Chris Paul

Early Results Reduce Market For Chris Paul

If the Thunder are hoping to trade Chris Paul soon, the first month of the NBA season hasn’t done them any favors, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who notes that the teams most likely to be interested have all gotten off to strong starts.

The Heat were the focus of trade rumors after Oklahoma City acquired Paul from the Rockets in July, but Miami sits at 10-3 after winning tonight. Offseason addition Jimmy Butler is the team’s assist leader at 7.2 per game as they are succeeding without a traditional point guard. The Heat have already made it clear that their interest in Paul is tied to a return of the draft picks they owe OKC, and they may be even more reluctant now to break up a winning combination.

The Lakers have also been mentioned as a possibility because of Paul’s friendship with LeBron James. However, they hold the NBA’s best record at 12-2 and James leads the league in assists at 11.1 per game as he has developed an instant chemistry with Anthony Davis.

The Timberwolves, who chased D’Angelo Russell in the offseason, are off to a better-than-expected 8-7 start, Tramel notes, while the Bucks, who have incentive to gamble for a title before Giannis Antetokounmpo can become a free agent in 2021, are 11-3 and are reluctant to become a taxpaying team.

Paul’s contract remains an impediment to any deal, as he is signed for $41.3MM next season with a $44.2MM player option for 2021/22. He has played well for OKC, averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 assists through 14 games, but the Thunder appear to need at least one prospective trade partner to stumble before any progress can be made on a deal.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

All five Northwest teams entered the 2019/20 season with playoff aspirations, which could create an interesting situation by the trade deadline. Will several of these clubs be competing with one another for the top trade candidates on the market? Or will a couple Northwest teams fall short of their goals and pivot to selling as the deadline nears?

While it’s too early to make any sweeping judgments on the five Northwest squads, all of whom have won between five and nine games, here are three players who could emerge as trade candidates as the season progresses:

Chris Paul, PG
Oklahoma City Thunder
$38.5MM cap hit; increasing guaranteed cap hits through 2021/22

When the Thunder officially acquired Paul from Houston on July 16, many NBA observers assumed his stint in Oklahoma City would be short-lived. Four months later though, Paul is still on OKC’s roster and has played pretty well in the early going, averaging 16.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, and .462/.426/.873 shooting through 13 games.

It’s still possible that Paul will be part of two consecutive trades – no NBA teams have completed a deal since that July 16 blockbuster – but it has become increasingly obvious that his contract will be a major impediment. Even after this season, CP3 still has another two years and $85MM+ left on his deal, and the fact that it extends into the 2021/22 campaign is problematic. Given how star-studded the 2021 free agent class is expected to be, teams are reluctant to surrender significant cap space in that summer.

While the Heat have been linked to Paul most often, I’d be surprised if Miami and Oklahoma City strike a deal. A team without major free agent aspirations for 2021 would be a better fit, so perhaps a club like the Timberwolves ultimately emerges as a more serious suitor.

Jeff Teague, PG
Minnesota Timberwolves
$19MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Speaking of the Timberwolves, they’ve made it clear that they’re seeking a long-term answer at the point guard spot, which doesn’t bode well for Teague’s long-term future in Minnesota.

Another sign Teague’s days with the Timberwolves may be numbered? When Gersson Rosas took over as the club’s president of basketball operations last summer, nine Wolves were eligible for free agency and a 10th had a non-guaranteed contract. None of those 10 players returned. Rosas will be aggressive in shaping the sort of roster he wants in Minnesota, and so far it doesn’t appear as if his vision overlaps much with that of the team’s previous decision-makers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Teague is a goner, but his $19MM expiring contract would make him an ideal salary-matching piece if Rosas gets aggressive at this season’s trade deadline, since it’d be easier to move than the pricey multiyear contracts belonging to Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins.

Hassan Whiteside, C
Portland Trail Blazers
$27.1MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

At this point, the Trail Blazers still badly need Whiteside. Jusuf Nurkic remains sidelined for the foreseeable future, Zach Collins figures to miss most of the season with a shoulder injury, and Pau Gasol has yet to make his Portland debut.

However, Whiteside is essentially a temporary placeholder in the middle until Nurkic is able to return. Once Nurkic is healthy, he’ll reclaim his starting spot, relegating Whiteside to a bench role. If Gasol is healthy and Collins is close to returning at that point, there will be even fewer minutes to go around in the frontcourt. And, of course, dissatisfaction with his playing time was what led Whiteside’s stint in Miami to go south.

