For the second straight year, the Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best regular-season record in the NBA, and for the second straight year, they failed to make it out of the Eastern Conference. Last season they lost to the Toronto Raptors in six games in the conference finals. This time around they didn’t even make it that far as they were knocked out by the Miami Heat in five games in the semifinals.
After falling well short of expectations again, the Bucks could be looking to make some major roster changes this summer, and they may have their eyes on a certain veteran point guard. Rival teams feel the Bucks will try to trade for Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, should he be made available by the Thunder, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
After a season in which they overachieved in the eyes of many, the Thunder parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan, and in turn they are expected to begin a roster rebuild. At that point it seems possible, even likely, that they would look to move Paul in order to acquire assets like young players and draft picks. Paul is 35 years old, and thus he has a finite amount of years left in the league. He would probably prefer to spend those years competing for a title — something that has alluded him throughout his career — as opposed to being the veteran presence on a young team that is building for the future.
On the court, the potential acquisition of Paul would make some serious sense for Milwaukee, as he could serve as a complementary scorer and playmaker to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He would basically be a better — and more consistent, especially in clutch time — version of what Eric Bledsoe provides for the Bucks. Acquiring Paul, though, would be easier said than done for Milwaukee, given the sheer size of Paul’s contract. He has two years and $85 million remaining on his current contract, including a player option worth $44 million for the 2021-22 season. In order to land Paul, the Bucks would likely have to give up a couple of their current key contributors like Khris Middleton, Bledsoe or Brook Lopez. They would also likely have to throw in a couple of draft picks. Even then, there’s no guarantee that Oklahoma City would be interested in the offer.
There probably won’t be short of suitors for Paul if he is ultimately made available. One of Milwaukee’s chief rivals in the conference — the Philadelphia 76ers — may also be interested in acquiring the future Hall of Famer after their own season ended in disappointment. Philadelphia’s front office has “seriously debated” the idea of pursuing Paul, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. From a basketball standpoint, Paul would also make a lot of sense in Philadelphia, as he could serve as the perimeter playmaker and offensive initiator that the team desperately needed while it was being swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics. Unlike Al Horford, who the Sixers signed to a massive four-year deal last offseason, Paul’s skill set actually meshes with that of Philadelphia’s two best players in Joel Embiidand Ben Simmons. Paul could potentially be the piece needed to push the Sixers to the next level.
Once again, though, acquiring Paul will be easier said than done for Philadelphia. The Sixers have virtually no financial flexibility and thus they would have to move at least one of their key cogs — and likely a couple of draft picks — to make a deal work. General manager Elton Brand has said that the team isn’t looking to trade Embiid or Simmons, which leaves just Horford, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardsonfor the Thunder to pick from. Horford, Richardson and picks would work financially, but would a Thunder team looking to rebuild really want to take on three years of a 34-year-old Horford?
Thanks to some seriously clutch play during the postseason, Paul proved to any doubters that he can still play the game at the highest level. And while his advancing age and potential injury issues are a concern for any team interested in acquiring him, Paul certainly looks like he still has two good years left in him, which is the remaining length of his current contract. For a team with an open title window looking to win now — like both the Bucks and 76ers — pursuing Paul could potentially be a worthwhile move if he is ultimately made available.