Instantly, speculation grew that the Los Angeles Lakers may be interested in him should he become available. Naturally, Lakers fans got excited about the prospect of Paul possibly wearing the Purple and Gold next season.
The Lakers could need help in terms of a ball-handling guard. D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, their two starting guards as of now, will both be free agents this summer, and there is a possibility that both of them will leave.
Would signing Paul be a prudent move?
The case for
Anyone who has been watching NBA basketball at any time since 2008 knows how great a player Paul has been.
He has been one of the very best, if not the best, pure point guards during that span. That category, according to many, may not include players such as Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard or Luka Doncic, all of whom are considered scoring guards rather than pure floor generals.
A floor general is exactly what Paul is. He has a career average of 9.5 assists a game, which is the fourth-highest career average in NBA history. Even better, he has averaged just 2.4 turnovers a game, which has made him one of the steadiest floor generals ever.
Paul brings a sense of control to a game, but he can also be a scoring threat when needed. He has had 10 games of at least 40 points, with two of them coming in the playoffs, where his scoring averages have historically gone up.
He could take pressure off an aging LeBron James, whom he is very good friends with, but unlike Russell, he tends to play well under the bright lights of the postseason.
The case against
To be blunt, Paul is old, at least by pro basketball standards. He is 38 years of age, and his production has declined significantly over the last year or two.
The decline seemed to begin suddenly during last year’s playoffs. In the first eight games of the postseason, he put up 22.6 points on 58.0 percent shooting and 9.9 assists per game.
Then he turned 38 on May 6, and from that day on, his numbers fell to 9.4 points and 5.8 assists in the Suns’ last five playoff games.
When that string of five games began, they were up 2-0 on the Dallas Mavericks, an inferior team on paper, in the Western Conference semifinals. Phoenix lost the next two games, won Game 5 and then dropped the next two contests by a combined 60 points, including a stunning 123-90 drubbing in Game 7 at home.
This season, Paul had career lows in scoring average and overall shooting percentage.
The Lakers tried bringing in an aging Hall of Fame point guard back in 2012 by the name of Steve Nash, who was also 38 and a member of the Suns at the time. In just his second regular season game with the team, he suffered a serious leg injury that limited him to 50 games, and he was never the same again.
Until that point, Nash had been remarkably durable.
The risk is that something similar could happen to Paul. After all, he has been injury-prone over the years, especially come playoff time.
Even if he stays healthy, his production and overall game could decline even further, making him a distressed asset and possibly even something of a dead weight, just as Nash was in L.A.
Then there is the matter of how much he would cost. If the Lakers would have to use their mid-level exception on him, it would mean they wouldn’t be able to use it on a 3-and-D wing or a legitimate shot-blocking center to put alongside Anthony Davis.