May 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) in the second half of game three of the Western Conference semi finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at the Staples Center. San Antonio Spurs won 96-86. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
Tom Ziller has been ranking the top 50 free agents for next summer over at SB Nation's NBA site, and no surprise that a couple of Los Angeles players top the list. Ziller has Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers as the second rated free agent, behind Chris Paul of the Clippers. Hard to argue with that.
The question of course is whether either of those players are actually in play next summer. Paul has given every indication that he's happy with the Clippers and plans to re-sign. The only thing that matters at this point (and frankly, it's been by far the most important factor from the beginning) is how the team performs on the court in the coming season. Paul will almost certainly re-sign with a Clippers team that is competitive this season and continuing to build towards a bright future. The only reasonable scenario that would have Paul moving on is if the season goes terribly wrong for one reason or another.
Which is probably more or less the same reasoning with Howard and the Lakers, although it could be said that there's more ways it could go wrong for Howard. Not that I expect the Lakers to be less than terrific in the win-loss column -- but it does remain to be seen how many touches Howard gets in L.A. and how he feels about that.
As regards Paul's future, the Clippers would actually want Howard to remain with the Lakers, and more importantly to make it clear early on that he intends to do so. If Paul were to decide to look for pastures greener than those in Playa Vista, the question remains as to exactly where those pastures might be, and how he might get to them. The "toast" notwithstanding, the Knicks are already close to $20M over the cap for next summer and couldn't possibly sign Paul as a free agent even if they were to amnesty Amare Stoudemire. And other than New York, where would Paul go that is preferable to his situation with the Clippers? If he and Howard decided to team up superfriends style as a package deal then it might get a little uncomfortable around Clips Nation. Short of that, there just aren't any upgrades out there for CP3.