Power Ranking LA Clippers' Biggest Threats to Re-Signing Chris Paul

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2013

Power Ranking LA Clippers' Biggest Threats to Re-Signing Chris Paul

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    With Chris Paul a free agent in the summer of 2013, the Los Angeles Clippers will have to make re-signing the league's best point guard their No. 1 priority this offseason. 

    The firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, was a step in the right direction, as the Clippers will now be able to consult with Paul about the direction of the franchise.

    In addition, ESPN's Arash Markazi has reported that the Clippers currently feel confident about Paul returning. 

    At this point, the Clippers appear to be the front-runners for Paul's services, but that won't stop a number of intriguing franchises from making their pitches in the coming weeks.

     

    Note: All salary numbers courtesy of HoopsHype unless noted otherwise.

5. New York Knicks

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    For years, the dream of Chris Paul teaming up with Carmelo Anthony in New York has lingered off in the distance.

    Now that Paul's impending free agency is upon us, it's time to re-evaluate whether a move to the East Coast is a feasible one.

    In short, it's not.

    According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the Knicks don't have the financial flexibility to acquire Paul in a sign-and-trade this summer:

    But then came the hard truth. They can’t be creative enough to get Paul in a sign-and-trade with the Clippers. The most obvious problem is that the Clippers would probably want only one player on the Knicks’ roster, but Jim Dolan is married to Anthony.

    Then there are the new restrictions covered by the CBA. The Knicks are badly hamstrung, being over the salary cap and paying luxury taxes that will prevent them from importing Paul or any other marquee talent that will become available on the 2013 free-agent market. They’d have a much better shot if everyone was still playing under the old rules, where the big-spending teams could still get a star in a sign-and-trade.

    The Knicks are in desperate need of playmakers in the backcourt, and Paul fits the bill. However, the Knicks already have upward of $75 million tied up in nine players next season, and that doesn't begin to factor in the offer they may wind up extending, according to the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring, to Pablo Prigioni. 

4. Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons will be in the market for a point guard this summer, and they have money to spend.

    And with Jose Calderon and Will Bynum set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, the Pistons will have a major hole to fill at the point.

    Possessing only $35 million in committed salaries for 2013-14, Joe Dumars will have the benefit of being able to spend on big names if he can find a way to lure them to the Motor City.

    Detroit doesn't exactly represent a basketball paradise for impending free agents, although they do possess some intriguing young pieces in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

    It seems unlikely that the Pistons would be able to convince Paul to bolt L.A. for Detroit, but they're one of the few point guard-needy teams with cap room who can make a legitimate play for the 2012-13 leader in steals (2.41 per game).

3. Houston Rockets

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    Thanks to brilliant wheeling and dealing by general manager Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets once again find themselves in a position to make a splash in free agency.

    With just $38 million in salary on the books for next season, the Rockets will be able to make a run at Paul if they so choose.

    Although speculation to this point has focused on the Rockets acquiring Dwight Howard, according to USA Today's Sam Amick, there's no denying that signing Paul would instantly give Houston the league's best backcourt.

    Yes, the Rockets have Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in tow, but it's important to remember that both players are set to earn roughly $15 million apiece if they're still with the team in 2014-15.

    Considering the unlikelihood that the Rockets would want to pay either player (especially Lin) that sort of money in two years' time, signing Paul makes perfect sense.

2. Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks are a dark-horse contender for Chris Paul's services.

    With only $18.5 million committed in 2013-14 salaries thus far, the Hawks will have plenty of options when it comes to spending in free agency.

    Cap room makes the Hawks players for Paul, but ultimately, Atlanta's status as a contender in the sweepstakes is dependent upon what the team's front office decides to do in regard to Jeff Teague.

    Teague enters this summer a restricted free agent coming off the best season of his career. After averaging a career-high 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game in 2012-13, Teague will undoubtedly garner interest from rivals this summer.

    The question facing the Hawks is this: Are they comfortable handing the reins to Teauge long-term, or do they feel that there's a better alternative out there that's worth the price?

1. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks have been awaiting the summer of 2013 for some time. Mark Cuban sacrificed prosperity in 2012-13 by making calculated one-year signings in the summer of 2012, all leading up to the possibility that the Mavs could sign Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or possibly both this summer.

    With both Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois set to be restricted free agents, filling the void at point guard should be the Mavericks' proximate goal this offseason.

    Entering July 1, the Mavericks could have just five players (Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder) under contract. Of course, that's assuming that O.J. Mayo declines his player option worth $4.3 million.

    Should the Mavericks enter free agency with those five players under contract, they'll have only $37.2 million in committed salaries.

    That would leave Cuban roughly $33 million in spending before the Mavericks would meet the tax threshold around $70 million.

    With Dirk Nowitzki, significant cap space and a glaring need at point guard, the Mavericks have the best shot at stealing Paul away from the Los Angeles Clippers.