Don’t be surprised if Chris Paul winds up spending the 2019-20 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma City recently acquired Paul in the trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. It widely was believed the Thunder, who also traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, would flip the 34-year-old point guard while embarking on a full rebuild, but those efforts have proved unsuccessful so far.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday, citing league sources, that Oklahoma City’s trade talks involving Paul are parked and an increasing expectation exists that he will start the season with the Thunder.
Wojnarowski added, per sources, that there’s a belief there could be more success exploring trade scenarios again after Dec. 15 (when players who signed offseason free agent contracts can become eligible to be included in trade packages) or even the completion of the 2019-20 season.
Paul, who spent the past two seasons with Houston, has three years and $124 million remaining on his contract. Since the Rockets-Thunder trade happened so late in NBA free agency, there are no contenders with the cap space or roster structure to swing a deal for Paul.
ESPN’s NBA front office insider Bobby Marks shed additional light on the situation after Wojnarowski’s report:
The good news is that while the Thunder reportedly have been working with Paul and his representatives to find a trade, sources told Wojnarowski the sides believe a season together could be mutually beneficial.
After all, the Thunder might not be that bad despite trading away their two best players. And Paul could serve as a mentor for 2018 first-round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Sources told Wojnarowski the Thunder don’t feel the need to surrender draft compensation to unload Paul’s contract right now. While he’s hardly a building block given his advanced age and recent regression, Paul sticking around in OKC for a year might not be the worst thing in the world.