokes over his body last season, Dion Waiters showed off his leaner, stronger physique in an Instragram post Monday, as relayed in an ESPN story. Waiters admits to being in a “dark place mentally & physically” during the past season as he tried to shake off the effects of an ankle injury.

Chris Paul Likely To Start Season In OKC

The Thunder haven’t found any success in their attempts to trade Chris Paul, and he appears destined to be on their roster when the season begins in October, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Moving Paul has seemed like the next logical step since a trade that brought him from Houston in exchange for Russell Westbrook was agreed upon last week. The deal become official last night, but it appears any potential market for Paul has dried up.

The Thunder have been working with the nine-time All-Star and his representatives to find an acceptable deal, but both sides now see benefits to having him spend the season in Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. Because the trade happened so far into free agency, few contenders have the flexibility to take on Paul, who will make $124MM over the next three years. OKC may re-examine its options once most of the newly signed free agents become eligible to be traded on December 15, or after next season is complete.

GM Sam Presti would be happy to have Paul for the entire season, Woj relays, and Paul views the Thunder as a playoff contender with Danilo GallinariSteven AdamsDennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already in place. Woj adds that the Thunder don’t believe they should have to give up any draft considerations to move Paul’s contract. They acquired two first-rounders and two pick swaps in the deal with Houston.

Thunder, Rockets Swap Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul

JULY 16: The trade is official, according to a Thunder press release.

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future,” GM Sam Presti said. “Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” said Presti. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.
“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

JULY 11: The Rockets have acquired Russell Westbrook. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Houston will send Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two pick swaps to Oklahoma City in exchange for the eight-time All-Star.

The Thunder will receive the Rockets’ first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, according to Wojnarowski. Shams Charania of the Athletic tweets that those selections are each top-four protected.

Oklahoma City will also have the right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets during the 2021 and 2025 drafts, though those have protections as well. The 2021 swap is top-four protected, while the 2025 swap is top-20 protected, per Charania.

GM Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent to send the point guard to Houston, which was his preferred destination, Wojnarowski tweets. Westbrook will reunite with James Harden, whom he previously played with on the Thunder (before the team traded Harden to the Rockets). Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the push for a reunion came from both sides.

The Paul George trade request opened the door for another superstar to move this summer. The Thunder began an unexpected retooling process in the wake of trading George, leaving Westbrook in a curious position.

Rumors of the Paul-Harden relationship souring popped up this summer, with a report from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports describing the relationship as “unsalvageable” and suggesting that CP3 wanted a trade. Both Paul and GM Daryl Morey shot down that report, but there was still widespread speculation that the team would try to move Paul.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets that Presti has spoken to Paul’s agent, Leon Rose. Rose, who also represents Carmelo Anthony, worked with the team last summer on an exit strategy for ‘Melo.

The Thunder’s plan as of now is to keep Paul alongside Danilo Gallinari and remain competitive, Sam Amick of The Athletic hears (Twitter link). Still, Amick cautions that at this stage in his career, the point guard isn’t going to be patient.

Paul, whose contract runs through 2021/22, will make $38.5MM in the 2019/20 season, with roughly $86MM due to him over the following two seasons. Westbrook will also make $38.5MM this upcoming season and he’ll take home $132.6MM over the ensuing three seasons. The two deals are essentially identical, with Westbrook’s running for an extra season. Both of the point guards also have a player option on the end of their contracts, though it’s unlikely that either will decide to hit the open market a year early.

Westbrook has a 15% trade bonus in his contract, but because he’s already earning a maximum salary, the bonus will be voided, ESPN’s Bobby Marks adds on Twitter.

Paul, 34, slowed signs of slowing down during the 2018/19 season. Injuries limited him to just 58 games, and his 15.6 PPG and .419 FG% were both the lowest marks of his 14-year career. However, he still chipped in 8.2 APG and 2.0 SPG while helping to lead the Rockets to the Western Semifinals.

