Chris Paul Rumors: Rockets Need Max Contract to Re-Sign PG in Free Agency

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 24: Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets looks on in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets will reportedly need to offer point guard Chris Paul a max contract to retain him in free agency.

On Friday's edition of The Woj Pod (h/t Shane Mickle of ClutchPoints.com), ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said CP3 is highly unlikely to give the Rockets a discount:

"When the Rockets made that deal for Chris Paul, knowing they would re-sign him [once he hit free agency], they made a conscious decision that they were gonna have to live with [paying him] $46, $47 million-a-year salary when he's not nearly the player anymore in his late 30s, but, 'We're gonna make a run at it now; we wanna win a championship now. We'll deal with it [Paul's contract] later.'

"We'll see how that plays out in their contract talks [with Paul] here in free agency. Chris Paul didn't turn down $200 million from the Clippers because he thought that somehow the Rockets were gonna talk him into saving them luxury-tax money. I don't imagine it playing out that way."

Houston acquired Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers last offseason, and he helped lead the Rockets to within one win of reaching the NBA Finals.

In his first season with the Rockets, Paul averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He was arguably even better during the playoffs, averaging 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals per contest.

Paul was limited to just 58 games during the regular season, however, and he missed the final two games of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors with a hamstring injury. Houston lost both of those games and lost the series after taking a 3-2 lead.

Injuries have been an issue for the 33-year-old in recent years, as he missed 21 regular-season games in 2016-17 as well.

Paul is still among the NBA's elite point guards when healthy, though, and his resume is already Hall of Fame-worthy with nine All-Star nods, nine All-Defensive selections and eight All-NBA honors to his credit.

Along with James Harden's continued dominance and Clint Capela's growth, Paul was key in taking the Rockets from being a good team to the team with the NBA's best record. His importance was clear in the games he missed during the Western Conference Finals, and it's possible Houston would be playing for a championship if not for his injury.

There is inherent risk involved with giving Paul a max contract because of his injury history and age, but if the Rockets' main focus is on winning a championship in the next couple of years, they don't have many other options.

Failing that, the Rockets could be a candidate to land LeBron James in free agency. But if the Rockets give Paul a max extension, they'd be hard-pressed to make a run at LeBron without gutting the team around Harden and Paul.

Houston also must worry about what impact giving a max contract to Paul would have on its other free agents.

Capela should command a big contract as a restricted free agent, while Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green are among the key unrestricted free agents.

Per Spotrac, the Rockets are currently $19 million over the salary cap, so while they can retain their own players, it won't leave them much wiggle room in free agency if Paul is re-signed.

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