As the old adage goes: If you can’t beat them, join them. And right now, the Los Angeles Clippers are no match for the other “super teams” in the NBA.
In order for Chris Paul to thrive in a playoff setting–for the first time in his career–he should seriously explore signing with the San Antonio Spurs. He would get the opportunity to play for the league’s best coach in Gregg Popovich, and Kawhi Leonard’s presence would take some of the heat away from the embattled point guard.
The Clippers, who desperately want to retain Paul, are at a crossroads. Paul and fellow teammate Blake Griffin are set to hit free agency on July 1, leaving DeAndre Jordan as the only lock to return to the Clippers. Even swingman J.J. Redick is a free agent, and he is expected to test the market.
Even though Tony Parker has occupied the point guard position for the better part of the Popovich era, he is coming off major surgery to his quadriceps tendon. There is also the possibility that the Spurs attempt to go younger, moving on from Parker and big man Pau Gasol.
The decision will come down to two factors: money and the Clippers’ desire to keep this core intact. Paul is eligible to sign a super max deal with the Clippers, valued at five years and $205 million. The Spurs could offer a 4-year, $152 million deal–nothing to sneeze at, but Paul would have to be willing to leave money on the table.
The Clippers, on the other hand, could decide that $205 million is too much money to invest in a player who is 32 years old and has never gotten to a Conference Finals. It is hard to imagine billionaire owner Steve Ballmer deciding to rebuild, but the Clippers have not proven–as currently constructed–that they’ll ever be able to compete with the Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs would need to figure out how to shift salaries and make the deal work financially. That might include moving on from Jonathan Simmons, Danny Green, and Gasol. That is a dilemma the Spurs would like to have. And if Paul is intent on enhancing his legacy–much like Kevin Durant–the San Antonio Spurs offer him the best chance.