The NBA offseason is off to a hot start, as second team All-NBA guard Chris Paul is headed to the desert to play for the Suns. The Thunder will reportedly send CP and Abdel Nader to Phoenix in exchange for Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round pick. After a resurgent season, Paul will now have an opportunity to lead a young team that flashed serious potential during the bubble. Meanwhile, the Thunder continue to add to their comical number of future firsts. Let’s grade the deal for each side.
This move makes too much sense for Phoenix. Devin Booker has played with a rotating cast of point guards during his tenure with the Suns, and none of them has been as talented or well-rounded as Paul. CP3 proved last season he still has plenty left in the tank, and not only is he more than willing to mentor younger players, but he’s also capable of leading them to wins. Paul will help ease so much of the burden for Booker, as the primary ball-handler and secondary scorer. His pick-and-roll prowess should also be a boon for former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, who should benefit almost immediately from Paul’s ability to find good looks for his big men.
This is an extremely well calculated risk for the Suns. Phoenix is more than able to absorb Paul’s big contract number. The roster will need to be filled out with a few vets, but now this destination is much more attractive. And most importantly, Phoenix needs to win. Stars are more willing to leave than ever—Booker wasn’t going to stick around his whole career to play for lottery teams. Putting your young core in a position to win should have long-term benefits as well as short-term ones.
Sam Presti is treating first-round picks like they are a precious resource that will one day make him the supreme leader of the entire world. Seriously, what’s his plan here? He’s hoarding first-round picks like they’re going to save him from the climate disaster one day or something. In the future, the rest of us will be fighting for scraps and sips of water while Presti rests in his oasis of first-round picks.
In all seriousness, Oklahoma City did great in the Paul business. They made Houston fork over several firsts to take on his contract. Paul put together an outstanding season with the franchise, one that everyone involved benefitted from. And then Paul got to go to a team he was comfortable with, while the Thunder get another first-round pick, plus guys like Rubio and Oubre, who can be useful on a plucky team or used in more trades down the line.
The Thunder can’t actually use 17 first-round picks in the next six seasons or whatever. But they’re in a unique position to create a monster package for a superstar in a trade one day. Is that the play? Or is Presti comfortable stacking his odds in the lottery? Whatever OKC ultimately decides to do, Presti has made sure the team will have plenty of options.