The Preface

Chapter 15 for the Point God was unlike any other campaign in his illustrious career.

From an unexpected and impromptu relocating from Houston, to a never before seen work stoppage due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, then the tipping point of emotions and responsive action taken by the players with the goal of creating a better America, Chris has had his plate full. 

However, to whom much is given, much is tested, and  no one is better suited to take charge and lead dynamic groups of men through adversity than him. 

Chris Paul is the NBAs best leader and has been for years, making his positioning as President of the Players Association a perfect match. In the contexts of guiding the young bucks that this Thunder roster consisted of, tapping into his business and personal partnership with Bob Iger for the use of Disney’s facilities in Orlando, then corralling rightfully disgruntled men of multiple races to come together as one collective voice, the 10-time all star successfully executed all season. While also being the father to two African American children of his own, the title he undoubtedly values most.

It’s almost unfathomable to think he was able to compartmentalize with issues of this magnitude, while still remaining an all-NBA performer on court all season. His 2019-2020 campaign saw him miss just one game (personal reasons due to the loss of the late great Kobe Bryant, rest in honor Mamba) but this is what Paul did in response to a off season that consisted of people trying to write his story for him

These statistics along with the many intangibles he possesses, and how he spearheaded the Thunder to a the 5th seed in the always contentious Western Conference, garnered him yet another top 5 finish in the MVP race in many voters’ estimations. This was one helluva response to the many wrongful aspersions casted upon the 35 year old. 

Even more, when it mattered most in close games both in the regular season and in the playoffs, he rose to the occasion time after time. He was Mr. 4th Quarter and reminded those that forgot, that he is one of the clutchest players the league has ever seen.

His season is now over after a game 7 loss that came down to the final second. The journey from a 0.2% chance at the playoffs to the final seconds of game 7 has him as the most covered trade chip in the league going into the off season. Though he is still owed roughly $85 million over the next 2 seasons, his value added to any contender tilts the scale and adds immensely to their title window. By the looks of point guard play and closing ability from a handful of teams, his services would be a big time upgrade. 

In this series of posts, I’ll be diving into viable transactions where CP3 could compete for a championship.

The Milwaukee Bucks

A season that included not only the third best record in franchise history (56-17), but also the best record in the league, came to a disappointing end. The conclusion of the 2019-2020 campaign for the Bucks is eerily similar to how last season ended for them, only with more franchise altering implications to tend to in response to an ending that induced plenty of head-shaking. 

The 2016-2017 Most Improved Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will likely become a back-to-back MVP in the coming days… let that sink in. His ascension from then to now, and the franchises return to relevance are in direct correlation. He elevated them from a fringe playoff team to a contender in their current rendition.

However, to whom much is given much is tested. As Giannis’ league-wide recognition and dominance became more profound so did the pressure of him and his teammates to perform in the postseason. The former has continued to develop more and more with each passing season, the latter has undoubtedly left more to be desired.

Each passing season has seen The Freak’s scoring and rebounding numbers rise. He’s the ultimate weapon in the open court, and may be the scariest sight in that setting that the league has ever seen when changing ends. He possesses the skills of a guard in the body of a center, and on any given possession he can play three different positions. Though he is devoid of a shooting prowess that defenses have to account for, Antetokounmpo more than makes up with unrelenting tenacity and a demonstrative motor, all constant reminders of the type of competitor the 6’11 25 year-old is. Though the semblance of a consistent jumper isn’t quite there yet, he’s clearly working on it and has grown there too.

The Milwaukee Bucks are his team. He doesn’t hesitate in stating this claim, nor should he. He also holds himself accountable for the on-court play of the franchise he remains ever-so loyal to. Before pinpointing the mistakes a teammate made, or even to, he is quick to speak about what he could have done better. The onus is always on his shoulders, the mark of a true leader.

He’s made it clear that his aspirations of hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy in Milwaukee are something he’s hell-bent on manifesting. However, that weight has looked to have been too heavy for him to lift at the helm “alone.”

