NBA: How this summer could ultimately decide Chris Paul’s legacy

Feb 24, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in action against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter at Staples Center. The San Antonio Spurs won 105-97. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in action against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter at Staples Center. The San Antonio Spurs won 105-97. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

"How this year’s NBA Free Agency could end up deciding the final chapter in Chris Paul’s legacy"

Chris Paul is a nine-time NBA All-Star and a future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t deter critics from focusing on his zero Conference Finals or NBA Finals appearances.

Shortly after falling to Utah in Game 7 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, a reporter asked Paul, “What does the team need to do in order to get over the hump?” But, in actuality, the question should’ve been, “Do you feel it’s time to move on from L.A.?”

Paul enters unrestricted free agency for the second time in his career. Picking the wrong team this time around could be the difference between more early playoff exits to finally suiting up in June.

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San Antonio Spurs

If Paul were to leave the LA Clippers, San Antonio, from all indications, appears to be the frontrunners to sign the perennial All-Star this summer. Paul carries profound respect for Gregg Popovich’s military demeanor, sharing similar beliefs for excellence and attention to detail.

Paul could be Popovich’s final chance to beat Golden State, who could be around for years to come. He would have a superstar running mate in Kawhi Leonard, which LA never got him. His pick-and-roll wizardry would mesh with LaMarcus Aldridge’s (if he’s still on the team) ability to hit shots off those screens.

And after watching Pau Gasol ($16.2 million) and David Lee ($1.6 million) decline their options, it appears variables are lining up perfectly for the Spurs to free up the necessary cap space. Giving up $60 million is brave, but San Antonio might be worth it.

Oh, by the way, there’s no state tax in Texas.

Chris Paul and San Antonio? Makes sense to me.

Denver Nuggets

Last week, LA Times reporter Broderick Turner reported that Denver and Houston were likely to get sit-downs with Chris Paul and his representatives, in addition to San Antonio, this summer.

Denver should have $30-$40 million in cap space to make a splash in free agency. Emmanuel Mudiay has not impressed, and practically fell out of Denver’s rotation last season. His turnovers are still problematic, his shooting percentage is embarrassing and has shown little-to-no sign of promise.

Signing Paul would shift Jamal Murray off the ball, while bringing Nikola Jokic the All-Star pairing he warrants. The thought of the tandem operating in pick-and-rolls would be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Taking it a step further, perhaps they can sell Paul on a potential Big Three of Jokic, Paul George (by taking him even as a one-year rental) and Paul.

But who believes Paul would legitimately consider the Nuggets? Why would Paul join a team that just missed the playoffs?

Paul could eye them as leverage similar to what Dwyane Wade did during his free agency last summer. And before the meeting gets underway, remember this: Chris Paul is ring chasing and Denver’s roster isn’t ready to contend yet, unfortunately.

Chris Paul and the Nuggets? Don’t take this seriously.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are interesting. When Houston fans heard the news, they probably jumped out of their seats, knowing the tandem of Paul and James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s high-powered offense would be a sight to see.

Adding Paul’s ability to shoot from the perimeter, run pick-and-rolls would bring another dimension to their offense. However, signing another high usage guard could be risky. James Harden exceeded everyone’s expectations in transitioning to on-ball duties last season.

D’Antoni’s created an offense that centered around Harden, which ranked second during the regular season (115.3 PPG) and fifth during the postseason (107.7 PPG).

If Morey still wants to take the chance, getting Patrick Beverley ($5.5 million owed), Ryan Anderson ($61.26 million owed), Lou Williams ($7 million owed) or Eric Gordon’s ($40.50 million owed) off the books would free up enough cap space to ink Paul.

Chris Paul to the Rockets is the definition of high-risk, high-reward.

LA Clippers

Six seasons into this title chase with the Clippers, fans have grown weary of “Lob City.” Paul isn’t to blame, however. He’s not the sharpshooter that is Stephen Curry, nor the athletic freak that is Russell Westbrook.

Instead, Paul is a floor general that needs playmakers around him. Blake Griffin can’t seem to stay healthy and DeAndre Jordan’s offensive repertoire is extremely limited. Doc Rivers is a great head coach, but is a terrible general manager. He’s barely better than Phil Jackson.

Since becoming President of Basketball Operations, Doc’s acquisitions consist of Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers, Jordan Farmar, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green.

That’s…just not good enough.

Come July 1st, a lot of explaining awaits. Why hasn’t Doc successfully addressed the small forward position? Why should Paul trust Rivers over other proven general managers in San Antonio and Houston?

Does this explain the Jerry West hire?

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Maybe West pitches a plan to sign-and-trade for Paul George? Maybe he pitches for LeBron’s pursuit next summer? Maybe he pitches passing up $200-plus million is straight foolish?

So, what will it be Chris? Two hundred million and possible disappointments? Or, $70 million less and possibly championship glory? It’s your decision.