Chris Paul enters the upcoming free agency period with arguably the biggest decision of his career ahead of him. He can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, and at 32 years old this may be Paul’s final chance at a big-money contract. However, Paul has never made the conference finals. At this stage of his career he has to be thinking about his legacy.
Reports are that if Paul chooses to leave the Clippers then he the Spurs as his destination. The fit almost sounds too perfect. A franchise that cares about winning and culture before everything else. What better place for a guy as competitive as Paul? Well, that’s if he’s willing to give up on the new super max contract and give up some of the control he typically has on the floor. There are just as many reasons for Paul to stay in Los Angeles as there are to leave for San Antonio. What are those reasons?
The case for San Antonio
Paul has spent his entire career banging his head into the glass ceiling that is the second round. His reputation is that he doesn’t show up in the playoffs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul has played through injuries, taken over quarters, and done close to everything possible to will New Orleans and then Los Angeles to wins. Except it’s never been enough. There was always a team that was better. An injury to a teammate. Bad luck. Good luck turned to bad luck. Josh freakin Smith. Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for Paul in the playoffs.
Which is why he needs new scenery. The Clippers are cursed and that curse is stronger than Paul’s best efforts. Leaving for the Spurs gives him the chance to escape the second round and reach new heights. He’ll be with Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich while being surrounded with talent with the sole focus of winning.
With the Spurs, Paul won’t have to micromanage every facet of the game anymore. He’ll be able to trust Popovich to have everybody where they need to be at all times while Paul is able to just play his game. Will he have to make a few sacrifices? Sure, but the chance to win with San Antonio is so much greater.
The case for Los Angeles
As president of the National Basketball Players Association, the biggest fight Paul went through in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement was to add super max contracts. He qualifies for one with the Clippers and it would be a little ironic if he chose to not take it. This is, after all, the franchise he brought back from the depths of basketball purgatory. The Clippers were a nothing franchise before Paul and it’s because of him that they’re now considered contenders. That alone is worth a super max contract.
With Paul’s stature he has great control over choices the organization makes. If there’s a free agent out there he wants Doc Rivers to bring in, then his opinion holds weight. He will not get that in San Antonio and, for a micromanager like Paul, this kind of power might be what he actually prefers. Some players dislike having to control the entirety of the game, but maybe that’s what Paul truly looks for in a roster — one where he’s calling the shots.
This decision is made a little easier knowing that the Warriors exist. No matter where Paul goes he’s going to eventually run into an incredibly dominant Golden State team. If he sticks with Los Angeles he’ll be making the most money while he simply tries to wait out the end of the Warriors. Every dynasty reaches its end, and that’s when Paul will have his best shot at a title. He doesn’t need to leave to do that.
What Paul should do
If San Antonio clears out the cap space for him, then Paul should take the most money they can give him and play for the Spurs. They’re stress free and it’s an organization that is consistently in a good place. When the Warriors eventually fall, the Spurs will always be right there in the title race. The same can’t be said about the Rivers-run Clippers. Go to San Antonio, play with a young star in Kawhi Leonard, and experience the best basketball can offer.