It's time to trade Chris Paul. Ugh, That wasn't easy to write, but the Thunder need to strike while Paul's value is at its peak. The Bucks have already told Giannis Antetokounmpo they are willing to spend into the luxury tax to get him a championship, and if they are willing to pay over $85,000,000 in the next two seasons, Paul can be had.
That being said, Oklahoma City will have to take on some salary from Milwaukee and possibly part with some other players currently on the roster. However, with Sam Presti, things are never that simple.
With a deal that Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated is purposing, the Thunder could either hang on Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and Ersan Ilyasova or flip one or two or all of them for other assets.
Here's how Mannix gets Paul to the Bucks:
Is there any more obvious trade than Chris Paul to Milwaukee? Oklahoma City looks prepared to begin a full rebuild, and Paul's salary ($86 million over the next two seasons) limits potential trading partners. Enter the Bucks, in desperate need of proven talent. At 35, Paul is not without risk. But he's coming off an All-Star season and is still a strong defender. Milwaukee can make the math work—Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, and some salary filler can get it done, and the Bucks can throw in a draft pick as a sweetener—and the ever-creative Sam Presti can turn around and potentially move those pieces elsewhere. Besides—don't the Bucks have to roll the dice? Miami exposed Milwaukee's offense and don't even try to use Giannis Antetokounmpo's ankle as a reason why. If Antetokounmpo doesn't sign a long-term extension—and really, why would he? —The Bucks could have one shot to sell him on Milwaukee's ability to build a winner. Paul is the easiest path.
Let's start with the fact that all three (Bledsoe, Ilyasova, and Hill) are over 30, and if the Thunder is retooling, you want to get younger. But, go with me for a second on keeping Bledsoe.
He has two years remaining on his contract at $37.5-million; if you wanted to keep Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing the three, Bledsoe could start at point guard. Gilgeous-Alexander could stay as a small forward while you start Drot at shooting guard, Bazley at the four, and Adams at center.
Of course, you could trade Schroder, whose contract expires after this season, and make either Bledsoe or Hill you're a backup point guard while spinning the other. Then there is the option to trade both Hill and Bledsoe for younger players or draft capital while hanging on to Schroder.
As for Ilyasova, he's due $7,000,000 in the coming season; then, he is free and clear. At 33, he could still provide value to someone looking for a power forward who can play 16 minutes a night, or he can be an excellent salary dump.
The Thunder could always keep him to play behind Bazley then let him go after next year, and in a pinch, he could start.
Big picture, Gilgeous-Alexander needs to get used to being the face the Thunder, and all the responsibilities that come with it, like taking control of a locker room and forging a relationship with the new coach to be the liaison between him (or her) and the rest of the roster.
It's a new day in Oklahoma City, and the next few weeks promise to be as eventful as any time in Thunder history.
Have you signed up for the Inside the Thunder Community Board? We are trying to create a place to share posts and have intriguing and fun conversations about all things related to the Oklahoma City Thunder! Once you sign up, feel free to post as you'd like.
With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past six seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.