Despite the Phoenix Suns reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in almost three decades, Chris Paul’s future with the organization is in question as he holds a $44 million player option for the 2021-22 season.
One team that will be looking to pry Paul away from Phoenix is the Los Angeles Lakers as the point guard’s close friendship with LeBron James is well documented.
While there are some hurdles involved in getting Paul to the Lakers, it was recently reported that the Lakers are on the hunt to add a veteran point guard with the Suns veteran at the top of their list.
Many didn’t view that as realistic, but it appears the tone has since shifted as Marc Stein of the New York Times is now reporting that the Lakers are the biggest threat to the Suns retaining Paul:
Yet I still see the Lakers as the most realistic threat to derailing the Suns’ hopes of re-signing Paul, no matter how hard it is to pinpoint a pathway for them to acquire him because of the cap complexities. The reasoning: We know Paul would want to play again in Los Angeles, where his family still resides during the season, and also that he would want to play alongside James. The fact that Magic Johnson was tweeting about Paul-to-the-Lakers scenarios minutes after the Finals were over certainly won’t dissuade conspiracy theorists from believing that the Lakers are, at a minimum, exploring the options here.
Don’t forget, furthermore, that it was the Suns’ proximity to Los Angeles, as much as the roster Phoenix had, that convinced Paul to push for a trade from Oklahoma City to Phoenix last November. Location is of massive importance to him.
The Lakers can’t offer Paul anything remotely close to the $44.2 million player option he holds for next season without a sign-and-trade — and I imagine that the Suns would find it even more unpalatable to help them if Paul and Phoenix go their separate ways than they did years ago in the Steve Nash sign-and-trade. Yet it’s even harder to imagine Paul wanting to relocate to the opposite coast to join the Knicks, regardless of how close he is to Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, his former agent.
A related aside: Seemingly daily discussion about the Lakers’ interest in various veteran guards not named Dennis Schröder increasingly suggest that the Schröder’s future is elsewhere.
The Lakers can land Paul in one of two ways. The first would be him opting out of his contract and signing with the Lakers for the mid-level exception. This is probably the less likely of the two scenarios as it would require Paul to take a pay cut of more than $38 million.
The second would be for Paul to opt into his $44 million player option and then the Lakers acquire him via trade, putting together a package that could surround Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell.
While this obviously wouldn’t be ideal for the Suns, if Paul says he is leaving regardless, this would be the only way to get something in return and not lose him for nothing.
As Stein alluded to, it seems like the Lakers don’t have any interest in retaining Schroder, so similar to Paul and the Suns, he could be someone they look to sign-and-trade to get something for him, whether it be in a deal for Paul or elsewhere.
Lowry and DeRozan interested in coming to Lakers
Paul isn’t the only big-name guard the Lakers have been linked to as it was also recently reported that both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have interest in signing with the team.
Because of the Lakers’ salary cap restrictions, those moves would also be difficult to make. It’s clear that Rob Pelinka is keeping all options open before the start of free agency though as he looks to pull off a big move to return the Lakers to glory.