12-time All-Star Chris Paul is now slated to hit NBA free agency once July comes calling. The Phoenix Suns reportedly made the shocking decision to waive Paul after just three seasons with the team.
For Phoenix, this move comes after a second-round exit in the NBA Playoffs. The team has since replaced Monty Williams with Frank Vogel on the bench and is seemingly looking to go in another direction.
For a 38-year-old player in Paul, who is in the back end of his career, latching on with a contending team seems to make the most sense. He wants to win that elusive first NBA title before riding off into the sunset.
The good news for Paul? Several contending teams are going to have interest in the future Hall of Fame point guard. He can still be an important cog despite his advanced age and continued injury concerns. Let’s look at four ideal Chris Paul landing spots on the heels of his surprising divorce with the Suns.
Los Angeles Lakers
This one seems to be a bit too obvious. We know full well that LeBron James and Chris Paul are friends. We also know that they have talked about teaming up in the past. Heck, Paul was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers before being sent from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Phoenix ahead of the 2020-21 season.
With James still “undecided” about a return to the NBA for a 21st season, he can utilize a power play here. The four-time champion has pushed for the Lakers to acquire Kyrie Irving. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Rather, this seems to make much more sense from a logistical perspective. Paul will likely go ring chasing. The Lakers are coming off a surprise trip to the Western Conference Finals. They are looking to find an upgrade over fellow impending free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell. As of right now, Los Angeles has to be seen as the odds-on favorite to land Paul. It’s not necessarily too close.
The situation involving point guard Lonzo Ball complicates things for Chicago moving forward. He missed the entire 2022-23 season after suffering a torn meniscus the season prior. In fact, Ball has not suited up since January of 2022. There are now reports that the Bulls believe he’s played his final game in the NBA. It’s a sad situation.
With that said, Chicago has to plan for that possibility moving forward. The team seems intent on running it back with the core of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.
Impending restricted free agent Coby White is not a natural point guard. Alex Caruso and his defensive capabilities are better off the bench. If Paul thinks his addition to Chicago’s roster can lead to championship contention, this marriage might very well work out.
James Harden. It’s all going to be about what the former NBA MVP decides this summer. As of right now, it’s a foregone conclusion that Harden will opt out of his contract for the 2023-24 season and hit free agency. He is said to be choosing between re-signing with Philadelphia and heading back to the Houston Rockets.
Philadelphia has been linked to another soon-to-be free agent at point guard should Harden opt to return to Houston. But that was before Paul hit the open market. Teaming him up with Joel Embiid would make too much sense.
There’s also a pretty interesting backstory here. Chris Paul has a built-in relationship with 76ers front office head Daryl Morey dating back to their days together in Houston. That could potentially expedite interest in Philadelphia’s part depending on the Harden situation.
San Antonio Spurs
Why would Paul want to join a team that’s coming off a 60-loss season? His goal moving forward has to be about contending for a title. That’s just on the surface. There’s a lot of things potentially pointing to the future Hall of Famer heading to San Antonio.
Like with pretty much every other star veteran out there, Paul has a great relationship with legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. The head coach has also praised Paul multiple times in the past.
“It’s less common than one would think. There aren’t one or two of those on every NBA team. Some NBA teams don’t have any. So, he’s a special dude,” Popovich on Chris Paul back in 2020.
San Antonio is also potentially in the midst of expediting its rebuild. The team boasts the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NBA Draft. It will select generational big man Victor Wembanyama out of France with that selection. He could very well be an All-Star performer out of the gate.
With north of $43 million to spend against the 2023 NBA salary cap and a ton of young assets to move for other proven players, adding Paul to the mix to go with Wembanyama could technically turn this rebuilding team into a contender.