The Philadelphia 76ers are the proverbial "one piece away" championship contender. But it can't just be any piece. It's not a talent shortage Philly is facing, but rather, the absence of a particularly skilled player that can finally tie all those talented pieces together.
Chris Paul is that player.
Before we get into why Paul would be such a perfect fit in Philly, we have to consider whether the Sixers could even get him in the first place. The Thunder are currently a playoff team, and there are whispers around the league they may actually be buyers rather than sellers at the deadline.
Indeed, the Thunder have all the future assets they need. In their own way, they are also one player away -- not from being a title contender, but from being a really good team perhaps in the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz tier. Hanging on to Paul and gunning for the playoffs would make some measure of sense.
Still, Paul is not, in a perfect world, a long-term pillar in OKC, which is ultimately looking more down the road as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hopefully rounds into a franchise player and that trove of assets starts to pay off. Paul is on the backstretch of his road. He'll be 35 in May. At the conclusion of this season, he'll still be owed $85 million over the next two years, including $44.2 million in 2021-22 when he'll be nearing 37 years old.
If the Thunder can move Paul for some semblance of profit, or even just a palatable package to get off his contract, they would presumably be pretty open to discussion in spite of their early season success. Philly can offer an intriguing deal.
t starts with a future first-round pick, which is something a lot of teams wouldn't think of giving up for Paul, particularly given his contract, at this stage of his career. But Philly is in a position where maximizing this current title window should be the priority.