When Chris Paul was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer, everyone expected his time there to be brief. After all, Paul’s career is winding down, and the Thunder were entering a new era with both Russell Westbrook and Paul George gone. A veteran point guard with the skills Paul possesses makes much more sense on a contender than a rebuilding squad.
Five months later, Paul is still in OKC, and it doesn’t look like he’s leaving anytime soon. On Sunday, during an ESPN special with Zach Lowe, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that it’s almost certain Paul finishes the season with the Thunder.
“There is no belief in Oklahoma City or even the CP3 camp that there’s going to be a trade for him. After the season, another year off that giant contract? Maybe. He’s played well for them. Forty million dollars plus, they’re resigned that he’ll be there.”
There are a number of reasons why moving Paul has proved to be difficult for the Thunder, but Wojnarowski’s last point is the main one. Currently in the second year of a massive four-year, $160 million deal, Paul is making $38 million this season, and his annual salary only increases as the contract goes along.
Not only are teams wary about adding that sort of deal to their books for a 34-year-old point guard who has broken down with injuries in recent seasons, but even if they wanted to trade for Paul, stacking enough contracts together to make the money work becomes complicated. (And yes, it’s gross discussing actual players simply as “contracts” to be traded, but people care about this kind of stuff now so we have to explain it.)
Beyond just the contract, though, the Thunder have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this season. At 11-14, they’re tied with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. No one in that tier of teams, which also includes the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs, looks eager to separate themselves, and with Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams, the Thunder have the talent to remain in the mix all season long. As a small market team, they may be eager to steal another trip to the playoffs before going into full rebuild mode.
Furthermore, one of the main suitors for Paul, the Miami Heat, have found a potential point guard for the future in Kendrick Nunn, and at 19-7, are second in the East. At this point, shaking up their roster to get Paul isn’t a necessity.
While Paul’s age and hefty contract always meant that moving him would take some work, the consensus prior to the season was that a deal would still get done. He just made too little sense in OKC, and too much sense for a contending team. That there’s now ‘no belief’ that a deal gets done is a good reminder of how fast circumstances change in the league.