The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for NBA Legend Chris Paul during the summer of 2019. That was a blockbuster summer for the franchise, who traded away Paul George for a historic package that netted them an eventual All-NBA point guard and unheard-of draft compensation at the time. Then, Sam Presti flipped a pillar of the franchise, Russell Westbrook, to the Houston Rockets for picks and the perceived worst contract in the league, Chris Paul.
While Paul has discussed the move to Oklahoma City before, he was unfiltered on Ryan Clark’s podcast to give more detail into the process and how the Thunder revived his career.
In a tell-all interview with Ryan Clark, Chris Paul credits the OKC Thunder with reviving his career.
The Oklahoma City portion of the podcast began with Chris Paul telling Clark that then-Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey called Paul asking, “You do not want to be traded to OKC, right?” Paul agreed Oklahoma City was not the fit for him at that point in his career. Ultimately, Morey still shipped Chris Paul to OKC after telling him he would not a week later.
When the OKC Thunder acquired Paul, no one reached out to him right away. Not Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, or anyone from the organization. When Chris Paul inquired why, it was due to OKC looking to move Paul. That did not fly with Chris Paul. He took the initiative. “I called him. I called Sam Presti and said, ‘I don’t know about getting moved, or whatever, but right now, I play for the Thunder. I need to get ahold of some of [my teammates].” Obviously, Paul was not rerouted that offseason.
As the 2019-20 season began, Paul recounts a team meeting to start the year where he stood up and exclaimed, “If y’all want to know something about me, ask me, I am not asking to be traded; I am here.” That sentiment could be felt on the court that season as not only did his production increase, but his leadership value was unmatched and still praised to this day by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Chris Paul said of Oklahoma City, “I’ll tell you this, OKC was unbelievable, I might not be playing if not for that year [in OKC] because I found that joy back.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the hottest teams in the NBA at the time of the league’s shutdown in March 2020. Chris Paul led the Thunder as the head of the snake and allowed Billy Donovan to receive coach of the year attention with those three-guard lineups that featured Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Gilgeous-Alexander. Paul played 70 games in the shortened season to the tune of 17 points, five rebounds, six assists, and 1.8 STOCKs per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 36 percent from beyond the arc.
The partnership between the future Hall of Famer and the OKC Thunder was mutually beneficial. Sam Presti eventually got Paul to the Suns, where he made an NBA Finals appearance, and the Thunder kickstarted their rebuild.