Chris Paul's Reported Contract Will Hurt L.A. Clippers in Free Agency
Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Paul is expected to agree to a five-year, $107 million contract extension Monday. That keeps the 28-year-old Paul in the City of Angels, preventing him from fleeing as an unrestricted free agent.
ESPN's Chris Broussard has reported that Paul will announce that the signing is official later in the day, effectively taking him off the market:
I'm told CP3 will make it official today that he's re-signing with Clippers— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 1, 2013
The man himself confirmed he is indeed with Clipper Nation:
I'M IN!!! #CLIPPERNATION— Chris Paul (@CP3) July 1, 2013
Paul has angled for that deal and implored the Clippers to do everything possible to mold the team into championship contenders. However, the exorbitant money Paul costs actually hurts the front office's ability to further improve the roster in free agency.
The salary cap projects to be just $58.5 million for the upcoming season, according to an early estimation by ESPN expert Marc Stein.
Even before this massive reported deal involving Paul, the Clippers were already slated to pay $45.7 million in player salaries in 2013-14, according to ShamSports.com.
It's obvious that securing Paul is vital to the organization's future, but it came at a steep cost. Owner Donald Sterling all but admitted to the Los Angeles Times that Paul was a big factor in the dismissal of head coach Vinny Del Negro—despite the fact that he coached the Clippers to a franchise-best 56-26 record.
Paul then heavily advocated for Doc Rivers as the team's next coach. When the deal initially fell through, he was upset. However, the L.A. brass once again granted him his wish by eventually hiring Rivers to replace Del Negro.
Even though Paul is now more appeased with the coaching situation, the Clippers' blueprint for improvement—and championship contention—is a bit muddy even with the perceptive upgrade in Rivers.
Matt Barnes, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf are all potential assets to the squad and are all free agents, per ESPN.
The Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner reports that a contract for Barnes is in the works, though:
The Clippers have called Matt Barnes' agent about him returning to the team, sources. Both sides working on a deal.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) July 1, 2013
How far can the Clippers' current core go in 2013-14?
Recent first-round pick Reggie Bullock will also take up some cap room, and the rumored trade interest in Paul's backup, Eric Bledsoe, will likely result in the promising Kentucky product leaving L.A.
However, Bledsoe was no small part of last year's highly successful team, and whether his production can be immediately replaced depends on what the Clippers can get in return for him.
In any event, L.A. will be counting on Bullock to contribute immediately and for Rivers to elevate his inherited talent to a championship level. It's a deep Western Conference, though, and Paul probably needs more help to truly threaten for his first Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The problem is, he has so much star power and demands such a large contract that the Clippers are handcuffed in regard to their flexibility to acquire premier free-agent talent.
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