Is a 36-year old Chris Paul the answer to the New York Knicks point guard woes?
The Knicks’ weakest link had been exposed in the playoffs as Tom Thibodeau scrambled for options at the point guard spot. Thibodeau was forced to rely heavily on Derrick Rose, who admirably played well until the former MVP ran out of gas in Game 5.
Enter Paul, who is reportedly planning to decline the lucrative player option that could make him the third-highest paid NBA player next season.
Eric Pincus, Bleacher Report’s salary cap guru, reported on Thursday that Paul would seek a multi-year deal that will pay him up to his late 30’s.
“Paul has a $44.4 million player option, which according to several sources, he intends to decline with hopes of inking a new multiyear deal (perhaps in the $100 million range over three seasons). It’s unclear if his recent shoulder injury changes his plans. Gordon Hayward, who has battled more severe injuries than Paul, made a similar decision this past offseason, opting out of his final year with the Boston Celtics to sign a four-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets,” Pincus wrote.
The Knicks balked at Paul’s price tag last offseason. With Paul becoming more affordable, will the Knicks take a flier on his last remaining NBA years? Paul’s ties with the Knicks’ leadership could play a factor.
“The New York Knicks appear to be a player away from being a competitive playoff team in the East. With Paul’s relationship with former CAA agent Leon Rose, now president of the Knicks, the Suns may have some competition for the veteran’s services next season,” Pincus added.
While Paul is currently dealing with a shoulder injury, his impact on a Phoenix Suns team that jumped from a borderline playoff team to the second seed in the West with him has been one of the biggest storylines along with the Knicks’ remarkable rise.
Paul’s friend and former teammate Matt Barnes said in November last year that the Knicks were on his shortlist.
“He was saying the Knicks were an option but, you know, if he was going to New York he wanted the full Knick experience, meaning he wanted the fans, he wanted the essence, he wanted the ambiance of that Madison Square Garden crowd. And going there now, you know, we don’t know if that crowd will ever be back,” Barnes said.
The crowd turnout at The Garden in the Knicks’ first playoff appearance in the last eight years could gravitate Paul to New York and reunite with his former agent Leon Rose.
Paul’s numbers may be down in the playoffs, but that can be attributed to his injury. His leadership, however, is immeasurable. The Suns are on the cusp of eliminating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, with Paul guiding the team’s young core.
Derrick Rose hinted at Knicks’ big offseason plans following their playoff exit.
“You know how that goes, man, that’s not up to me,” Rose said. “That’s up to the front office. They got big plans. Who knows if I may be back. I don’t know. I’m going to let my agent and them talk about it. But it’s really not up to me at all. We’ll just leave it like that.
Was he referencing Paul or another marquee player? That is up for debate in the next couple of months.
Paul could be the All-Star point guard that could catapult the Knicks to true contention in the East when healthy. But it’s going to be a move that comes with a risk given Paul’s age and playoff injury history.
The Knicks could opt for a younger point guard in LaMelo Ball, a restricted free agent, or Dennis Schroeder. But Chicago is also strongly interested in Ball. Meanwhile, Schroeder has been a big disappointment in the playoffs. The German point guard recently declined a four-year, $84-million extension with the Lakers.
If Schroeder wants more than that, it might be best for the Knicks to take a flier on Paul or Kyle Lowry or bring back Rose while waiting for a worthy successor.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo