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NBA

Breaking down the pros and cons of trading for Chris Paul

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Chris Paul (NBA Getty Images)

Chris Paul might not be a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder for very long.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young, Thunder general manager Sam Presti is working with Paul's agents to "redirect the nine-time All-Star to a new team" after he was traded from the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook.

The Miami Heat are reportedly one of the teams interested in trading for Paul, although Wojnarowski and Young added that other possibilities are being explored.

For whichever team lands Paul, what would they be trading for?

The pros

At age 33, Paul averaged 15.6 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range. Even though he's not the All-NBA player he once was, he's still a versatile scorer who can play with and without the ball in his hands.

In addition to still being a solid pick-and-roll scorer, Paul has developed into a big-time isolation scorer on the back end of his career. In his first season with the Rockets, Paul averaged the fourth-most isolation points per game and ranked in the 91st percentile with 1.10 points per possession. While he wasn't nearly as prolific last season, it didn't stop him from averaging the fourth-most isolation points per game and ranking in the top half of the league (63rd percentile) in efficiency.

Paul has almost certainly peaked as an isolation scorer, but being able to pull-up from 3-point range and midrange at a high rate gives him the tools to get his shot off against mismatches. According to NBA.com, Paul made 34.5 percent of his 3-point pull-ups and 47.9 percent of his 2-point pull-ups last season. He was even better in 2017-18, knocking down 38.1 percent of his 3-point pull-ups and 52.7 percent of his 2-point pull-ups.

Paul is still also one of the better passers in the NBA. He averaged 8.2 assists per game last season while rarely turning the ball over.

According to NBA Miner, almost half of Paul's assists on the season led directly to 3-pointers. It helped him create 21.1 points per game for his teammates, putting him behind only Russell Westbrook (26.5) and John Wall (21.2) for the most in the league.

If surrounded by the right players - ideally shooters and a big man he can run pick-and-rolls with - Paul is still more than capable of quarterbacking an efficient offence.

As for the other side of the floor, most advanced metrics still make Paul out to be a positive defender. He finished near the top of the league in steals and deflections once again last season, and Houston's defensive rating improved by 7.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.

Paul has always played bigger than his size. He's an incredibly smart defender who has some of the quickest hands in the league. The combination helps him defend multiple positions, even some forwards. Whichever team acquires him would likely get better defensively with him, not worse.

The cons

The concern for Paul is that he's an undersized point guard who has struggled to stay healthy over the last three seasons and has shown serious signs of decline entering his mid-30s.

Last season with the Rockets, Paul posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 19.7 percent, which was the lowest mark of his career. His True Shooting Percentage wasn't much better. The only time Paul combined to shoot worse from the field, perimeter and free throw line was back when he was a rookie and sophomore, almost 15 years ago.

That doesn't mean Paul is suddenly a negative on offence. Far from it. But those aren't the numbers you'd hope to see from someone who is being paid like one of the best players in the entire league. Paul still has three more years remaining on his current contract, with him being owed $38.5 million in 2019-20, $41.4 million in 2020-21 and $44.2 million in 2021-22.

The final year of the deal is a player option, but it's hard to believe Paul won't pick it up.

For perspective, Stephen Curry is the only player currently slated to make more than Paul next season. After that, only Curry and Russell Westbrook will make more in 2020-21, followed by Curry and John Wall in 2021-22.

Those figures will make it difficult for any team to trade for Paul and build around him. All the signs are pointing towards him not being good enough anymore to be the No. 1 option on a playoff team, so he'd need to be paired with another star. However, Paul and another star's contracts could add up to as much as $80 million a year, leaving little room to fill out the rest of the roster.

It would be particularly difficult for the Heat, as they are hard-capped after completing a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Butler. The two of them would give the Heat the type of star power they've been missing since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh left Miami, but could they surround them with the role players they'd need to legitimately make a run, especially if they have to part ways with a Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro?

The same question applies to any other team in the market for a point guard, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons or Orlando Magic. As well as he might fit, Paul's contract could be a deal-breaker for some.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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