As for Westbrook, his scoring average (22.9 PPG) was his lowest in five years and he went through some major shooting slumps en route to a .428/.290/.656 line. The 30-year-old still managed to average a triple-double for the third consecutive year though, contributing 11.1 RPG and a league-leading 10.7 APG to go along with 1.9 SPG.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Chris Paul, Heat

The blockbuster trade between the Thunder and Rockets that will send Russell Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City has yet to be technically finalized, but OKC’s head of basketball operations Sam Presti continues to explore potential destinations for Paul.

Although the Heat appear to be the most likely suitor for Paul, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald continues to be skeptical of Miami’s level of interest in the veteran point guard. According to Jackson, the Heat are listening to the Thunder and won’t rule anything out, but they’re not actively pursuing CP3.

Appearing on SportsCenter on Monday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst outlined some of the obstacles in the way of a deal between the Heat and Thunder, as Chris Grenham of NESN.com relays.

“When you talk about [Paul] potentially going to the Miami Heat, which is his preference, one thing I’ve been told in the talks; the fact that the Thunder hold the two of the Heat’s first-round picks in the future — unprotected 2021, protected 2023 — makes this a difficult conversation because the Heat want those picks back,” Windhorst said (video link). “The Thunder have expressed an interest in giving one of those picks back, but they would want another pick farther off into the future.

“So I do think that these two teams have a lot to talk about, but because of those picks, it’s something that could get complicated, and the Thunder have let it to be known they are in no hurry.”

In his analysis of the potential trade discussions between the two clubs, Jackson conveyed a similar sentiment, suggesting that the Heat would want their draft picks back from the Thunder and cautioning that he wouldn’t expect Presti to be on board with that. Jackson also speculated that the Heat might want Paul to agree to decline his 2021/22 player option to help the club maintain future cap flexibility — that would be a lot to ask of the nine-time All-Star, whose option will be worth $44.2MM.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad notes (via Twitter), the Thunder acquired two first-round picks by swapping Westbrook for Paul. If Oklahoma City were to surrender two first-rounders to move Paul, the club wouldn’t really be coming out ahead in terms of assets, and would have little to show for giving up its former MVP. Presumably, the Thunder will be prepared to hang onto Paul into the season if Miami (or another team) isn’t willing to meet their asking price.

While the Heat still look like the best potential fit for Paul, there are so many complicating factors involved – including both teams’ cap and tax concerns – that it’s hard to imagine Miami and Oklahoma City quickly bridging the gap and agreeing to terms. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder and Rockets finalize their part of the trade this week, or if they continue to hold off on making it official in case it can be turned into a three-team deal.

Western Notes: Smith, Cuban, Fertitta, Daniels, Clarke

The Lakers are unlikely to sign shooting guard J.R. Smith once he clears waivers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Cavaliers cut Smith loose on Monday after failing to find a trade partner. The lack of interest shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the Lakers have signed shooting guards Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Troy Daniels in free agency.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been fined $50K by the league for leaking information from the Board of Governors meeting, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports. Cuban revealed the vote to allow coaches to challenge an official’s ruling next season.
  • The league has also fined Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta $25K for making public comments about the Russell WestbrookChris Paul swap before it was officially completed, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.
  • Troy Daniels chose the Lakers over the Warriors and Thunder, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Daniels was wooed by Anthony Davis during the decision-making process. Daniels signed a one-year, minimum salary contract.
  • Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, the 21st player selected in the draft, has been named the Las Vegas Summer League MVP, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal relays. Clarke averaged 14.7 PPG and 9.8 RPG in 22.0 MPG over six games.

Heat Notes: Herro, Paul, Robinson, Maten

Tyler Herro has been making a strong impression in Summer League, enough that Miami was reluctant to include him in trade talks for Russell Westbrook, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Herro, who signed his rookie contract earlier this week, was the 13th player taken in the draft. Known mostly as a scorer at Kentucky, Herro has displayed the potential to become a multi-dimensional talent.

A league source tells Jackson that Herro’s Summer League performance has surpassed the expectations of Heat officials, especially in 3-point shooting, passing and ball-handling. He posted a 19.5/4.3/3.8 line during the team’s stay in Las Vegas and shows signs of becoming a rotation player as a rookie.

