Chris Paul will enter free agency this summer, and the leading candidate to sign him would appear to be the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul seems happy there and the team is winning. But he's not a lock to stay. Other teams will be courting him.
Reasons to stay in Los Angeles aren't hard to find. He has great chemistry with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He has a team with as much depth as any point guard could ask for. He is on a true title contender.
On the other hand, the coaching of Vinnie Del Negro is not special. The team is winning based on immense talent, not coaching, and that could catch up with them again in the postseason.
Then there's this beauty from former GM, Elgin Baylor, as told to ESPN's J.A. Adande,
During this same period, players Sam Cassell, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette complained to me that Donald Sterling would bring women into the locker room after games, while the players were showering, and make comments such as, 'Look at those beautiful black bodies.' I brought this to Sterling’s attention, but he continued to bring women into the locker room.
So there's a chance that Paul might not be happy with some things, but is keeping that beneath the surface. Because of that, he might be open to exploring other options in the offseason. There are a few teams which might have enough to entice him to sign.
There are a few teams who have the cap space to sign Chris Paul but don't have a real shot at him.
Primarily, they can be lumped into two camps.
First, there are the teams who have the space and a need for a point guard but don't have any thing other than a max contract to offer. These teams include the New Orleans Hornets, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic. Plus, it's unlikely that Paul is going to want to go to a rebuilding project.
There are also teams who already have their "point guard of the future." Teams in this situation are the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.
While Paul is obviously an upgrade over any of the point guards on those teams, the position is already a strength. These teams are more likely to be looking to spend their free agent money trying to meet different needs.
The Utah Jazz have the most cap space of any team in the NBA. In all likelihood, they will exercise most of their team options but let Marvin Williams walk, which will leave them with about $18 million in obligations, well below the NBA salary cap of $58 million.
The Jazz will have their starting bigs, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, hitting unrestricted free agency, and it's unclear whether they will sign either or both of them. The odds are they keep one and let the other walk, as they have two more promising young bigs in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Adding to whichever of the bigs they keep, they can add a high-caliber shooting guard such as Monta Ellis or O.J. Mayo and still have enough left to sign Chris Paul.
The difficult part will be luring the other players first. Paul is certainly not going to be the first to sign. But if there's enough extra talent there, it could be enough to pique his interest.
The Indiana Pacers are dominating everyone who comes in their path of late. They've averaged a margin of victory of more than 15 points over their last 10 games, and that includes double-digit beat-downs of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
They've won their last three games by a total of 90 points. 90! In three games!
The Pacers are starting to look like a contender. But as good as they look, they could get even better if they had the best point guard in the league plugged into the weakest position on the team. Scarily, they could make that work without losing anyone on the team who's played this year.
Between the cap space they already have and the expiring contract of Danny Granger, who has become expendable with the emergence of Paul George, the Pacers have the ability to work their way into the Paul conversation.
Because they will be under the cap, they'll be allowed to work a sign-and-trade. And Granger is not small change in return. With one year left on Granger's contract, the Clippers would either be able to keep him as a quality wing or have a tremendous trade asset.
If Paul sets his mind on leaving, there's a lot of reason to think that Indiana would have an allure.
He'd be in the East, meaning the pathway would be a bit easier. He'd be playing with a great coach in Frank Vogel. He'd be reunited with former teammate David West, if the Pacers retain him.
The Pacers are certainly a dark horse, but they are a viable one. In fact, it's possible that the best scenario for Paul to win a title or multiple titles, would be to go to Indianapolis.
The exact opposite of Donald Sterling is Mark Cuban. Some people might not like him. But as owners go, he's everything a player wants. He's thoroughly committed to winning and he's a friend to his players. He also doesn't give a lick about how much money he spends.
The Mavericks only have $28 million in guaranteed contracts heading into the offseason, meaning they could offer a max contract to Paul and keep O.J. Mayo in the process.
Where this gets more interesting is that Dirk Nowitzki's max contract expires next season. If he were to stick around and sign for less, which is likely, the Mavs could add another quality player, such as Danny Granger or Marcin Gortat to the mix in 2014.
The biggest incentive for Paul here is that Nowitzki offers one thing that none of the stars he'd be teamed with offer, championship experience. Certainly Paul and Nowitzki running the pick and pop together would be a scary thing to defend.
And if things aren't working well, he knows that Cuban's commitment to winning isn't going to wane. Playing for the right owner could be the big difference-maker in where Paul ultimately signs.
When the Atlanta Hawks made their big trades last summer, jettisoning Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, it was generally theorized the reason they were doing it was to make room for this summer when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard would be free agents.
The Atlanta Hawks have one thing that most teams don't have—money to offer both stars max contracts and the chance to play alongside another All-Star-caliber player. Paul, Howard and Al Horford would offer a big three that's on par with the Miami Heat's LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
The rub here is that the Hawks would be thrust into the situation that the Heat were in two years ago, or that the Knicks have been in. Fleshing out a complementary roster isn't easy, especially with the new luxury tax penalties kicking in.