By virtue of Sunday’s blockbuster trade that sent Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, for now, is headed to the Washington Wizards. But chances are, Paul likely won’t be playing in Washington next season. According to Chris Haynes, the Wizards “are likely to reroute Chris Paul in a trade, and the Los Angeles Clippers are expected to pursue a reunion with the future Hall of Famer.”
Such a move would make mutual sense assuming that Paul, in the twilight of his career at 38 years old, wants to continue pursuing his first championship rather than rent the last days of his NBA legs to a full-scale rebuild.
Washington would clear Paul’s money ($30.8 million for next season) off the books, and Paul would land on his feet as the potential starting point guard next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (not exactly great news for Russell Westbrook, who’s an unrestricted free agent and would probably be a Clipper goner if Paul were to come aboard).
There are other options here. If Washington can’t find a trade partner that wants to take on Paul’s full salary, it would waive him. But doing so would require the Wizards to pay Paul $25M even as he’s suiting up for an opponent (to make the Beal deal work under cap requirements (which don’t count non-guaranteed money toward the 125% salary-matching threshold), the Wizards had to guarantee another $9 million on top of the $15M that was already guaranteed on Paul’s 2023-24 deal, brining his number to $25M guaranteed).
The Wizards would be happy to keep Paul, according to The Athletic, but that gets dicey if you’re forcing Paul to play for a team he doesn’t want to play for. Paul is a revered figure in NBA circles and it would not serve the Wizards well to sour their reputation among players if an unhappy Paul is moping around all year.
Yes, Paul did the professional thing when he was dealt to Oklahoma City from Houston, but he was still an All-NBA player at that stage and he was willing to take on a prove-it year in pursuit of his next opportunity. It worked.
This is much different. Paul is at the very end of his road. He knows it. Everyone knows it. He doesn’t have a year to waste on a rebuild, and Washington doesn’t want to pay him $25M just to waive him. A trade is what both sides want here, and the Clippers indeed feel like a proper destination.