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What would have to happen for the Warriors to pick up Chris Paul’s option?

It could happen.

Chris Paul talking to Steve Kerr Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Golden State Warriors made a shocking blockbuster trade in June to send up-and-coming star Jordan Poole for 38-year old future Hall of Famer and longtime rival Chris Paul, it was understood that there were two reasons for the trade.

The first reason was that between Poole’s regression last year, his struggles with turnovers, and the complicated and unfortunate locker room dynamic that included — but was not limited to — Draymond Green punching him, the Dubs believed they had a better chance of winning a championship in the upcoming season with a 12-time All-Star and perhaps the greatest ball security point guard in NBA history at the helm.

The second reason was that the Warriors annual tax payments are larger than the GDP of all but 12 countries* and were enticed by the fact that Paul is owed no money beyond this season, while Poole is due more than $95 million from 2024 through 2027.

*For legal purposes, this is a joke. But only barely.

But while the Warriors can, and likely will get off of Paul’s contract next summer — which will help them keep paying huge sums of money to Green, Steph Curry, and Andrew Wiggins, and re-sign Klay Thompson — they don’t have to. Paul is under contract for the 2024-25 season, for a non-guaranteed rate of $30 million. The Dubs will have to choose by June 28 whether to keep CP3 employed for that price, or let him enter unrestricted free agency.

So what would it take for Joe Lacob, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and the rest of the Warriors braintrust to sign off on that? The way I see it, there are two things that could make it happen. Well there are a lot more things, but they dabble into hypotheticals that I don’t want to waste time talking about — things like Wiggins demanding a trade, or Thompson playing so poorly or getting injured that the Warriors don’t need to pay him next summer.

Here’s how it could happen.

They win a championship this season

Lacob has been clear that the Warriors don’t print money and need to be conscious of things. He’s also been clear that they’ll pay just about anything if it guarantees success.

Or, as proof of theory, after the Warriors won a championship in 2022, they turned around and gave more than $200 million to Poole and Wiggins to keep them around. And then, after they had a semi-disappointing season end this past May, they turned around and traded Poole for a cheaper player, and talked Green into signing at a rate that was likely below what he would have gotten had he tested the open market.

I don’t know how Lacob feels after all these years of nine-figure tax payments, but I know he’s as competitive as any player in the NBA, and I’m guessing there’s a small part of him that even revels in blowing money to keep a juggernaut together, just because it pisses off other owners so much.

So if the Dubs hoist a trophy next June, and Paul is a critical part of it, I have a hard time seeing them let him walk just because his contract is large.

They contend, and CP3 is a star

Paul is 38, yes, so he’s probably trending in the wrong direction. He’s also just a year and some change away from being named not just an All-Star, but an All-NBA selection, while leading the league with 10.8 assists per game.

Should we expect those things to happen this year? No. Should we be shocked if they do, especially with some of the pressure taken off of him thanks to Curry and Thompson’s offensive prowess? Also no.

It’s easier to bite the bullet on an expensive roster when you win a championship, but when you’re clearly a title contender and one of your players is averaging 17 points and 10 assists while making the All-Star team? Kind of hard to push them aside and claim you’re still in win now mode.

Now, with all that said, other options remain. The Warriors have Paul’s Bird rights, so they could reject his option, and re-sign him to a different deal. If Paul is good but not $30 million good, they could potentially talk him into a longer-term deal that pays less annually ... something like three years and $50-60 million. Or if Paul still has a lot to offer, but is so far removed from his All-Star form that he won’t be offended by the team rejecting his option, they could simply let him hit free agency and re-sign him to a modest one-year deal.

If forced to choose, I’d say the most likely option is that Paul spends the 2024-25 season playing for a different team, but it’s pretty easy to find ways that he’ll be more than one-and-done in the Bay Area.

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