New reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski point to Thunder guard Chris Paul staying in Oklahoma City. The Houston Rockets traded the All-Star and two first-round draft picks one state north in exchange for Russell Westbrook last week.
It was widely believed that the Thunder front office led by Sam Presti wanted to jettison Paul’s 4-year, $159.7 million contract to a desperate contender such as the Miami Heat. However, Wojnarowski tweets that trade talks have stalled and that “an increasing expectation exists that he will start the season with the Thunder.”
This doesn’t rule out the possibility for a future deal later this fall, like the one Jimmy Butler forced Minnesota to do last year with Philadelphia. However, as our own Jonathan Adams noted, the discussions between Miami and OKC broke down due to the Heat’s reticence to let go of either Tyler Herro of Bam Adebayo.
Another factor for Miami? Cap space simply isn’t there in South Beach, according to Spotrac.
Paul averaged 15.6 points per game last year off 35.8 percent shooting from 3-point land. His 8.2 assists and two steals per contest still make him an elite distributor and solid defender even at the ripe age of 34.
Thunder Roster & Starting Lineup After Trades
*Notes expected starter.
C: Steven Adams*
PF: Jerami Grant*
SF: Danilo Gallinari*
SG: Andre Roberson*
PG: Chris Paul*
Bench: Nerlens Noel, Mike Muscala, Patrick Patterson, Darius Bazley, Abdel Nader, Deonte Burton, Dennis Schroeder, Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jawun Evans
Between Paul, Gallinari and Adams, there are pieces for the Thunder to make a run at the lower end of the Western Conference playoffs. However, the current plan is to stockpile draft picks to reform the foundation that led to nine postseason appearances in the last decade, including the 2012 NBA Finals.
According to Austin Boyd at the time of the trade, this was very much the plan.
The Thunder will have eight additional first-round picks over the next several years. Being that the Thunder don’t stand to be very good over the next few years, they probably will have a few high draft picks of their own. Couple that with all the additional picks they have and the Thunder could put together a really good young team in the future. Whether or not general manager Sam Presti decides to use these picks or trade them away for players remains to be seen. Regardless, the Thunder have made the best of a bad situation and stand to headed towards a bright future.
The Thunder still have about $27 million of cap space to clear, unless they want to sustain luxury tax. Options there are Dennis Schroder’s $15 million a year deal, since Gilgeous-Alexander already provides a quality backup at the point.
Gallinari is another tradable piece without the extreme burden of Paul’s contract. His $22 million a year contract would pretty much do all the cap space summer cleaning necessary. He is an attractive perimeter threat, scoring nearly 20 points per game last season with the Clippers at 43.1 percent shooting from deep.