Even in the NBA’s rumor season, all things to do with the Lakers come back to LeBron James. And if it has to do with LeBron James, Fox Sports professional gabber Skip Bayless is going to find a way to knock it.
The latest comes amid reports that the Lakers could pursue Thunder point guard Chris Paul this offseason as the team seeks to firm up its backcourt and brace for improved teams like the Warriors, the Nuggets and, perhaps, the Clippers. Paul has long had a desire to play for the Lakers and was, famously, traded to L.A. when he playing for the Hornets—a deal that was nixed by then-commissioner David Stern, who was acting as steward of the Hornets while the team sought a buyer.
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According to Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, executives around the league suggest that the Lakers could make a play for Paul, who has been a longtime friend of James and was a teammate of James’ on the 2008 and 2012 USA Olympic gold medal teams, in the offseason.
Bayless, who indicated that James is pushing for the Lakers to bring in Paul, hammered the team’s star player for the fact that the Lakers are even considering adding Paul—which is still only a rumor at this point.
“Your man LeBron knows no shame when it comes to seeking and chasing superstar teammates and rings,” Bayless said on Undisputed. “He chases down unsuspecting victims of his chase-down blocks and he chases and chases and chases superstar teammates that would help him get rings because he needs help, help, help, help, more help.”
.@RealSkipBayless on reports Lakers will trade for Chris Paul:
"Your man LeBron knows no shame when it comes to seeking and chasing superstar teammates and rings." pic.twitter.com/FJvFGeBIau
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) October 16, 2020
Chris Paul Coming off All-Star Season With Thunder
Paul, even at age 34, is coming off an outstanding season. He earned a spot on the NBA All-Star team for the first time in three years in his initial season in Oklahoma City after being traded from Houston last summer. Paul averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds this year, shooting 48.9% from the field and 36.5% from the 3-point line.
He guided the Thunder, who were supposed to be in a rebuilding mode last season, to the playoffs and nearly pulled off an upset of the Rockets, taking Houston to seven games.
But even with Paul’s performance and the team’s success, Oklahoma City is expected to look to trade him this offseason. The team is hoping to rebuild around guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and is seeking to swap out Paul for young players.
Assets, Contract Could Keep Lakers From Trading for Chris Paul
That is where the potential for a deal that would send Paul to Los Angeles gets dicey. While it is a nice idea, having Paul join up with James late in their careers to push for another championship, it probably would not make much sense for the Thunder.
According to a league executive on the possibility of the Lakers pursuing a Chris Paul trade;
"Chris Paul would love to come back to L.A. I know it would be a dream come true for Chris…I know LeBron loves and trusts him, and he would be a good fit."
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 15, 2020
The best OKC could get from the Lakers would be a package built around this year’s draft pick and Kyle Kuzma, who is coming off a poor year as he tried to fit into the Lakers’ championship combo of James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers could add contract fillers like Danny Green and JaVale McGee.
If the Thunder’s only goal is to get rid of Paul’s contract, which calls for him to be paid $41 million next year and $44 million the following year, the Lakers’ package could be good enough. But the Thunder want valuable young assets in return for Paul and a return that consists of, basically, Kuzma and a late first-round pick might not be enough.
There is also some question as to whether the Lakers would really want Paul, given the size of his contract. The Lakers plan to play out this season, adding some pieces along the way, with an eye on making a major score with another star in free agency in 2021—with Bradley Beal and Giannis Antetokounmpo among the targets—and need to keep their books clear to do so.
Paul would need to agree to opt out of the final year of his contract to keep the Lakers’ plans in place. He did something similar once before, agreeing to a trade to the Rockets in 2017 only if he opted in on the final year of that contract. The Rockets rewarded him with a massive four-year, $160 million deal for that—something the Lakers certainly would not be able to do.