Whether or not Whiteside ends up on the trade block will hinge in large part on the health of those other three big men. If the Blazers are comfortable with their depth up front, Whiteside’s $27MM+ expiring contract could be a useful trade chip as the club seeks much-needed help at the forward spot. But if Portland is still shorthanded at center when the deadline arrives, moving Whiteside may not be a viable option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chris Paul Talks Trade From Rockets

Chris Paul was sent to the Thunder this offseason and the move doesn’t seem to sit well with him. The point guard recently sat down with Kevin Hart and the comedian asked Paul if any trade he’s been involved in has felt like he was stabbed in the back” — CP3’s response was noteworthy.

“Absolutely,” Paul said of having the feeling of being stabbed in the back (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). “This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.”

Back in June, GM Daryl Morey told the media that he would not trade Paul and ended up dealing him and a pair of first-rounders to OKC for Russell Westbrook this summer. Paul has been traded three times in his career (four if you include the Lakers veto).

Rockets Notes: Capela, Conditioning, Harden, Gordon, McLemore

Rockets center Clint Capela is off to a slow start compared to last season and a sore right shoulder is partially to blame, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweets. Capela injured the shoulder playing for the Swiss national team this summer and has been working to strengthen it. It has especially affected him when trying to dunk with one hand and reaching for rebounds, MacMahon adds. Capela is averaging 13.5 PPG and 7.1 RPG through the first eight games after averaging 16.6 PPG and 12.7 RPG last season.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Coach Mike D’Antoni is second-guessing himself for taking it too easy on his players during camp, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Houston split its first six games before winning its last two outings. “I’m also kind of responsible. I was saving their legs in the preseason so that near the end of the year we’ll be fresher,” D’Antoni said. “I can’t also be crazy because they’re not quite in shape. We’re working on it.”
  • TV analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy believes James Harden should get more credit for resisting the load management strategy that many other teams are using for their stars, Feigen writes. “Everybody is so hypercritical of everything Harden does. He should be absolutely lauded [for wanting to play 82 games],” Van Gundy said. ” It’s like the Rolling Stones came through here and don’t bring Mick (Jagger.) It would be the same thing if Harden doesn’t show up.”
  • The team should be much more worried about Eric Gordon’s shooting woes rather than Harden’s early slump, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. Gordon is having a harder time getting to and finishing at the rim and that raises concerns, However, the team’s biggest long-term issues are their lack of overall interior size on defense and the fact that Russell Westbrook is a downgrade from Chris Paul at that end, Hollinger adds.
  • Ben McLemore, who has taken all but three of his 38 shots this season from beyond the arc, has solidified his rotation spot, Feigen writes a separate story.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Ingram, Curry, Lyles

While offseason reports of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul were viewed as one motivating factor for the Rockets‘ decision to acquire Russell Westbrook, general manager Daryl Morey has consistently denied that. Morey tells Sam Amick of The Athletic that Harden initially wanted to know if there was any way to acquire Westbrook without sending out CP3.

“Yeah, because I mean his mind is always (going) first to ‘How (can we be) completely stacked?’ So I had to sort of explain,” Morey said. “He gets it roughly, but obviously he leaves the details to us. Besides the high-level (talks) where he thought that Russ would be a great fit here, there’s not a ton of interaction after that point. He knows there’s a back and forth, just like we respect what he does I think he respects what we do and he sort of leaves the execution to us.”

While Morey spoke to Amick extensively about how that trade for Westbrook materialized and his first impressions of how the former MVP is fitting in with the Rockets, he declined to comment at all on the NBA/China controversy that was ignited by his tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.

Here’s more out of the Southwest:

  • With Zion Williamson out to start the season, new Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is prepared to carry more of the offensive burden, as he tells Mark Medina of USA Today. Ingram also views New Orleans as a better fit for him than the Lakers were. “I would say this is a better environment,” he said. “There are a lot of genuine people here that are pretty solid. No shame to the Lakers because they are a high-class organization. They do everything well and have a good fan base. But I like this spot.”
  • Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who had Seth Curry on his roster last season, views the sharpshooter as a “really good fit” for the Mavericks, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.
  • Trey Lyles, who as a child extensively studied film of Tim Duncan, is thrilled to get the chance to learn from the Spurs‘ new assistant coach this season, as Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News details. “I was definitely nervous,” Lyles said. “Somebody that you idolized growing up, and then you’re face to face with him, able to ask him whatever you want, whenever you want? It definitely helped settle me down, just to get the first question out.”
  • Chad Smith of Basketball Insiders explores which teams might make sense as a potential trade partner for the Grizzlies in an Andre Iguodala deal.

Woj’s Latest: Beal, CP3, Lowry, Iguodala, Siakam

In a televised preseason special on Thursday night (audio link), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe identified Bradley Beal as a player worth watching closely this season. Beal looks like the most obvious candidate of the NBA’s stars to become disgruntled and push for a trade during the 2019/20 season. However, as Wojnarowski notes, that hasn’t happened yet, and the Wizards are still all-in on trying to retain their All-Star guard.

