Chris Paul linked to surprising team amid possible Warriors exit

The Warriors have some difficult decisions to make this offseason, but Paul could have an intriguing backup plan in place if he doesn't return to Golden State.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors / LOREN ELLIOTT/GettyImages

The season is over for the Golden State Warriors after being eliminated in the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings, and in many ways, it feels like a mercy. Steve Kerr's crew never really found itself in a season that can best be described as "arduous," and now with a critical offseason looming, some tough choices will need to be made.

The Warriors still have Steph Curry, which means that contending for a championship is the only mandate. How general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. goes about that, though, is anyone's guess. Golden State must first decide on a plan for Klay Thompson, the sharpshooting two-way player that has been the Robin to Curry's Batman for all these years, but now is diminished by age and injury. Thompson is an unrestricted free agent, but both he and the team have expressed a desire to stay together.

Then there's Draymond Green, who would fit best into the aforementioned analogy as the Joker, a figure whose unrelenting commitment to chaos would almost be admirable if it wasn't so detrimental to the people of Gotham City (i.e. the Warriors and their fans). Green signed a four-year, $100 million contract last offseason to remain with the only professional team he's ever known, but after another year of not being able to control himself on the court, his act has worn thin.

Green's defense and playmaking have been an integral component to the Warriors dynasty, yet it was obvious by some of the on-court reactions of Curry, Thompson and Kerr this season that they've had enough of his antics. Could Green be shipped out of town in the hope of stabilizing the team? It's in play.

The forgotten man in this is Chris Paul, a surefire Hall-of-Famer who has almost become an afterthought after coming over in a trade for Jordan Poole last summer. Paul played the fewest minutes of his career as he mostly ran with the Warriors' second unit, and with a $30 million payday awaiting him if he's still on the roster by June 28, it's widely expected that the Warriors will cut him loose before then.

Where could Chris Paul end up if he doesn't return to the Warriors?

For a veteran of Paul's stature, there's always the assumption that if given the choice of his next destination, he'd go to a team with a chance of winning an NBA title, the one prize that's eluded him in his decorated career. With the league seemingly as wide open as ever, this could mean several destinations, especially as some of the league's younger teams have leaped to contender status. Teams such as the Thunder and Magic spring to mind as fast-rising teams that could use a veteran point guard.

Paul could also latch on to a team like the Nuggets, Bucks, or Sixers — perennial contenders with a former MVP as their focal point. Denver, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia are all among the favorites when their superstars are healthy, and joining one of these would virtually guarantee that Paul would have a serious chance at finally securing a ring.

Instead of hooking up with a team that would contend with or without him, though, Paul could go a different route, and I have to admit that I like this option the best, both for him and his prospective team. NBA insider Marc Stein recently floated the rumor that Paul could end up in San Antonio. The Spurs won only 22 games this season, but with the presence of Victor Wembanyama, the future is incredibly bright. The 7-foot-4 French rookie somehow exceeded the sky-high expectations for his rookie year by scoring over 21 points per game while leading the league in blocks by a wide margin.

Wembanyama's frequent flashes of brilliance were made even more impressive by the quality (or lack thereof) of the roster around him. The Spurs put a square peg into a round hole by playing Jeremy Sochan at point guard for most of the year, and the best pieces outside of Wembanyama were Keldon Johnson and ... that's it I guess?

Seeing that the hype around Wemby was justified will open all kinds of doors in free agency, as other players want to get in the athletic big man's orbit. Paul would be a perfect fit alongside him — a veteran point guard with which to run a lethal pick and roll, show him the ropes (remember that Paul was credited with having a profound impact on the development of Deandre Ayton in Phoenix), and feed him the ball in the right spots.

Paul could earn a second mayoral term in Lob City with Wembanyama after years of throwing the ball up to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and with another veteran piece or two, the Spurs could make a huge jump up the Western Conference standings. By the time Paul is ready to ride into the sunset in a few years, they could even give him a chance to go out on top with a title, and he could be a big reason why.

The NBA is sometimes as fun for its off-the-court stories as what happens on the court. The playoffs just began and will understandably dominate the conversation for the next two months, but that won't stop fans from speculating on where stars like Paul will end up. Could it be San Antonio?

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