Odds Favor Chris Paul Playing With Thunder for 2021 NBA Season; Lakers and Bucks Top Teams to Land Him

Chris Paul and LeBron James shaking hands

Could Chris Paul join LeBron James and the Lakers? Photo from @CBSSportsNBA

  • Chris Paul favored to return to OKC, but Bucks and Lakers appear to be in pursuit of the point guard
  • Paul stayed healthy last year, earning all-NBA honours and helping the Thunder make the playoffs
  • Read below to see where we think CP3 ends up next season

Get ready for the Chris Paul sweepstakes.

With the champagne now dried from the Los Angeles Lakers’ title win in 2020, the focus is shifting to the arms race next season. It’s not just the battle of LA. The Warriors return all their home-grown dynasty stars and have the #2 overall pick in the draft.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving finally kick things off in Brooklyn, and then there’s a crush of at least 10 other teams that could be in the mix. Do the math — that’s 14 teams who should see reasonable NBA Championship odds based on what we’ve seen.

You know who would bolster most of those rosters? Chris Paul.

Where Will Chris Paul Play Next Season?

Team Odds
Oklahoma City Thunder +150
Los Angeles Lakers +225
Milwaukee Bucks +275
Miami Heat +850
New York Knicks +1200

Odds from on October 23

For now, OKC stays in the driver’s seat. But where should you be placing your wager?

Paul Valuable, Expensive And Risky

Cast off to OKC last year as part of the Russell Westbrook trade, many wondered if this was it for Paul, who turned 35 years old during last season. Instead, it was a renaissance. He averaged 17.6 points per game on 48.9% shooting from the field — a clip he hadn’t hit in a decade. He also shot 36.5% from beyond the arc while staying healthy much of the year, logging 70 games.

His 6.7 assists per game were his lowest in his 15-year career, but that didn’t stop him from being named to the all-NBA second team. Paul led the Thunder — expected to be in full rebuild mode — to the playoffs and pushed the Rockets to seven games in Round 1.

Once the season was over, GMs around the league started retrofitting their lineup , imagining what Paul would look like in their jersey. Of course, the power of the banana boat superfriends kicked this into high gear.

But wherever he might go, Sam Presti is not just offloading him for spare parts, and it’s going to cost more than just assets. Paul’s salary is an albatross-esque $41.3 million this year. And once a team strips its roster to make the salaries match, remember Paul has a player option next year at (gulp) $44.2 million.

With COVID likely scaling back the salary cap, there’s no way Paul, the president of the NBA Players’ Association — who negotiated a deal to allow players to get max contracts past age 34 — is opting out to free agency. He’s getting paid. Which is fine, if he’s playing at an all-NBA level. But he’s injury prone and turning 36. It’s definitely buyer beware.

The Top Contenders

The Bucks are desperate to pair another top-flight player alongside two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Management assured Antetokounmpo they’d spend deep into the luxury take to build a title contender around him. Landing Paul would alleviate tremendous pressure on Khris Middleton, an all-star that’s looked overwhelmed at times being the star sidekick.

The only legitimate way the Lakers land Paul this year is by gutting their non-LeBron and Anthony Davis core. Something like a Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook and Avery Bradley package with draft picks. And while Paul is leaps and bounds the best player in this deal, LA would be left with their three stars, an Alex Caruso and hopefully a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a whole lot of hoping that vets want to go ring chasing in Hollywood.

Miami almost makes too much sense. The talented and fiery Paul can be grating as a teammate, but if it’s in the name of winning, he’d fit right into that Heat culture. He even caught a taste in the bubble. Plus, the Heat love to take aging stars and pump life back into them in their golden years. But numbers are an issue: it may mean having to surrender Tyler Herro.

And then there’s the Knicks: it would be so New York to go after a star player on the back nine. Don’t put it past them — there’s rumours that a Paul trade would bring another former Knicks star home too.

What’s the Best Bet?

The reason the Thunder are the favorites has more to do with the situation than their plans going forward. Paul’s salary is going to make it hard to get top value in return. But this ain’t your Russ / PG / KD-era Thunder. They are flush with Clippers and Rockets draft capital for years , giving them the option of continuing to build a roster with a young core centered around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Paul playing big bro.

And even once he opts in next year, assuming his play doesn’t fall off a cliff, teams will still be interested trading for him, even if he’d be 36.

I still think LA wants to maximize LeBron’s last prime years, and this is the way to do it. Paul is a natural fit between Bron and AD, and a massive upgrade over Rajon Rondo, playoff version or otherwise. If they are to get outflanked, it’s going to be by a more desperate Bucks team, who probably need a Finals appearance at the least to keep Giannis from bolting.

The pick: Thunder (+150)

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Eric Rosales

NFL NBA Sports Writer & Editor