In today’s often hyperbolic, social media-driven world, we revel in extremes in the NBA, particularly on the negative end of the spectrum. A team is either a title contender or it sucks and should tank. A coach is either a mastermind or incompetent. A player is either a star or garbage.
This is especially true when it comes to appraising trade values of players near the February 6 deadline. A player is either underrated because he’s on a great contract or he’s “the most untradeable contract in the league.” And once a player is designated as having an untradeable contract, he’s nothing more than dead weight sinking his team’s salary cap. John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love -– they will all be synonymous with the phrase “horrible contract” until the expiration of their current max deals.
And then there’s the curious case of Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul.
CP3 has accomplished the unthinkable over the past six months, dragging his trade value from the Seventh Circle of Hell into a strange purgatory where he could be flipped for an asset or two. But neither he nor OKC seems interested in doing that in 2020 because he’s probably more valuable to the Thunder than he would be to any other team. Paul, who will be 35 by the end of this season, has, at least for this season, become the NBA’s version of Benjamin Button. (For those of you who are pop culturally unsound, click here.)
How did Paul, who is on Year 2 of his four-year, $159.7M max deal, accomplish this feat? Let’s start at rock bottom.