Rumors have been circulating for a while now about the Knicks possibly trading for veteran point guard Chris Paul. While adding Paul would certainly help the Knicks win more games, is it the right move for the future of their team?
The obvious plus side to having Chris Paul is that the Knicks would ultimately win more games and finally have a competent point guard to run their offense. The less obvious positive is Paul’s leadership and his impact on the Knicks’ young core of RJ Barret, Mitchel Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and whoever the Knicks select in the upcoming 2020 draft. In Paul’s one year with the Thunder he was able to elevate the games of both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder. Let’s start with Shai. In Shai’s rookie season with the Clippers he averaged 10.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, had a PER of 13.4 and a TS% of .554 in 27 MPG. In Shai’s sophomore season with Paul and the Thunder he averaged 19.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, had a PER of 17.8 and a TS% of .566 in 35 MPG. Yes I am aware that he played more minutes with the Thunder than he did with the Clippers but he averaged 9 more points per game while shooting better from the field. Now lets get into Dennis Schröder. Dennis is a 26 year old point guard who has spent 7 years in the league. Dennis played with both the Russel Westbrook and Paul George led Thunder in 2018-19, and also the Chris Paul led team this year. In 2018-19 Dennis put up 15.5 PPG on 14 shots a game, had a PER of 12.7 and a TS% of .508 all in 29 MPG. In the following season Dennis put up 19 PPG on 15 shots a game, had a PER of 16.8, and hosted a TS% of .573 all in 31 MPG. Now that is serious improvement for a player in his 7th NBA season. Unlike Shai, Dennis played about the same minutes as last season, took basically the same amount of shots, but scored more and shot better. If Chris Paul can help some of the young Knicks players elevate their game like he helped Shai and Dennis, then I am all in for acquiring Chris Paul.
Now lets talk about the negatives starting with his age. Chris Paul is 35 years old. A 35 year old point guard does not fit the timeline of a team who is building around a core of 19 and 20 year olds. By the time the Knicks’ younglings reach their full potential, Chris Paul’s playing days will most likely be over. There is no way Chris Paul can be the point guard of the future for the Knicks. At best he can serve a leadership role and help attract free agents to New York while elevating his young teammates like he did in OKC. But possibly the biggest negative of acquiring Chris Paul is not his age, its his contract. Next season, Paul is owed $41 million and the following season he has a player option worth $44 million. Paul has already come out stating that he will be accepting his player option so that year, and the money he is owed, is basically guaranteed. Luckily for the Knicks they do have a tremendous amount of Cap Space and a roster loaded with expendable contracts. Nevertheless, taking on an aging point guard with a $40+ million contract is a giant risk that may not be worth taking.