During a recent radio interview, Magic Johnson hinted at the Los Angeles Lakers potentially landing Chris Paul this offseason. ESPN’s Jay Williams asked Johnson if Paul could be an option for the Lakers if the point guard declines his player option with the Suns to become a free agent.
“No question about it. I’d tell Jeanie I’d ask some money for CP3,” Johnson responded, per ESPN 710 Los Angeles. “It’d be perfect for LeBron, for AD, and for the role players.”
The challenge for the Lakers is they cannot just set aside money as Johnson suggested. The Lakers’ cap space is nearly completely allotted with just the following four players on the roster: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma.
Los Angeles is projected to be deep into luxury-tax territory next season. The Lakers would not only need a recruiting pitch from Paul’s good friend King James but would also have to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Suns. Given Phoenix is now a title contender, the Suns are unlikely to help a Western Conference foe land Paul.
Magic: CP3 Has the ‘Laker Mentality’
During a separate interview on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, Johnson referenced a 2011 trade that was vetoed that would have had Paul wearing a Lakers uniform. Johnson described Paul as a player that has the “Laker mentality.”
“I was at the game in L.A. when he said, ‘Oh, the Lakers came back. Let me put a stop to this. I’m going to take over, score the next four possessions.’ And the game was over,” Johnson explained. “I love the way Chris Paul thinks the game. See, he has that Laker mentality, and I’m still mad at the NBA for not letting that trade go through [in 2011]. He should have been a Laker a long time ago.”
Paul averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 39.5% from the 3-point line in 70 starts this season. The All-Star helped turn around the Suns from a team who had not made the postseason in more than a decade to a legitimate title contender.
Paul Reportedly Plans to Opt Out in Search of a Long-Term Contract
Paul is slated to earn a $44.2 million salary next season, so if the point guard chooses to become a free agent he will be looking for more of a lucrative long-term deal. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reported Paul plans to opt out of his deal in favor of landing a multi-year contract.
“Paul has a $44.4 million player option, which according to several sources, he intends to decline with hopes of inking a new multiyear deal (perhaps in the $100 million range over three seasons),” Pincus detailed on June 3.
How could the Lakers acquire Paul in a sign-and-trade? Pushing aside the reality that Phoenix is unlikely to help Los Angeles, the Lakers’ offer would start with Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but would likely need some help with some of their own free agents pulling off a sign-and-trade of their own. Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker are just some of the Lakers’ potential free agents.
None of this technical analysis factors in Paul’s close relationship with James. The Lakers star has been open about his desire to play with Paul before their careers end. During a 2017 interview with Bleacher Report, James discussed the idea of one day teaming up with Paul.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together,” James told Bleacher Report at the time. “At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that.”
The Lakers face an uphill battle not only to make the logistics work but also to lure Paul away from Phoenix. With the Suns reaching the NBA Finals, we can expect Paul to re-sign with Phoenix on a longer deal this offseason.