Lakers Predicted to Land 12-Time All-Star in ‘Surprise’ Move

It has been a long time coming. For more than a decade now, we’ve heard rumors about Chris Paul that ran along two tracks: One, that he wanted to play for the Lakers, the team to which he was traded in 2011 before commissioner David Stern nixed the deal in his role as caretaker of the New Orleans franchise. And, two, that he wanted to team up with close friend LeBron James, currently a Laker himself.

Now, there is a chance, at least, that Paul’s NBA free agency could finally lead him to checking off both items on his list—playing with James and joining the Lakers. It’s not a sure thing but one Western Conference executive sees things lining up for a Lakers-Paul-James union, at long last.

“There are a lot of ‘ifs’ there,” the exec told Heavy Sports. “It’s not 100% what Golden State is going to do but they’re not going to bring him back on the same money, and they’re probably not trading him because they’d have to take back his money unless it’s San Antonio or Orlando. So, the Warriors don’t guarantee next year, he is a free agent, he does not get any real offers except some minimums, and at that point, it comes down to going back to the Warriors or going to the Lakers.

“Smart money then is on the Lakers. It’s a surprise move but it makes sense.”

Lakers Need Some Luck

There is, as the exec referenced, much to be determined when it comes to Paul. The Warriors will guarantee his contract on June 28 if he is still on the roster, but the deal is worth $30 million fully guaranteed, and the Warriors can’t achieve one of their main objectives—getting below the tax line—if they have that on the books.

They can’t trade Paul, either, because they’d need to match salaries and, again, that puts them into taxland—unless he is dealt to a team that can absorb the $30 million for next year. That would be ideal for Paul, but teams with cap space are likely looking to use it elsewhere. Paul is 39, after all, and the Magic or Spurs acquiring Paul might have some benefits for those teams, but he hardly fits the team timeline.

So the most likely outcome remains that the Warriors do not find a trade for Paul and must simply walk away from his contract.

But Golden State would still be able to re-sign Paul. As could any other team, especially if he is willing to take a minimum contract—and again, that is no certainty. Paul could try to angle for a portion of a team’s midlevel exception in free agency.

Either way, though, that would put the Lakers in play. It won’t hurt that Paul would now be playing for new Lakers coach JJ Redick, his teammate with the Clippers for three seasons.

Chris Paul Could Be a Starter in L.A.

“All the things that would need to happen for him to get to the Lakers, they’re not far-fetched,” the exec said. “It is just there would have to be al of them falling into place, but if he comes out on the other side looking for a small, short-term contract, it is going to be hard for him to say no to the Lakers. They need a point man and he still can play. He would start for them next year.”

And that’s the thing—Paul showed with the Warriors he can still produce. He played 58 games and made 18 starts for the Warriors, averaging 9.2 points and 6.8 assists in 26.4 minutes. He shot 44.1% from the field and 37.1% from the 3-point line.

Paul was especially good as a starter, averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds, shooting 46.2% from the field and 44.2% from the 3-point line. The Lakers might well still have faith in Paul. He might be worth it.

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