The Philadelphia 76ers had invested interest in trading with the OKC Thunder this past offseason for Chris Paul
When the OKC Thunder opted to trade away both Paul George and their franchise cornerstone, Russell Westbrook, during the summer of 2019, fans and analysts alike were soundly under the impression that Sam Presti and co. were guiding the team towards a full-fledged rebuild starting that coming season.
However, to much surprise, Oklahoma City instead went on to finish the 2019-20 campaign as the West’s fifth-seed and, in turn, extended their postseason streak to five straight years.
Though acquired as a mere salary dump from the Houston Rockets in the Brodie deal, the fallen star, Chris Paul, found himself leading the charge for his new ball club, producing at his highest level since 2016-17.
Through 70 games played, the Point God posted averages of 17 points, 6.7 assists, five rebounds, and 1.6 steals on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 37 percent shooting from deep. His production led to his first All-Star appearance and All-NBA selection in four years and, in turn, catapulted him up the totem pole of the game’s best guards.
However, even with his re-established top-tier status in the league, the Thunder still had their sights set on their rebuild, leaving the front office and Paul himself with the understanding that a parting of ways would be mutually beneficial for both parties.
Now, fast-forwarding several months later, we find CP3 once again establishing himself as an All-Star whilst serving as the floor general for the Phoenix Suns, spearheading them to the second-seed in the Western Conference standings.
In the offseason deal that landed the future Hall of Famer in Arizona, the OKC Thunder managed to get a quality return package consisting of expendable contracts and a 2022 first-round pick, thus adding to their already illustrious treasure trove of draft capital.
As was already aware, prior to the decision to send Paul to the Copper State, the trade interest for the veteran guard was quite captivating, with rumors ranging from the New York Knicks to the Milwaukee Bucks finding themselves in play for the seasoned pro.
Recently, it came out in a piece by Sam Amick of The Athletic (subscription required) that, of the many teams rumored to be interested in his services, the Philadelphia 76ers were heavily invested in pursuing Paul:
"“Sources say Philadelphia — with 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.”"
While no OKC Thunder fan should be upset about the return the team ended up getting for their blink and you’ll miss it franchise player, hearing that the Sixers were highly interested in trading for the 16-year-veteran has us at TI pondering on the concept of what Presti could have managed to get out of Philly.
Obviously, picks are a must when it comes to negotiations with Oklahoma City, so it would have been expected to see some sort of capital in return.
As far as salary matching is concerned in this hypothetical scenario, the 76ers could have easily made the money work, for, at the time, they still had Al Horford and his albatross contract on the books.
Perhaps landing the veteran big was inevitable last offseason and, should OKC have taken part in a deal with the Sixers, it likely would have included another piece to better match the money (still nearly a $14 million difference between the two contracts), so Josh Richardson easily could have made his way to the Sooner State, making a deal look something similar to the graphic below:
On top of these two players, we can assume that the OKC Thunder would also be bringing on the No. 21 pick in this past draft, which later became Tyrese Maxey but could have also easily turned into the likes of Immanuel Quickley (25th pick), Payton Pritchard (26th pick), or even Desmond Bane (30th pick), all of whom are having solid rookie campaigns for their respective ball clubs.
All in all, as stated several times already, what actually wound up happening with the Chris Paul offseason sweepstakes worked out great for the Thunder, and no one should second guess Presti’s actions.
Now, the front office will look to try and flip Horford this coming summer in a similar fashion (though certainly for far less of a return in comparison to Paul) and, should they get yet another solid package for the big, perhaps they may wish to consider getting their hands on another fallen star and try to whip them back into shape with the goal of exchanging them for more valuable assets.
Is this a likely scenario? Not exactly.
Still, with their track record, at the very least it’s worth considering.