Kyle Terada/Associated Press
There are dominoes across the NBA still teetering on the edges and waiting to fall.
Russell Westbrook’s trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets set in motion the next set of potential moves for the NBA offseason, with a possible Chris Paul deal taking over the spotlight.
Paul and Andre Iguodala are the hottest commodities on the trade market since both players are on rosters of teams that are not expected to make the playoffs.
Contenders are in the hunt to add Paul and Iguodala, as well as a few stars on the Washington Wizards who have not been fixtures on the rumor mill for most of July.
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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Oklahoma City Thunder have already been in discussions with Paul and his agents about a trade to redirect the guard to another team.
Wojnarowski mentioned the Miami Heat are prominent in the discussions for Paul, but other possibilities were being explored.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami is doing its due diligence on Paul, but it is not going to be as aggressive in its pursuit as it was in the trade talks for Westbrook.
Miami feels like a logical destination for Paul given the Heat need a second star to partner Jimmy Butler to contend for a high playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
But just like Westbrook, Paul has a massive contract the Heat would have to take on, and that could be a hindrance since the former Rockets guard is four years older than Houston’s new backcourt piece.
The 34-year-old’s contract valuation rises from $38 million to $44 million per season between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 campaigns.
Miami and Oklahoma City could have difficulties coming to terms, like they did with Westbrook, since the Heat refused to include Tyler Herro—or two of Herro, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow—in negotiations, per Jackson.
Miami is walking a fine line in its quest for Paul because it needs another high-quality player to go alongside Butler in a league that has suddenly flipped into one dominated by two-star sides.
In order to acquire Butler, the Heat had to trade a promising player in Josh Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers and dump Hassan Whiteside’s contract in a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.
The combination of cap constraints and the Thunder’s trade demands could force Miami to make some type of concession in personnel in order to add Paul.
But the three young players mentioned above could all play key roles in the future for the Heat with Butler as the centerpiece.
It does not make sense for Oklahoma City to include draft picks alongside Paul to sweeten the deal because it just worked hard to maximize the returns for Paul George and Westbrook with eyes on the future.
Even though Oklahoma City is expected to miss the playoffs with a weakened roster, general manager Sam Presti should still try to push for a young star or two to build some type of foundation.
That is why the negotiations for a potential Paul trade might come to an impasse. Miami has to give up something of significance in order to acquire the 34-year-old, but it can’t give up so much that it limits its potential of climbing up the Eastern Conference standings after finishing 10th last season.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, the Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are in pursuit of a trade for Iguodala.
But the Memphis Grizzlies’ asking price could be too much for some teams, as Marc Stein of the New York Times reported there is some belief Memphis could hold on to Iguodala unless it receives an offer including a first-round pick.
The problem with that demand for the Rockets and Clippers is they just mortgaged their draft futures in deals with the Thunder.
Houston sent protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 and two pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 to Oklahoma City.
The Clippers dealt unprotected first-rounders in 2022, 2024 and 2026, the unprotected picks originally owned by Miami in 2021 and 2023 and pick swaps for 2023 and 2025 in their trade with the Thunder.
From Memphis’ perspective, asking for a first-round pick is logical given how important Iguodala could be to a contending team.
Iguodala is a three-time NBA champion from his time with the Golden State Warriors, and his presence on the court would be valuable to both the Rockets and the Clippers as they try to qualify for the NBA Finals out of a crowded Western Conference.
The argument against sending a first-round pick to Memphis in exchange for Iguodala is his regular-season production has dropped off over the past few seasons.
Last season, Iguodala averaged 5.7 points per game in 64 contests, which was the worst scoring production of his career.
You can counter that criticism with the 10 double-digit point performances Iguodala put together during the playoffs.
If Iguodala produces at a similar level next postseason, he could be worth the first-round selection the Grizzlies are holding out for.
If Memphis is willing to alter its trade demands later in the offseason, a deal could be reached, but for now, the Rockets and Clippers might be forced to play a bit of a waiting game or look elsewhere since they are close to out of first-round selections.
John Wall and Bradley Beal
According to Jackson, there is sentiment inside the Heat that they would be willing to take on John Wall’s contract if that allows a trade for Bradley Beal.
Jackson also noted the Wizards appear unwilling to make such a dramatic deal at this time.
If any trade for Beal and Wall to Miami went down, it would send shock waves through the NBA, just like a handful of the major moves that already took place this offseason.
Wall and Beal are set to make more than $65 million combined next season. Wall is not an unrestricted free agent until 2023 and has an increase in salary similar to Paul’s contract, while Beal’s deal is up after the 2020-21 campaign.
For Washington to even consider a trade of this magnitude, it would have to receive a good amount of compensation in the form of draft picks or players. And given the price tags in the deals for Westbrook and George, it could be too high for Miami to meet.
Although Miami has reportedly not budged on trading its best young players to Oklahoma City, there is always the potential for it to change course if it could land a duo like Wall and Beal to join forces with Butler for a season as a big three in 2020-21 when Wall is healthy.
But any deal for Beal or Wall seems unlikely, with Wizards interim president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard telling The Athletic’s Ben Standig the team has not considered trading Beal:
“Not at all. It’s never crossed our mind. Bradley is somebody we’re building around. He’s a tremendous player, a tremendous person. One day he might make the Hall of Fame and still be a better person. He’s a tremendous guy. He’s been involved with everything we’re doing in the draft, free agency. We need his opinion.”