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Report: Lakers want to sign Chris Paul, potentially alongside D’Angelo Russell

The Lakers don’t necessarily want to choose between D’Angelo Russell and Chris Paul in NBA free agency.

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Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday morning, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN hinted that Chris Paul would likely be choosing between the Lakers and Clippers if the Phoenix Suns ultimately opt to cut or trade him before his contract for next season fully guarantees on June 28, as they are widely expected to.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers do indeed “have strong interest in signing Chris Paul if the guard is waived or stretched by the Suns,” potentially even alongside keeping fellow free agent D’Angelo Russell.

Here’s what Buha wrote in his story:

- Signing Paul to a veteran’s minimum contract would allow the Lakers to use one of their exceptions on another player to bolster their depth.

- Another option the Lakers have discussed is signing Paul and retaining D’Angelo Russell to truly solidify their point guard position, according to those sources.

To some degree, the Lakers have to discuss that latter possibility, or at least say they are. It hardly does them any good to leak that they would outright pick Paul over Russell when they still might have to sign the latter if no better options materialize.

However, the fact that the Lakers would likely start Paul in that scenario sort of tips their hand on who they value more, and it seems logically unlikely that Russell would both take a pay cut to return and come off the bench. That’s not the sort of thing ultra-competitive NBA players generally do:

Still, let’s look at this hypothetical functionally. Signing both Russell and Paul would realistically take L.A. out of the market to retain Dennis Schröder, if that was ever a realistic possibility (the Lakers don’t have his Bird Rights, so the most they can offer him is all of or part of one of their exceptions). Especially given that they plan to re-sign Austin Reaves, who also is (mostly) a point guard.

Playing Paul and Russell together — especially alongside the regular season, in-game load-managing version of LeBron — would additionally be a disaster defensively, something worth keeping in mind if the team was going to commit real resources and roles to both.

Paul, 38, taking the minimum would certainly help the Lakers out whether they sign Russell or not, however, as it would give them more wiggle room to avoid the second apron while trying to strengthen their depth at other positions. Plus, as Buha pointed out, “given that Paul’s next contract would offset the amount he’s guaranteed for this season, him signing for anything more than the veteran’s minimum doesn’t really make sense, as it would only hinder his new team.”

This isn’t a great free agent class, but if they can get Paul for around $2 million instead of anywhere from $4 to $12 million on one of their exceptions, it would be better for their books and give them more options.

All that is still in the realm of hypotheticals for now. But having the Lakers’ interest in Paul confirmed is both predictable and an interesting wrinkle as free agency approaches on June 30. The Suns (or whoever they trade him to) still have to cut him, and he still has to agree to come to Los Angeles, but given his interest in the city and the Clippers’ locker room’s reported lack of fondness for Paul, the 12-time All-Star finally putting on the purple and gold uniform he had vetoed by David Stern more than a decade ago might be a more real possibility than it’s ever been since.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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