Until Chris Paul spoke Saturday, this was supposed to be a dull free-agent season. To many of us, all NBA transactions are interesting; however, the 2013 free-agent class seemed unlikely to have a major impact on the landscape of the league. Dwight Howard has been the most oft-discussed member of the class, and while there is a bit of intrigue regarding his next contract, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that he'll stay put with the Los Angeles Lakers. Besides the fact that the Lakers are a destination franchise, the fact of the matter is there are a limited number of possible suitors for star-level free agents this summer. Paul will find that out soon enough.
All along, it has been assumed that Paul would simply re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers -- and that remains the default position. Los Angeles can offer Paul a five-year, $107.5 million deal, and he can't get more than four years from another team. You also don't want to read too much into the emotional words of a player still stinging from a disappointing loss. Despite the Clippers' early exit, Paul led all players in PER during the first round, so he's certainly not to blame for the defeat. Given his comments, it seems likely that his quest for a championship is going to outweigh the monetary aspect of his free agency. The money will be considerable either way, and he's still got those Cliff Paul spots running to pad the bank account.
In terms of bottom-line value, Paul is easily the best player available this summer, the kind of performer whose signature alters the fortunes of any franchise he joins. Howard may challenge Paul's place atop the pecking order of free agents because of the scarcity of elite centers, but either way teams will be salivating over the prospect of bringing Paul aboard. So the questions then become: Does remaining with the Clippers offer Paul his best chance at a championship? If not, then where could he go?