“If we need a guy that can handle, get us into offense, if we need him to be pick-and-roll, if we need him to come off catch-and-shoots, he’s shown he can do it all, and we feel comfortable in any of those spots,” said Eric Glass, who coaches the Heat’s Summer League squad.

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Thunder’s offers in a potential Chris Paul trade haven’t been “enticing enough” to spark the Heat’s interest, Jackson tweets. Miami has been mentioned as the possible next destination for Paul, who is headed to Oklahoma City in a deal with Houston. Heat officials will continue to listen if the offers improve, Jackson adds, but they’re not actively pursuing the 34-year-old point guard.
  • Even though Miami’s Summer League season ended today with an overtime playoff loss, Duncan Robinson helped his quest to stay on the roster with a 26-point performance, Jackson notes in a separate story. The guarantee on Robinson’s salary for the upcoming season will jump from $250K to $1MM if he remains on the roster through Monday. Jackson states that it seems likely Robinson will be kept, but he hasn’t received any assurances. His full $1,416,852 salary won’t become guaranteed until the league-wide guarantee date of January 10.
  • Yante Maten and Kendrick Nunn also have non-guaranteed deals, and the Heat’s hard-capped status may work against them, Jackson adds. Miami is less than $1MM below its $138.9MM cap and can’t add any players, such as veteran free agent Udonis Haslem, without waiving someone first. Maten has a $100K guarantee that will rise to $150K if he is kept through August 1, then another $150K if he makes the opening-night roster. Nunn will also receive a $150K guarantee on August 1, rising to $450K if he’s still around for the first game.

Latest On Chris Paul

After the Rockets and Thunder agreed on a trade that sends Russell Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City, the latter’s future remains a big question. Paul wants to play for a contender and after the Thunder parted ways with Westbrook and Paul George, it’s clear the franchise has entered a rebuilding stage.

Once the trade becomes official, the Thunder will likely explore trade scenarios for Paul. To this point, the Heat appear to be the leading suitor – if not the only suitor – for Paul’s services.

“The conversation with Miami was ongoing prior to the deal that got Chris Paul to Oklahoma City,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Friday’s edition of Get Up! “He’s 34 years old, he wants to be on a team that has playoff aspirations.

“The market for Chris Paul is going to be small. But Miami is at the top of that list. They’d like to get a deal done as soon as they can.”

Wojnarowski noted that Miami does not have much cap space or draft assets to give up in a potential Paul trade. However, pairing Paul with their prized offseason acquisition, Jimmy Butler, could make the Heat a more serious threat in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

However, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) relayed that Miami is doing its “due diligence” on Paul, but not aggressively pursuing the veteran.

It remains to be seen where Paul winds up for the 2019/20 season, but as Wojnarowski noted, OKC swung the deal with the intention of flipping the nine-time All-Star.

“Their hope in getting this deal done with Chris Paul was that he doesn’t play a game in a Thunder uniform,” Wojnarowski said.

Timberwolves Notes: Jones, Point Guards, Layman

Point guard Tyus Jones became the first – and likely only – restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet this offseason when he inked a three-year deal with the Grizzlies last weekend. However, entering the summer, Jones hadn’t been planning to move on to a new team after spending the first four years of his NBA career with the Timberwolves, as he tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“I think it’s just natural to look at it and see all the stars were aligning and assume that I’ve been here for four years and carved out a nice role in this team and you just kind of assume we’re going to figure it out here,” Jones said. “You don’t go into it thinking you’re going to be moving on to another team. Things happen. It’s a business and it’s always going to be a business. I’m just thankful and glad to have a team that’s so excited about me joining their family.”

According to Krawczynski, the Timberwolves did make an offer to Jones during the first week of free agency, but it was a four-year deal that started at just $4.2MM, with the final year non-guaranteed. Jones balked at that offer, and there was some “disenchantment” within his camp, says Krawczynski.

After what he called “the longest week or 10 days of my life,” Jones received an offer from the Grizzlies that was more in the ballpark of what the former first-round pick was seeking. The three-year deal will be worth about $8-9MM annually.