The Problems for Milwaukee

Though roster construct over the last two seasons under Head Coach Mike Budenholzer have not been lacking, there have been a few instances that become cyclical and worked adverse to them reaching their ceiling:

  • Scoring away from the basket for Giannis
  • A consistent partner in crime for Giannis
  • Closing
  • Consistent point guard play offensively
  • Players creating offense for themselves
  • Functioning viably independent of Giannis
  • Shooting surrounding Giannis

These glaring weaknesses have been spoken about at nauseum, and have become a broken record at this point. The Bucks, as presently constructed, simply do not have what it takes to get to the Finals. This season they had both an all-star, MVP, and DPOY in Giannis, another all-star with Middleton, a coach of the year candidate in Budenholzer, and 2 other All-NBA recognized defenders in Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe. A team with this makeup is expected to be in the Finals. 

Granted, yes there have been unthinkable instances that make this season unique from any in sports history, the Bucks fearless leader made it known that this season’s championship shouldn’t be asterisked. He insisted that it should warrant more praise than a championship under normal circumstances. 

“I feel like at the end of the day this is gonna be the toughest championship you could ever win. Because the circumstances are really, really tough right now. Whoever wants it more is gonna go out there and take it.”

After teammates and staff echoed the same sentiments, and the result they came out of the bubble with, it’s obvious they’re in need of change.

The Solution(s)

Chris Paul

The Bucks are not multiple pieces away from shoring up their issues. Adding the 35 year old to their core (Giannis, Middleton, B. Lopez) gives them a dynamic foursome that should be able to stay afloat viably with only a tandem of the four sharing the court at a time. The dynamic of CP3 though, specifically from lead guard, gives them all that they had in Bledsoe defensively, but so much more offensively. Hall of Fame playmaking, legendary pick and roll manipulation, elite 3-point shooting off the dribble and off the catch, a master of controlling pace, and all around efficient maximizing of possessions while taking a ton of pressure off of Giannis makes the pursuit of the Point God a no brainer for the Bucks.

Transaction-wise, it will be tough to navigate to a feasible package that leaves the Thunder content. Also, considering the stiff competition that will be bidding in the CP3 sweepstakes (specifically Philadelphia, and eventually the Lakers) as well as the lack of draft pick capital they have, it becomes clustered.

Guaranteed players on the books for Milwaukee:

Middleton, Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, B. Lopez, Hill, Wilson, and DiVincenzo. 

Ilyasova has a non-guaranteed $7.0M. R. Lopez has a $5M player option and his market likely won’t net him more. Same likey goes for Wes Matthews who has a $2.6M player option though he may be able to leverage a negotiation having been a starter on a contender, and Sterling Brown has a qualifying offer of $2M.

Any trade for the Bucks to receive CP3 will likely warrant a 3rd team’s involvement.

The Bucks will have to unload Bledsoe, Hill, Ilyasova, and Wilson. They’ll be stubborn and extremely reluctant to include either of B. Lopez or DiVincenzo in acquiring Paul, and rightfully so. The decision on DiVincenzo will likely decide whether the Bucks have to include a pick (if he’s not included) or won’t (if he’s shipped out).

Joe Harris

I do feel they need an upgrade in shooting and specifically at the wing position opposite of Middleton. I believe Joe Harris is the absolute perfect complimentary target and fit for the Bucks both stylistically and positionally to add via free agency.

The former 3-pt contest championship, who averaged 14.5 ppg while connecting on 42.4% of his near 6 attempts from deep this season, has proved to be a solid rotation player in search of a bigger role in an offense. 

As the 5th option on a team that has the collective floor spacing, then elite playmaking abilities that Giannis and CP3 would present, it would be clean look after clean look for him. 

