The 2013 NBA period of free agency is mere weeks away, as the July 1 deadline is rapidly approaching. While all potential free agents are garnering some form of hype, few, if any, have seen the type of attention that Chris Paul is receiving.
The question is, where are CP3's most realistic potential destinations?
Paul is coming off of a season in which he averaged 16.9 points, 9.7 assists and a league-high 2.4 steals per game. In turn, Paul was named to his sixth career All-Star Game and made the All-NBA First Team for the third time.
As you can see, it is no coincidence that he is the most heavily-pursued free agent of the year.
The question is, where could Paul end up and what makes those potential destinations so intriguing? Equally as important, what separates these contenders for Paul's services from one another?
Let's find out.
Why It Works
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are exchanging text messages and discussing the possibility of playing together in 2013-14. Both players are unrestricted free agents, thus making this a legitimate possibility.
It just so happens that the only team with a realistic shot of making this happen is the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks have the cap flexibility to sign both players to max contracts, assuming they let their players with expiring deals walk. In turn, the Hawks would create an elite trio of Paul, Howard and Al Horford.
That is one trio that could give the Miami Heat a run for their money under head coach Mike Budenholzer.
Why It Doesn't
There are not many cons to this potential deal, as Paul, Howard and Horford would create a triple threat. Throw in sharpshooter John Jenkins and sixth man Lou Williams and you have yourself a legitimate contender.
The question is, would Howard and Paul want to leave Los Angeles to play in Atlanta?
This is nothing against Atlanta, which is a fine city that has a strong basketball franchise under Danny Ferry. With that being said, the Hawks are one of the least popular teams in the NBA when it comes to their in-state fans.
Despite reaching the playoffs with relatively high-profile players in Horford and Josh Smith, the Hawks were 23rd in seats filled per home game—Paul's Clippers were fourth.
The Atlanta Hawks have a legitimate chance at signing both Paul and Howard during the 2013 offseason. Those chances increased when Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Los Angeles Lakers would not agree to a sign-and-trade involving D-12.
For that reason, the Hawks move into second place in terms of likelihood.
Atlanta Hawks: 25%
Why It Works
The Dallas Mavericks have the rare selling point of having won the 2011 NBA Championship. They also have a genuine superstar in Dirk Nowitzki and a potential Hall of Fame head coach in Rick Carlisle.
Paired with an owner that accepts nothing short of a championship, Chris Paul could not enter an organization with a better core.
Nowitzki may be aging, but he remains one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA today. Not only can he finish off of the pick-and-roll, but Nowitzki's ability to make jump shots at 7'0" is unlike anything we've ever seen.
For a world class facilitator, that creates endless possibilities.
Why It Doesn't
Even if the Dallas Mavericks were to sign Paul, it is quite unlikely that they would go far in competing for a title in 2013-14. A core of CP3, Nowitzki and Shawn Marion would compete, but winning a title in the deep Western Conference is another story.
Dallas would not have the cap space to pad their roster with another star until 2014, when Nowitzki would be willing to take a pay cut.
For Paul, at 28 years old, waiting another year simply is not an option when it comes to pursuing a title. Even if the Mavericks could make a run in the playoffs, Nowitzki and Paul would need significantly more talent than they currently possess.
By signing Paul, the Mavericks would limit their cap flexibility and fail to bring in the necessary complementary pieces—unless O.J. Mayo took a drastically lower salary than projected.
The Dallas Mavericks could be a player in the Chris Paul sweepstakes and they certainly have the draft pieces to cut salary. With that being said, the Mavericks appear to be a team on the outside looking in.
A contender, but one with a small chance at cashing in.
Dallas Mavericks: 10%
Why It Works
The Houston Rockets have the look of a team that could swing any high-profile free agent, including Chris Paul. They have a young superstar in James Harden, a budding star in Chandler Parsons, multiple trade pieces and the potential to bring in a complementary star via free agency.
Seriously, who wouldn't want to sign on here?
Not only are they a major market franchise, but the Rockets have the potential for sustainable success. Even once Paul ages and exits his peak years, Houston has the players around him to maximize his abilities more so than his athleticism.
Houston may just be the top long-term option.
Why It Doesn't
When you hear about cap space and the presence of a superstar, it is hard not to be intrigued. When that superstar is Harden, an elite scorer who nearly led his team to a first round upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder, your interest peaks.
Unfortunately, Chris Paul is a point guard—the type of position that does not have a defined role in Houston.
Should CP3 sign in Houston, he would likely be splitting touches with Harden, who is your quintessential facilitating ball stopper. While he does pass at a high level, Harden takes control of games and often forces point guards to become off-ball players.
Seeing as Harden's greatest strength is his ability to attack off of the bounce, Houston would be limiting his effectiveness by bringing in a player to run the show.
This number may jump out as under-selling, but it is hard to imagine the Houston Rockets serving as true contenders for Paul's services. Even if they are an appealing squad, they seem to be a team more likely to sign Dwight Howard than CP3.
They have the money but the personnel simply doesn't match as well as one might hope.
Houston Rockets: 15%
Why It Works
For all that has been made about where Chris Paul could end up, the most likely destination remains in Los Angeles. We apologize to the Los Angeles Lakers fans out there, as that contender simply is not you.
It's the Los Angeles Clippers.
First and foremost, the Clippers can offer CP3 the most money and the longest contract, as they own his Bird rights. Furthermore, L.A. is in the midst of a coaching search, and it is no secret that Paul will have a powerful input when it comes to whom they choose.
At the end of the day, those factors outweigh anything else another team can offer.
Why It Doesn't
The Los Angeles Clippers have the most money and the best job security to offer. They also have a roster with young players that have not yet reached their prime and an owner notorious for being frugal with his money.
At the end of the day, the Clippers are the last organization you can trust to guarantee long-term success.
Paul is a skilled enough player to bring any team into the playoffs, and with Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford at his side, L.A. will contend. With that being said, the Clippers have more than $22 million tied up in DeAndre Jordan over the next two seasons.
With the risk of Jordan failing to pan out, Paul may look to a team with available heavy contracts for future teammates.
According to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Los Angeles Clippers have been linked to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, Danny Granger and Dwight Howard in terms of potential trades. Even if they fail to acquire those players, one thing is clear.
The Clippers are dedicated to surrounding Chris Paul with the talent necessary to contend. Paired with the issues of money and security, that makes L.A. the team to beat.
Los Angeles Clippers: 50%