Chris Paul, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, would be foolish not to consider signing with the Miami Heat this summer.
Before we proceed, welcome to our latest edition of Miami Heat Fantasy GM. Last week, we explored a blockbuster deal centered around Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside, while also adding Gordon Hayward in Free Agency.
And back to CP3…
Consider the fact the Los Angeles Clippers — at best — are the fourth best team in a loaded Western Conference. Even if they were to re-sign Paul along with fellow impending free agents Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick, they’d be doing so at an astronomical team salary of over $200 million.
That’s A LOT of cash to be spending on a team that appears to have hit its ceiling. No matter how much Paul loves Los Angeles and how much he wants to maximize his future earnings, why wouldn’t the 31-year-old superstar consider going elsewhere if a championship ring is atop his wish list?
He’s yet to sniff a title with this Clippers core. Barring injuries to multiple key Warriors, multiple key Spurs, AND James Harden, they’d probably have no prayer of ever even getting to the NBA Finals.
His championship quest should lead him to the Eastern Conference.
While LeBron James remains the best player in the game, the Cleveland Cavaliers have never looked more vulnerable with that abysmal defense, which ranked 25th in efficiency from January 1 to the end of the regular season and ranks 12th of the 16 playoff teams so far. I used to think their D was Charmin soft, but they’ve hit a new low this season — think marshmallow-in-the-microwave-for-60-seconds soft. It’s just goo.
Why the Miami Heat though?!
Boston has their point guard in Isaiah Thomas and they wouldn’t dare start two sub-6-foot guards in their backcourt.
Toronto looks like they’ll feature a Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan partnership for years to come.
Ditto for Washington with John Wall and Brad Beal.
Atlanta is trash.
Milwaukee is one step down from Antarctica.
Indiana has a terrible coach and is run by a man who looks like an old Ukrainian lady after she takes her head scarf off.
Larry Bird looks like an old Ukrainian lady after she takes her head scarf off. pic.twitter.com/6VcZGKdGZm
— What He Looks Like (@WhatHeLooksLike) May 22, 2016
This really only leaves the Miami Heat if contending is the goal. And remember, contending is far easier in the East than West.
Just like with Melo’s chances of playing in Miami, I’m certain Dwyane Wade and LeBron James would have words — unpleasant ones — with CP3 regarding the mere thought of partnering up with Pat Riley. Yet Paul’s biological clock is ticking and he can’t let off-the-court drama impede his championship window.
But what about Goran Dragic?
What about him? He remains in the equation.
A Paul-Dragic backcourt would be incredibly difficult to defend because both are complete offensive players who can score from anywhere. Both can create, dish, and are among the league’s best shooters.
We also should remember that during Dragic’s breakout season in Phoenix back in 2014 when he was named Third Team All-NBA, he played 47 percent of the time at shooting guard, per Basketball Reference.
While that number would likely be far larger even if their minutes were as staggered as possible, the offense should still be dynamic. Elite teams need multiple playmakers from the perimeter in today’s NBA. Think less about traditional positions, considering the league is comprised of seven-foot point guards (that alien in Milwaukee) and 6-foot-5 centers (Draymond). It’s more about the skill-set each player brings.
Paul, one of the most complete and underrated players in the modern era, is a fantastic defender. This would allow Dragic to guard fewer lightning-quick point guards and more slower but bigger wings.
If Miami added Paul and found a way to bring back James Johnson, that core lineup of Hassan Whiteside, Johnson, [insert anyone who can shoot here], Dragic, and Paul would be special. Throw in talented supporting pieces like Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Rodney McGruder, and they’d also have the depth to be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
While that group still may not be as good offensively as the Cavaliers, they’d be a significantly more balanced squad, feasibly ranking in the Top 8 (at least) in offensive and defensive efficiency.
While a team likely can’t win a title with Dragic, Johnson, and Whiteside as its first, second, and third best players, respectively, I think it can by bumping each down a slot and throwing in a tremendous two-way talent like Chris Paul, who certainly remains among the league’s best eight players.
Plus, Paul has worn the number “3” his entire NBA career and that number is completely available in Miami. I can’t even think of the last player to wear it.
The Miami Heat would make a ton of sense for the next chapter of Chris Paul’s excellent career, but it would depend on just how much he craves a ring.