“Bradley Beal’s got two years left on his deal and the Wizards have not given up hope of signing him to an extension,” Wojnarowski said. “They’ve had a three-year, $111MM-or-so extension on the table for him to take in any form. Does he want two years, three years? Any form he wants, it is there waiting for him. So they are nowhere near the idea of moving Bradley Beal. They want to continue to try to rebuild around him.”

[RELATED: Why Bradley Beal won’t immediately accept Wizards’ extension offer]

As Woj and Lowe point out, a weak 2020 free agent class would make Beal an especially valuable trade chip if the Wizards’ stance changes, but there’s no indication that will happen anytime soon.

“Bradley Beal, if he got on the market, would bring back an absolute ransom because if you want to improve your team in a dramatic way, he’d be the guy,” Woj said. “But Washington’s not doing that. They still want to re-sign him.”

Here are a few more highlights from ESPN’s special featuring two of the network’s top basketball reporters:

  • The Thunder‘s plan when they acquired Chris Paul from Houston was to flip him to another team, according to Wojnarowski, who says OKC had hoped the Heat would be more open to making a deal. “He’s going to have to play really well in Oklahoma City for somebody to want to take on three years, $124MM [and] pay him $44MM in the final year of his contract,” Woj said of CP3. “That’s a really difficult proposition. … He has value in the league, but not at those numbers.”
  • Woj and Lowe think Raptors guard Kyle Lowry would generate a lot of interest on the trade market if Toronto becomes open to moving him. Both ESPN experts believe that Lowry’s one-year, $31MM extension actually makes him more appealing as a trade chip, since he wouldn’t be just a half-season rental. Lowe speculates that teams like the Heat, Pistons, and Clippers might have interest, while Woj singles out the Timberwolves as another potential fit.
  • According to Wojnarowski, both the Grizzlies and Andre Iguodala are willing to be patient when it comes to a potential trade or buyout. Woj likens Iguodala to MLB pitcher Roger Clemens, who often signed late in the season during the final few years of his career. “Iguodala’s fine with seeing what the landscape looks like and then jumping in on the season a little later,” Woj said. “Because you’re signing Andre Iguodala – or trading for him – for the postseason.” Woj added that the Lakers and Clippers would be the favorites to land the former Finals MVP if he’s bought out.
  • In a discussion on this year’s extension candidates (video link), Wojnarowski suggests that Raptors forward Pascal Siakam would be a lock for a maximum-salary offer sheet if he reaches restricted free agency next summer. Woj believes Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield would get a similar offer and that Jaylen Brown (Celtics) and Domantas Sabonis (Pacers) would do very well too, given the lack of veteran stars expected to hit the free agent market.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Okogie, Green, Thunder

In a piece chronicling the first NBA game for Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explains how Porter’s debut ended up being a long time coming after the 21-year-old had to rehab through two back surgeries and miss his entire first season as a professional.

In the team hotel the night before Porter’s debut, Tim Connelly, Denver’s president of basketball operations, encouraged Porter to let each frame of his debut experience sink in, notwithstanding the fact that it was just a preseason game.

“I told him, ‘You should really pat yourself on the back,'” Connelly said. “It’s not easy to do what he’s done. He’s been a guy that, forever, the assumption was that he was going to play in the NBA because he was so talented, but the road has been a little more convoluted and challenging, so I said, ‘Appreciate the moment. You’re officially in the NBA. It wasn’t how you thought it would be three or four years ago, but it’s still special.'”

Teammate Jarred Vanderbilt, who is close with Porter and helped him throughout the rehab process and beforehand, had some good advice for his friend.

“I know how tough it was for him to sit out, like it was for me, but he sat out the whole year,” Vanderbilt said. “It was a lot tougher for him, so it’s just great to see him playing again. I told him, ‘Don’t put any pressure on yourself. Just be happy to be out there.’ That’s how I was. I was just happy to be out there. I know how it feels to be not able to play. To come back and feel all antsy like you have to make the right play and everything, I felt like I was doing that and thinking too much, so I just told him to let the game come. Everything will fall into place.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie, who is entering his second season in the NBA, was able to improve his game this summer by playing in the FIBA World Cup as a member of Team Nigeria, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Specifically, Okogie believes he has gotten better mentally. “My experience was great playing overseas. One reason being, it forced me to think the game.”
  • As Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune notes, we may see some new tricks from Jazz newcomer, veteran forward Jeff Green, as his ever-expanding skill set could prove crucial for the team this coming season.
  • The Thunder rolled out a starting lineup that included Chris PaulShai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder in their latest preseason game, perhaps signaling the team’s plan to use multiple point guard rotations throughout this season. Tim MacMahon of ESPN has the story.

