The Rebuild and the Decline: Chris Paul’s Current State With the Thunder

This summer, the Houston Rockets were in desperate need of a change. They needed a move that will take them to the next level in hopes of competing against foes such as the Warriors and the up and coming Nuggets. Then, free agency shook the league.

During free agency, teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers improved significantly through free-agent signings. The Nets added Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and big man DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers arguably won free agency by signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George. The Clippers made significant strides and instantly became a contender. Their moves affect teams such as Houston, who were already fighting to become a contender. The Rockets needed a move and needed one soon.

The Rockets responded with a move of their own by trading Chris Paul and acquiring Russell Westbrook. Houston sent Paul, and various draft picks to Oklahoma City to acquire Westbrook. The move came as no surprise as the Rockets not only wanted to make a move, but their star players had tension.

Throughout the summer, reports circulated that Paul and James Harden had chemistry issues. So, the trade made sense and gives the Rockets a new start. The trade also gives the Thunder a fresh start.

This offseason, the Thunder traded their two best players and acquired several draft picks in the process. The Thunder are obviously in rebuild mode, but with receiving Paul, they picked up a player on the decline.

Last season, Paul averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds. He also shot 41 percent from the field and nearly 36 percent from deep. This is a difference from his 2017-18 season, where he averaged 18.6 points, 7.9 assists (the only stat that improved last season) and 5.4 rebounds. He also shot 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep. Paul also dealt with a hamstring injury that affected part of his season.

Recently, the Thunder tried to find a trade for Paul, but nothing materialized. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, it’s become more likely that Paul will start the season with the Thunder.

One of the reasons they are having a hard time trading Paul is his contract. Paul has three years remaining on his contract and will make $38,506,482 this season. His salary increases each year, and by 2022, Paul will make $44,211,146. A massive salary for a 34-year-old guard is a burden for any team. So, for a rebuilding team like the Thunder, it is a troubling situation.

If the Thunder keep Paul, they have a veteran that could guide their young players. But if they choose to part ways with him, they no longer have to worry about his contract. As an older player without a championship, Paul is better off joining a contender. If Paul and the Thunder reach a buyout, he can join a team such as the Lakers and compete for a championship. It is his best option.

If I were Paul or the Thunder, I would consider reaching a buyout and parting ways. The move benefits both sides.

Image Source: AP Images/Kyle Terada

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