The Utah Jazz could potentially benefit from Chris Paul joining the San Antonio Spurs, but given the top-heavy nature of the league, it may not matter all that much for them.
With the NBA Finals underway (and, if Game 1 is any indication of what the series will be like, potentially over sooner than later) and all but two teams already looking ahead to next season, June is the month of offseason rumors and speculation. A few have come already and many more are sure to drop, but the one that has received overwhelmingly the most attention so far has been that Chris Paul and the San Antonio Spurs may have mutual interest in combining forces.
It’s no secret that Paul’s time with the Clippers hasn’t exactly gone as he might have hoped. Despite having solid teams in the regular season that have appeared daunting in the postseason, he’s failed to qualify for a Western Conference Finals a single time in his career. Therefore, the allure of San Antonio is quite clear. If Paul wants a chance to win before the clock runs out on his career, the Spurs will likely give him the best shot.
For the Spurs, they realize that the only way to win a championship is to get past the Golden State Warriors. Oddly enough, San Antonio looked primed to give the Warriors more of a run for their money than anybody in Game 1 of this year’s Western Conference Finals, but as soon as Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury, the entire dynamic of the series changed and ultimately the Spurs were swept.
Still the fact remains that they are the only team that’s even close to being in the same league as the Warriors. They also just so happen to be going through an odd point guard shift. Tony Parker is aging and nearing the end of his career. Dejounte Murray is still too young to be the lead guy running the offense. And while Patty Mills is solid in his own right, he’s better in a role as a spark plug off the bench, not as the main guy behind the wheel for the starters.
Therefore, adding Chris Paul could be a perfect fit for both parties involved. Leonard needs a second star on his side to shoulder the load. The Spurs need a reliable point guard option if they hope to compete with the Warriors during Leonard’s prime years and have a crack at a championship. And Paul needs to find a way to win before Father Time tells him it’s too late.
For all those reasons, the move makes a lot of sense. Of course, for San Antonio to actually be able to pull it off financially, things get pretty complicated. I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty details, but essentially the Spurs would have to either shave off some significant depth, hope Pau Gasol turns down his player option, trade away LaMarcus Aldridge or concoct some combination of those options that would work.
It won’t be easy, but if the Spurs really want Chris Paul, then if any team could figure out a way to make it happen and make it effective they could. And believe it or not, it could actually have some benefits for the Utah Jazz.
First of all, given that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has oft been quoted saying that George Hill was one of his favorite players, many have suspected that perhaps San Antonio and unrestricted free agent George Hill would be interested in a reunion. At the same time, it’s also no secret that Utah has hopes of retaining him, if they can do so at the right price.
However, if San Antonio adds Chris Paul, that will completely eliminate the need or the means necessary to bring in a guy like Hill, therefore hypothetically elevating Utah’s chances of keeping him on board.
Beyond that, one name that has come up several times in regards to one of the players that the Spurs would need to look to trade in order to bring Chris Paul into their ranks is Danny Green. Consequently, many Jazz fans have also surmised that he could be an excellent fit in Utah to shore up the shooting guard position and that perhaps he could be obtained without having to give up too much in return.
From an initial outlook, I like the idea of this move. Green is a knock-down three-point shooter that brings experience from a Popovich background and is also an underrated defender. If it was a simple matter of, “Do you want him on the team?” my answer would be a resounding, “Yes!”
However, whether or not it makes sense will depend greatly on what Utah would have to give up for him and whether or not it would be wise to bring him in from a financial standpoint.
At $10,000,000 per year, Green’s contract is in the ballpark (though slightly less) of Alec Burks’ and Derrick Favors’, two guys who have been speculated to perhaps be on the trading block to ensure cap space to keep Gordon Hayward, George Hill and Joe Ingles while possibly adding some more help in free agency. But would paying Green’s salary be the best way to potentially replace guys like that?
I’d certainly take him over Burks, but moving Favors then using that money on Green doesn’t quite make sense, especially considering that Green has a player option for the 2018-19 season, so could potentially leave Utah after one year. Still, even the possibility of adding a veteran sharpshooter like Green is intriguing and it’s nice to know that if CP3 went to San Antonio, it could provide them with that potential option.
And that’s far from the only options that would open up for Utah if the Spurs look to make a splash with Chris Paul. There’s almost no way they’d attempt to re-sign unrestricted free agent Patty Mills with Paul on the team, so he could end up being a Jazz free agent target as well. Joining the ranks of Joe Ingles and Dante Exum would make for a fun and likely cohesive trio of Aussies on the Jazz roster, but Mills makes a lot of sense from a pure basketball standpoint as well.
There have also been a few mentions of whether Utah could work out some kind of salary dump type move with the Spurs to acquire the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, but I honestly don’t see that happening. Adding CP3 to their mix would only make LaMarcus more effective in the pick and roll and I don’t see San Antonio giving up on him that fast despite a disappointing postseason.
Beyond that, his rather large contract likely wouldn’t quite fit with Utah’s primary objectives of re-signing Gordon Hayward and George Hill. Nevertheless, between increasing their chances of retaining Hill and having some extra options for players to pursue this offseason, it isn’t hard to see how Utah could sneakily benefit from a move sending Chris Paul to the Spurs.
Unfortunately, though, even if Utah got better as a result of such a free agent acquisition, in the grand scheme of things, it likely wouldn’t matter much. San Antonio’s pursuit of Chris Paul is synonymous with their pursuit of an NBA Championship, which at this juncture is also synonymous with beating the Warriors.
Make no mistake about it, the Spurs have seen that the only way to beat a superteam is to become a superteam, and that’s what adding Paul would be all about. While the Jazz could potentially improve by adding a guy like Danny Green or keeping George Hill for the long term, it’s highly unlikely that it would be enough to push them above what would then become the two-headed dragon of the West – the Warriors and the Spurs.
If the Spurs keep their current group together, you could make an argument that a healthy Jazz team that makes improvements this summer has a shot to battle the Spurs for the #2 seed. However, add Chris Paul, who played very well against the Jazz this past season, to San Antonio’s ranks and barring an unforeseen new addition or unprecedented improvements from some of Utah’s younger guys such as Dante Exum or Rodney Hood, then the Jazz’s realistic ceiling would be the #3 spot.
In other words, Chris Paul going to the Spurs has the potential to help the Jazz improve as a whole, but not enough to be able to compete with the then star-studded Spurs or the already star-studded Warriors. As much as it hurts to say it, regardless of how much better the Jazz get next year, their chances of competing with Golden State, and perhaps even San Antonio, still will remain slim at best.
Nevertheless, regardless of what the opposition looks like, the Jazz are without a doubt in win-now mode and should do whatever it takes to get as talented of a group together as they can, because you just never know what could happen.
Perhaps the Warriors struggle with injuries, maybe the Spurs struggle with chemistry, or as I alluded to before, maybe guys like Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood all take incredible leaps forward and push the Jazz into true title contender status.
It’s impossible to know for sure, but the chance alone is worth going for. The Jazz are on the cusp of greatness and whether San Antonio acquires Paul and opens up some opportunities for the Jazz or if those opportunities come from elsewhere, they ought to take advantage of every chance they get to reach their potential and challenge the top teams in the league.
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Buckle up, Jazz fans. Rumor season is upon us and any one single move could unleash a domino effect that impacts the Utah Jazz’s chances for greatness as well as that of teams across the league.