If the Houston Rockets are going to keep point guard Chris Paul in free agency this summer, all signs point to them having to offer Paul a max contract.
And based on his history — one where he, as the president of the NBA Players’ Union, has often pushed other players to take nothing less than the max deal — Paul isn’t likely to take a pay cut, even if that means signing LeBron James this summer.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski brought that up on his latest edition of The Woj Pod.
“When the Rockets made that deal for Chris Paul, knowing they would re-sign him (Paul opted into the last year of his contract to make the trade happen), they made a conscious decision that they were gonna have to live with $46, $47 million-a-year salary when he’s not nearly the player anymore in his late 30s, but, ‘We’re gonna make a run at it now; we wanna win a championship now. We’ll deal with it [Paul’s contract] later.’
“We’ll see how that plays out in their contract talks here in free agency. Chris Paul didn’t turn down $200 million from the Clippers because he thought that somehow the Rockets were gonna talk him into saving them luxury-tax money. I don’t imagine it playing out that way.”
Paul averaged 18.6 points, 7.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds this season for the Rockets. He bumped those numbers up significantly in the playoffs, too, averaging 21.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in the postseason and helping the Rockets reach the Western Conference Finals. Paul injured his hamstring late in that series against the Golden State Warriors, though, and missed the final two games — both of which Houston lost.
The 33-year-old was traded to Houston last year from the Los Angeles Clippers, where he was on the final year of his contract.
If the Houston front office wants to keep the 33-year-old veteran, it sounds like they’ll have to go all out. Keeping him and James Harden, all while pursuing James when free agency hits, is going to require some creative maneuvering — one that isn’t likely to play out in Houston’s favor.
And, according to Spotrac, the Rockets are $19 million over their salary cap. Re-signing their current players currently is possible, but that would essentially rule them out of landing James — or any other major free agent — if they offer Paul the deal he wants.
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