More than just a shooter, Harris has shown an ability to score within an offense. He’s good at making “Princeton Offense” style cuts backdoor and scoring in general with his off the ball movement and gravity. He has a very good feel for the game and won’t ever step outside of his role. His off-ball movement would be an offense in itself not unlike the dynamic Korver has brought them. It’d be in a much more playable body, and in many more minutes too.

Over the last two seasons in Brooklyn, he’s shot 44.8% from 3. From the corners, 51.2%. At the basket, 64%.

Though he left the bubble after 2 games in the playoffs for personal reasons, he averaged 16.5 ppg (52% from the field and 58% from 3) and 10 rebounds.

The Trade (a template) including the signing of Joe Harris

Transaction-wise, it will be tough to navigate to a feasible package that leaves the Thunder content. Also, considering the stiff competition that will be bidding in the CP3 sweepstakes (specifically Philadelphia, and eventually the Lakers) as well as the lack of draft pick capital they have, it becomes clustered.

Milwaukee after acquiring Chris Paul and Joe Harris

Their roster would sport one of the best, dynamic, and most well-balanced starting lineups of Chris Paul, Joe Harris, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez. The bench, based off my trade template, would incorporate DiVincenzo in a larger role (which his play has warranted) as the backup guard, Wes Matthews who could opt in should his market value not rise (also may stay as he’s playing in the backyard of his alma mater Marquette), Sterling Brown on his qualifying offer, and Robin Lopez who will likely opt in. 

They would have the best pick and roll tandem in CP3 and Giannis, 4 of the most efficient 3-pt shooters in the league around Giannis, a chance to have a defense that could be even better than it was in seasons past, and be much better-equipped for postseason play. They would also have 3 all-NBA defenders and 3 all-NBA guys offensively. 4 players who have all averaged over 20 ppg at one point in their careers and a good mix of ages.

Middleton would be properly positioned and in the ranks as one of the best 3rd options in the league while getting even more efficient looks. It’s worth noting that he was a single-digit number of makes from the field away from joining the exclusive 50-40-90 club of peak efficiency. Those looks are even more in rhythm and will be even more clean having CP3 setting him up.

Brook Lopez will be even more relaxed in protection. He’s accumulated 342 blocks in the last two seasons and is very quietly one of the best defensive anchors. He, Giannis, and Chris Paul all bring a dynamic of defensive anchorage which will frustrate any offense, and lead to those momentum-garnering uptempo bucket blitzes for Giannis or even Middleton/Harris when leaking ahead for transition 3’s.

I love their chances against anyone in the NBA with this roster.

Yes, their bench leaves more to be desired but you can do a lot worse. There are viable players in free agency they can rebuild that second unit with, namely Derrick Jones Jr., Kent Bazemore, bring back Pat Connaughton, Jae Crowder (another Marquette guy), Kyle Korver (if he doesn’t retire), and Mo Harkless.

Coach Bud, assuming he’ll still be there at Giannis’ discretion, will be able to structure a rotation that allows for none of his players to exceed the 30 minute per game mark again. He’ll also have elite playmaking on the court for the full 48 between CP3 and Giannis. He’ll truly have an embarrassment of riches in that regard, allowing him to focus solely on fixing his in-series-adjustment flaws come playoff time.

In all, the Bucks are essentially auditioning for Giannis with their moves this off-season. They’ll offer him a max extension at some point, which he’ll likely decline because he’s eligible for the same contract after next season. He could also help them and their cap situation if needed by signing a 1+1 deal which would essentially have him on a one year deal that includes a player option in the second. It gives Giannis more freedom in free agency, and the chance to sign and resign for a max. It’s what LeBron did in his initial return to Cleveland, and what Durant did when he joined the Warriors.

Regarding options to appease Giannis, there are no options better than adding Chris Paul in place of Bledsoe via trade. The Bucks are still operating in a championship window, it’s time for them to execute while Giannis is still under contract. 

A championship next season is the ultimate leverage in retaining their “homegrown” star for the foreseeable future.

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