Northwest Notes: Gasol, Malone, Paul, Rohan

Trail Blazers center Pau Gasol is hopeful he’ll be ready to play by opening night, Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweets.  Gasol underwent surgery in May to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He’s scheduled to begin contact work this week and is happy how his rehab is coming along, Freeman relays. Gasol signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Blazers to provide depth at the center spot as Jusuf Nurkic mends from a serious leg injury.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • After reaching the Western Conference Semifinals last season, the Nuggets find themselves in an unfamiliar role as the hunted, coach Michael Malone told website writer Eric Spyropoulos. “Because of the season that we had, we have to know that we’re going to be a team that’s hunted, unlike being the hunter last season,” Malone said. “We can’t just relax. Things can change quickly in the NBA, so we can’t just show up and think we’ll go from point A to B.”
  • Chris Paul isn’t pouting, at least not publicly, about being on a rebuilding Thunder team after being traded from the contending Rockets, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reports. Paul took a positive tone during the team’s Media Day. “It’s funny, because a lot people try to tell your truth or your story and say what you want, all this different type stuff,” Paul said. “I’m excited about the opportunity, excited about our team, excited about building.”
  • The Timberwolves have promoted Emmanuel Rohan to assistant GM, according to a team press release. Assistant GM Gianluca Pascucci will have the added responsibilities of GM of the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate.

Thunder Notes: CP3, Roberson, Maynor, KD

Asked today about how the team might approach a potential trade for Chris Paul, Thunder general manager Sam Presti declined to get into specifics, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays.

“Those are all case-by-case things,” Presti told reporters. “We’re not really focused on the hypotheticals.”

[RELATED: Chris Paul trade to Miami remains unlikely]

While there are whispers that Paul may want to join a contender rather than the spend the entire 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, Presti said the veteran point guard is a “hooper” and “competitor” who just wants to play basketball. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for both of us,” the Thunder’s GM said.

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 2018 due to leg injuries, is expected to be ready to go for training camp, Presti confirmed today, per Eric Horne of The Oklahoman. “We’re hopeful he’ll be seeing some preseason action as it gets closer,” Presti said. “We’ll obviously manage him closely because he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a while. He’s worked hard to get there.”
  • The Thunder have hired former point guard Eric Maynor as an assistant coach for their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Presti announced today (link via Lee of The Oklahoman). Maynor, who played for the Thunder between 2009-13, also spent multiple seasons overseas, which Presti believes “gave him a totally different perspective on the game.”
  • Responding today to critical comments made by Kevin Durant about the way he was treated by the Thunder and fans after he left OKC in 2016, Presti took the high road, telling reporters, “I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here” (link via Horne of The Oklahoman).
  • According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, Presti pushed back against Doc Rivers‘ recent assertion that the Clippers knew the Thunder were looking to “break up their team” before they negotiated a trade for Paul George“We all know that players like Paul George and Russell Westbrook are extremely hard to acquire in cities, in the smaller cities in the league, and when you have those players, you try to do everything you can to retain them,” Presti said. “… I think the thought pattern just doesn’t really line up if you just look at it logically. Probably that type of thing would have been done much earlier and it wouldn’t have resulted from a trade request from one of your best players.”
  • The Oklahoman’s basketball writers discussed a handful of Thunder-related topics in a roundtable, including whether Billy Donovan is on the hot seat, what the Thunder could realistically expect to acquire in a Chris Paul trade, and more.

Chris Paul Trade To Miami Remains Unlikely

The Heat aren’t expected to complete a trade for Chris Paul anytime soon because of the different ways they and the Thunder view a potential deal, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Oklahoma City officials believe they’re giving up a valuable asset in the nine-time All-Star, while Miami sees the trade as a favor to the Thunder and thinks it should be compensated for taking on Paul’s hefty contract. The 34-year-old will make $38.5MM this season and $41.4MM next year, with a $44.2MM player option for 2021/22.

What Miami would like most is the return of its first-round picks for 2021 and 2023, which both belong to OKC. The Thunder have been reluctant to include them in prior trade talks.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Monday that the Heat still have some interest in acquiring Paul, who played the past two years in Houston. Charania added that Miami will wait to see how the early part of the season turns out before deciding whether to resume negotiations.

Although he remains a productive player, injuries and age have slowed Paul, who has been limited to 58 games in each of the past two years. He averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists last season, then posted a 17.0/6.4/5.5 line in the playoffs.