According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, league officials believe the 35-year-old point guard prefers to play for a contender rather than serve in a mentor role with a Thunder team whose days as a contender are over.
Paul averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds last season while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor. The Thunder fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Rockets and parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan shortly after.
It's not surprising Paul would want another chance at winning a title. Despite playing on some of the most exciting clubs in the NBA—teaming up with Blake Griffin on the Los Angeles Clippers and later joining James Harden's Houston Rockets—the veteran has made the conference finals just once in his 15-year career.
Finding a contender that both needs a tier-one point guard and can absorb cap hits of $41 million and $44 million over the next two years won't be easy.
The Thunder have plenty of assets that could sweeten any potential trade for Paul, but it makes little sense for a rebuilding club to part with first-round picks or young talent.
Besides, the Knicks aren't close to contending.
With little clarity on how next season will play out amid the pandemic, and with the free-agent landscape equally murky, the best bet for all sides could be to let Paul begin the year with OKC and look to capitalize on a potential trade at the deadline.
It may prove too difficult to get him to a contender any other way.