The 76ers are a legitimate title contender this season. They have All-Stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and, after some offseason tweaks, a more balanced roster with complementary role players. Plus, Doc Rivers is hitting all the right buttons in his first year as Philadelphia’s head coach.
Pretty good, right? Now imagine this 76ers team with Chris Paul.
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A Paul-to-Philly trade may have happened this past offseason if the future Hall of Famer had expressed any interest in joining the Sixers. But Paul was reportedly a “driving force” behind the deal that sent him from the Thunder to the Suns in November.
Ironically, sources say Philadelphia — with [Daryl] Morey having taken over the Sixers’ front office just weeks before Paul was sent to the Suns, and his former Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, part of their program too — made a spirited push to land Paul. The Sixers even believed there was some traction on a possible deal. The interest from Paul, however, was not mutual. With Paul targeting Phoenix as the best fit professionally and personally, and [Sam] Presti in a much-improved negotiating position because of the way Paul had played, the Suns had won the CP sweepstakes.
It’s unclear why Paul didn’t entertain the idea of playing for the Sixers. Perhaps he didn’t view himself as a great fit alongside Embiid and Simmons. He may have been hesitant to work with Morey again after the former Rockets general manager unexpectedly traded him to Oklahoma City in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
Regardless of the reasoning, Paul’s decision has worked out just fine. He is averaging 16.1 points and 8.7 assists per game for a Phoenix squad that finds itself just one game back of the Jazz for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. He has a $44.2 million player option for next season that could keep him with the Suns for another season, but he is not sure whether he will take that option or hit free agency in search of a long-term contract.
“I mean, first and foremost, I love it [in Phoenix],” Paul told Amick. “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left. I don’t really think about that either. I feel too good. Seriously, this summer, I have no clue. As much as I’m involved in the union and stuff like that [as the president of the National Basketball Players Association], I don’t know what anybody’s teams are, [what their] caps are, I don’t know none of that stuff. I just play.”