The dates for the NBA offseason aren’t even official yet, but that hasn’t stopped predictions from flying about what the Lakers are going to do. And if there is one name those predictions have made it clear the Lakers are going to be linked to, it’s Oklahoma City Thunder guard (and close personal friend of LeBron James) Chris Paul.
Anonymous executives already predicted that the Lakers will try to complete a deal for the 35-year-old All-Star, and there have even been reports that Paul has let it be known that he prefers Los Angeles or New York as a trade destination. There is real smoke here, even if we aren’t sure if there’s fire yet.
The latest speculation about Paul came from another close friend of James: Retired journeyman center and ESPN personality Kendrick Perkins. When Perkins was asked during an appearance on “Sedano and LZ” who he thought would leave the Lakers in free agency this summer, he dropped an even bolder prediction:
“To be honest, I think the Lakers are going to lose (Rajon) Rondo. I really do. I think the Lakers are going to land Chris Paul, I think Rondo is going to be with the Clippers and I think y’all gonna lose Playoff Rondo. I think that’s a guy that y’all are going to lose.”
Co-host Jorge Sedano, seemingly in disbelief at how casually and unprompted Perkins had dropped such an audacious forecast, asked “Wait, you think they’re going to get Chris Paul?”
Perkins does, and he explained why:
“Yeah Jorge I do. We all know how great of friends LeBron James and Chris Paul are. Chris Paul has been on-record this offseason saying that his destinations are the Lakers or with New York (Editor’s Note: Paul did not say this on-record, it was a report). And I think he’s going to be a Laker, I’m telling you. I can see it happening right now, with Chris possibly coming up with a buyout if they can’t come together and get a trade done. I’m like 85% sure Chris Paul will be a Laker next year.”
Now, take this with a grain of salt, as Perkins is not a reporter (and to be fair, doesn’t market himself as one). He’s definitely not batting 100% on predictions, even if he’s gained a reputation for being quite the takesmith. Him saying this does not mean it’s happening.
With those caveats noted, here is why we decided to write about this: Perkins does have a habit of predicting things based on conversations he’s having with NBA figures, and we know he’s still close with LeBron, his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate. None of that means this is definitely something he’s heard behind the scenes, but those connections do make his prediction worth noting in this case (especially during the dregs of the offseason).
There would still be significant complications that would need to be worked out before this could go down. For one, crazier things have happened, but the president of the players’ union giving up any part of the nearly $90 million he’s owed over the next two seasons seems exceedingly unlikely due to both the bad precedent it would set, as well as how hard Paul fought to get that specific type of contract into the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. And the prospects of small-market Oklahoma City paying Paul his full contract to play for a different team during a pandemic-fueled economic downturn would also seem highly doubtful at best.
A trade is also a challenge because of how much money Paul is owed, as well as the timing of the draft being so close to the likely start of the next season, something our own Christian Rivas summarized well earlier this week in his post on Paul’s preferred destinations. In summary, it would be really hard to make a realistic, CBA-legal deal that both sides would like while allowing the Lakers to keep a full roster for the season-opener.
So will this happen? Anything is possible, especially if the Lakers can get another team involved in some sort of three-team deal, but getting Paul to the Lakers is a little more complicated than him and James being friends. As we’ve said before, crazier things have happened, but we are going to need some leaks on the frameworks of these discussions before we can really consider them very realistic, no matter how certain Perkins is that this is happening.
Still, the Paul situation — and how often the Lakers are being linked to him — is very much worth continuing to monitor as the offseason moves along. Whether or not a deal goes down, it looks like one will at least be discussed.