As per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Miami Heat have renewed their interest in signing OKC Thunder point guard Chris Paul
When the OKC Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets the return for the superstar included Chris Paul with copious draft picks and swaps.
On one hand, OKC was rewarding Westbrook for his loyalty and full out effort in his 11 seasons with the Thunder. On the other hand, with Paul George forcing the situation and the franchise not wanting to operate as a perennial luxury tax team so it also made sense to move Russ and a contract with four years and $171 million remaining.
Back in April, the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in the first round of the postseason for the third consecutive season. However, with Paul George and Russell Westbrook both in their prime, the team was expected to regroup for at least one more season together.
Nevertheless, George requested a shock trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, and general manager Sam Presti eventually accepted the All-Star’s request. Russell Westbrook soon followed PG13 out of Oklahoma City, while Jerami Grant also departed for Denver.
After losing three of their starters from last season, the Thunder are no longer in a position to contend, and Presti has quickly embarked on the first rebuild in the franchises 11-year history in Oklahoma City.
With the Thunder set to focus on developing youth, more departures are expected in the coming months, and here we will look at three players that are unlikely to finish the season as members of the OKC roster.
Danilo Gallinari arrived as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Paul George to the LA Clippers, and the Italian is coming off the best season of his career. During the 18-19 campaign, Gallinari averaged 19.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, while shooting 43% from beyond the arc. However, Gallinari turned 31 last month and is entering the final year of his contract.
Gallinari’s stock in the NBA is at an all-time high, and the Italian is especially valuable in a league that prizes three-point shooters more than ever before. Gallinari’s is owed a sizeable $22 million for the season, although it is likely that a contending team will swoop for the sniper ahead of the trade deadline.
Just two years ago Nerlens Noel turned down a four-year, $70 million contract from the Dallas Mavericks. The center believed that he would be able to command a bigger deal 12 months later, and eventually signed a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer with Dallas. However, Noel played just 30 times during the 17-18 season and only managed to attract a one-year $1.7 million contract from the Thunder last summer.
In Oklahoma City, Noel has been fielded as a backup to Steven Adams and averaged just 13.7 minutes per game during his first season with the team. Nevertheless, Noel has impressed during his time on the court and is signed to an extremely team-friendly deal worth just $2 million.
Noel will also become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and a draft pick should be enough to convince the Thunder to part with the former Philadelphia star. Interest is also likely to materialize as teams attempt to add depth, and only a Steven Adams trade could keep Noel with the Thunder.
Chris Paul signed a four-year contract worth more than $150 million with the Houston Rockets last summer, and the former All-Star was expected to spend his remaining prime years competing for a championship alongside James Harden. However, Paul was sent to the Thunder as part of the trade for Westbrook after reportedly falling out with his backcourt partner.
Paul is still among the NBA’s best point guards, but the former All-Star turned 34 earlier this year and is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. The Thunder are also keen to field the recently acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at point guard, and Paul himself is unlikely to want to spend the end of his prime years with an out of contention team.
Ultimately, Paul’s presence in Oklahoma City isn’t doing much good, and it is unlikely that he will see out the season with the Thunder.
Like Westbrook, Paul’s contract is an albatross with three years and $124 guaranteed salary remaining.
Paul’s contract is a year shorter and a bit over $47 million less than Westbrook’s but he has four years on Russ and a history of injuries having played an average of 59 games in each of the last three seasons.
Like Westbrook, CP3 plays with a chip on his shoulder and aggression. On top of hating to lose, Paul is going to want to showcase his value to contenders.
In mid-November, Westbrook turns 31 while Paul will turn 35 in May. The Brodie experienced a tough season with regression in his shooting efficiency in all areas of the court. However, Westbrook is such a creature of habit the copious changes to his normal routine likely played a role in his shooting issues. And, while Russ has never been a particularly great 3-point shooter there is an equal reason to believe he’ll get better shot opportunities in Houston with the free-flowing offense and well spaced floor
Initially, the team thought they might be able to move the veteran guard this summer but quality offers weren’t rolling in. The one franchise thought to have interest was the Miami Heat but they wanted too much in return including the return of their 2021 and 2023 draft picks obtained from Houston. Moreover, reports indicated Pat Riley was more interested in Westbrook so the talks peetered off.
Given those dynamics, the OKC Thunder are set to start the season with CP3 in the starting point guard role and navigate the season in a “wait and see” mode. Expectations were contending teams needing an upgrade at the point or suffering an unfortunate loss of a guard due to injury who neared the trade deadline could foster interest.
As of today Shams Charania of the paid-for subscription The Athletic is reporting the Heat have renewed their interest. Still, it’s not expected any knee-jerk actions will occur and both clubs will proceed with the rosters they have but this is definitely something to keep in mind moving forward.
Tomorrow Thunderous Intentions will offer up some potential packages which could occur if this deal comes to pass.
With the Rockets needing to match salaries in order to validate the deal it meant either trading multiple assets (Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and more) or one large equal value contract. Given Houston’s goal was to form a new starting backcourt of Westbrook and James Harden, the obvious player they wanted to move was Chris Paul.
No doubt, the rumored conflict between Harden and CP3 fueled why Houston was so anxious to make the deal.