In the month since the Philadelphia 76ers were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, fans have come up with all kinds of fake trades to bring in players like Buddy Hield, Zach LaVine, and Jrue Holiday. But if the Sixers want to win a championship with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons still around, they need to do what it takes to get Chris Paul.
There’s not a player the Sixers could reasonably trade for who would fit better with their two stars than Paul. He’s a guard who can get to the rim and create for others, something the team lacked all season. He’s an above average shooter from all levels. He’s a plus on the defensive side of the ball. He’s the vocal leader the team desperately needs. He’s still a top-15 player in the league (top-10 if you ask the All-NBA voters).
The only reason the Oklahoma City Thunder would likely consider trading Paul is the state of their organization. They’ve acquired an enormous stockpile of draft picks by trading away Russell Westbrook and Paul George, signaling the start of a rebuild. Chris Paul, who is 35, doesn’t fit their timeline.
The price for Paul doesn’t seem to be too high. Sixers beat writer Rich Hofmann and Thunder beat writer Erik Horne, both of The Athletic, got together to discuss potential trades between the teams. Here are two deals they came up with:
- Sixers get Chris Paul in exchange for Tobias Harris, the 21st pick in the draft, and the Thunder’s top preference of Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, and Zhaire Smith
- Sixers get Chris Paul in exchange for Al Horford, Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, and the Sixers’ lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick
I would do either of these deals without much thought. In either deal, I would be comfortable throwing in another asset, like Josh Richardson or an extra pick, if that’s what it took. As is, these trades are no-brainers for the Sixers. Any argument to pass on Paul (assuming the package is similar to those from The Athletic) is nonsensical.
Many have pointed to Paul’s contract as a reason to stay away. He’s due to make over $41 million this upcoming season and over $44 million the following season. But he’s worth it! He deservedly made the All-NBA second team this season, and his max contract is fair value for his play. He only has two years remaining on his deal, one fewer than Al Horford and two fewer than Tobias Harris, meaning even if Paul can’t keep up his production from last season, the team is getting off of a bad contract sooner.
People also point to Paul’s age of 35 as a negative. Sure, it’d be nice if he were younger and had no injury history. But if that were the case, the Sixers wouldn’t have anything close to the assets needed to get him. There’s a reason Damian Lillard isn’t popping up in Sixers trade rumors. When it comes down to it, the Sixers don’t have the luxury of limiting their targets to players in their mid-20s in some kind of attempt at a decade-long dynasty with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They have limited flexibility, and if they stay on this path, it feels like only a matter of time before one of their stars asks out. They need to do everything they can to win now, and Paul gives them the best chance.
A young role player and late first-round pick is a small price to pay in order to upgrade either Tobias Harris or Al Horford (who aren’t worth half their salaries) to an All-NBA player. It would cost more to move those guys in a salary dump without bringing an elite guard back.
Chris Paul patches the Sixers’ biggest weaknesses and, if healthy, makes them a contender. The same can’t be said about Buddy Hield, Zach LaVine, or Jrue Holiday, and that should end the argument. The best player likely to be available also fills the team’s needs. Go get that player. After that, it makes sense to pursue one of those other guys if the team has assets left over. All three would fit well as the second guard next to Chris Paul.
The Sixers are lucky a player as talented as Chris Paul is ostensibly available, and they would be foolish to pass on an opportunity to turn one of their two major mistakes from last summer into a third star.