If the Sixers ultimately pursue a trade for Chris Paul this offseason, it appears there’s a legitimate chance they could put together a strong enough offer to acquire him. The major question, then, could end up being how much they should be willing to give up.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported the following on Wednesday:
“League sources say the Sixers front office has seriously debated the idea of chasing CP3. The Knicks, in desperate need of a player to lure prospective free agents, could also make a run at him after his former agent, Leon Rose, took over as team president. But there likely won’t be a lot of suitors for Paul.”
O’Connor also reported that “league sources believe (the Bucks will) at least look into trading for Paul,” confirming a report from The New York Times’ Marc Stein.
The 35-year-old Paul, who averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds after being dealt to the Thunder, has a $38.51 million salary this season and is set to make $41.36 million next year. He then has a $44.21 million player option the following season. Just by virtue of his contract, any Sixers trade for him will likely include an expensive player and an additional piece or two.
For the Sixers, a combination of Al Horford and some extra assets — Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith and a draft pick or two, as a hypothetical — might get the job done. With Oklahoma City looking to rebuild, though, one imagines the Thunder would have specific targets in mind heading into any trade discussions. Smith is still just 21 years old and made some strides this season in the G League, but Matisse Thybulle would surely be the most attractive young player on the Sixers. Shake Milton’s value also should be high after he slid into the Sixers’ starting lineup and shot 48.6 percent from three-point range in the team’s final 16 regular-season games. He has a very team-friendly contract and is under club control through 2023.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti presumably wouldn’t mind receiving the 21st pick in this year’s draft from the Sixers, a selection that would’ve been the Thunder’s if Paul and company didn’t play so far above expectations this season. When Presti traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook, it seemed probable that Oklahoma City would keep that top-20 protected pick, which the Sixers acquired in the Markelle Fultz deal.
The Sixers have more young talent than the Bucks, which theoretically provides them with an edge if that’s what the Thunder choose to prioritize. Donte DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson are the only players Milwaukee has on rookie contracts.
It’s natural to brush away the possibility of the Knicks given their recent history of striking out on big names, although longtime agent Rose is now in charge of basketball operations. His presence, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the Knicks are in a great position to acquire Paul. They may have to weigh whether it’s worth parting with recent high draft picks to acquire an expensive 35-year-old. Rose isn’t personally tied to those picks, of course, so perhaps he’ll be willing to explore the possibilities.
The calculus is different for the Sixers and Bucks, although the notion of Milwaukee just needing one additional piece is more credible than that same idea for the Sixers. Though Ben Simmons’ left knee injury dented the Sixers’ chances of beating the Celtics (or at least winning a game in the series), they were a flawed team for the entirety of the season. Back when the Sixers signed Horford, then 33 years old, to a four-year contract with $97 million guaranteed last summer, we wondered whether an aging Horford would make the back half of that deal burdensome. The contract looked regrettable within months, in fact.
You can make an argument that Paul’s age shouldn’t deter the Sixers, that he’s not overly reliant on his athleticism and would be a needed playmaker in Philadelphia who’d thrive in the pick-and-roll with Simmons. The idea of moving on from Horford, who has fit poorly with Joel Embiid, might also be enticing.
The overriding concern with a potential Paul deal would be desperation. Even if the Sixers are able to beat out other interested teams, there’s a point at which it’s simply not worth it.
General manager Elton Brand said last month that he’d be evaluating the Sixers’ front office and changes would be coming to the organization. Brand and the front office that handled last offseason have not done well lately at judging when they’re paying too much.