Here’s more on the Timberwolves:

  • Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was a fan of Jones, and some people that expected Taylor to lobby to keep him, but sources tell Krawczynski that the team owner was ultimately on board with Minnesota’s decision not to match his offer sheet.
  • In a breakdown of the Timberwolves’ point guard outlook, Krawczynski reports that the Timberwolves didn’t plan on making a push for Russell Westbrook while Oklahoma City was shopping him. The same thinking applies to Chris Paul, since the Wolves are looking to surround Karl-Anthony Towns with core players who are closer to his age, per Krawczynski.
  • New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said this week that he’s excited to be able to take low-cost “bets” on players like Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallace, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune relays. Rosas also explained why the team pursued – and acquired – restricted free agent Jake Layman: “We really like his versatility, his feel, his IQ, ability to play on the ball, off the ball. To play a couple of positions offensively, defensively. We see a lot of upside with him. He’s got a tough identity that translates on both ends.”
  • I took a closer look earlier today at the salary cap machinations surrounding the Wolves’ sign-and-trade for Layman.

Westbrook Notes: Thunder, Knicks, Rockets, Heat, CP3

After reaching deals to send Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets – with a Jerami Grant trade thrown in the middle for good measure – the Thunder have completed one of the speediest tear-downs in NBA history, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Given the club’s lack of playoff success in recent years, that fresh start was needed, according to Mannix, who adds that it’s hard to imagine that Oklahoma City could have gotten more in return for its two stars.

While the Thunder – who haven’t gone through a rebuilding process since moving to Oklahoma City – didn’t necessarily want to start that process now, some members of the organization think it was “necessary, if not overdue,” per ESPN’s Royce Young, who notes that the team privately viewed the 2019/20 season as its “last, best chance at winning a title.”

As Young details, George’s trade request came as a shock, but it could also be viewed as a gift, since the circumstances surrounding it gave the Thunder tremendous leverage in their negotiations with the Clippers. Westbrook didn’t try to change George’s mind, sources tell Young, and less than a week later, Oklahoma City was able to accommodate an exit path for the former MVP as well.

The Rockets were Westbrook’s clear-cut favorite choice, a league source tells Brett Dawson and Michael Lee of The Athletic, and the longtime Thunder point guard had a significant voice in where he landed. While he also appeared open to being traded to the Heat, trade talks between Oklahoma City and Miami had quieted by Thursday, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

We already rounded up several Rockets-related notes on Thursday’s blockbuster trade agreement that will land Westbrook in Houston and Chris Paul in Oklahoma City, but here are a few more details worth passing along:

  • Although the Thunder likely wouldn’t have sent Westbrook to a lottery team anyway, rebuilding clubs with a hole at point guard (or a general need for star talent) expressed little interest in giving up any real assets of value for him, sources tell Zach Lowe.
  • In the immediate aftermath of the George trade, Westbrook viewed the Knicks as a potential landing spot, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. It’s not known whether New York was on the list of preferred destinations that Westbrook ultimately provided the Thunder, but if OKC was focused on making a move sooner rather than later, it’s a moot point — the Knicks couldn’t have made a deal until December 15. It’s also not clear if New York had more than “lukewarm” interest in the triple-double machine, Begley adds.
  • An individual with knowledge of the talks tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that Westbrook first broached the topic of a possible trade not long after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in the spring. Presumably, if George hadn’t made his own trade request, Westbrook wouldn’t have pushed to be dealt either.
  • Westbrook is intrigued by the possibilities that Mike D’Antoni‘s floor-spreading offense could create for him with the Rockets, a source tells Brett Dawson and Michael Lee.
  • Having previously reported that the Heat‘s unwillingness to include multiple young players in their offer for Westbrook was a roadblock, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald says the Thunder’s desire to include Andre Roberson‘s unwanted expiring contract in a deal with Miami was another obstacle. While Chris Paul has been mentioned as a possible alternative for the Heat, Jackson sounds skeptical that Miami would do such a deal without getting back at least one draft pick and dumping unwanted contracts, since acquiring Paul’s huge contract would compromise the team’s ability to pursue star players in future offseasons.