LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 05: Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder discusses a call with referee Marc Davis #8 during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 05, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Chris Paul and the New York Knicks are certainly an odd fit, but the veteran point guard is the leader the team needs.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Knicks have a leadership problem, and Chris Paul can solve it.

The veteran point guard is certainly an odd fit for the beleaguered Knicks. Paul is 35 years old and hasn’t missed out on the playoffs in a decade. This is someone used to winning, so why would he have any interest in playing for the rebuilding Knicks?

Well, Paul might not have much choice in the matter. It’s no secret the Oklahoma City Thunder have been trying to trade him since acquiring him from the Houston Rockets last summer. Now, with coach Billy Donovan out and Paul due over $41 million next season, those efforts have resumed.

According to Scoop Robinson of Heavy, New York is one of six teams interested in Paul. Moreover, Robinson says the Knicks “have an offer lined up.”

With the Knicks rebuilding and needing their swagger back, there’s no question to it. Paul is the man to lead this team.

Why Chris Paul?

Some readers are probably confused. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece exploring the possibility of a trade for Paul and ultimately said it was the right move. Last week, I said pursuing Fred VanVleet in free agency was a mistake since rebuilding via the draft should be a priority. Yet, acquiring an aging point guard would be totally fine?

It’s also worth noting that, at 35, Paul is at the point in his career where playing on a losing team is far from ideal. He’s a playoff regular and is absolutely allowed to chase rings. With the Knicks, the postseason would be a complete pipe dream.

Furthermore, Knicks insider Jonathan Macri says the Thunder will take Paul’s preference into consideration with any trade talks. Even if he has some interest in New York, there are far better teams additionally in need of a point guard.

That all being said, let me better explain.

Though the Knicks should focus on landing a younger point guard, Paul is a great transitional guy. The reason is this year’s NBA Draft class is fairly weak, and the Knicks are stuck with the No. 8 pick. Lots of high-ceiling point guards will be available then, but no man is an absolute sure thing. Anyone the Knicks pick will likely need a year or two to develop.

Enter Paul, whose leadership speaks for itself. He has always been a pass-first point guard despite his 18.5 career points per game, having led the league in passing four times. Therefore, who better to help develop a young point guard than him?

Leadership + swagger

Now, let’s shift the conversation to Paul the leader. First, he’s just a natural impact player. As a rookie for the then-New Orleans Hornets, he led the team to 38 wins after they won just 18 the previous season. Two years later, New Orleans was a playoff team.

Similarly, Paul turned the Los Angeles Clippers from lowly losers into Lob City. In his first year with the Houston Rockets, the already-talented team went from 55 to 65 wins. Simply speaking, the man is that much of a difference-maker.

But leadership aside, Paul has something the Knicks have been lacking for years, and that’s pure swagger. Sure enough, the front office is already working on that. Paul’s former agent, Leon Rose, is the Knicks’ new president and has already made a big splash in hiring Tom Thibodeau as head coach. On top of that, noted consultant William “World Wide Wes” Wesley was hired as an executive VP. No one is quite sure what he does, but his network runs deep from Michael Jordan to movie stars.

Now, think of the swagger Paul brings to the table. For someone listed at just 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, he plays a lot bigger. Never afraid to get tough on defense, his reputation as a dirty player precedes him. Despite his injury history, he’s willing to put his body on the line if it helps his team, a la Nate Wilson in the ’90s classic, “Eddie.”

The point is that win or lose, Paul is someone who will show up every day and play his heart out on the floor. Whether the Knicks are up by two in a tight game or down by 30 at halftime, he will never slow down whatsoever.

On a rebuilding team, this is called pure leadership.

Final thoughts

I could go through a whole laundry list of other reasons as to why Paul is the leader the Knicks need, but we’ll simplify in the interest of time. He is a 10-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist. I even had the chance to interview Paul about being part of Team USA in my early sportswriting days, and just how he unconditionally supported his teammates was mind-blowing.

Even if the Knicks draft their future franchise point guard in November, Paul would still be an ideal pickup. This young squad needs a leader they will follow to Hades and back without question. Paul has brought that out in every team he’s played with in his career.

Just look at the impact Paul had with the Thunder. Not much was expected of the team after losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George to offseason trades, one of which was for Paul. Instead, as The Ringer detailed, Oklahoma City became the league’s premier clutch team on the back of CP3.

And even though the Thunder lost a tough seven-game series, it didn’t affect Paul’s attitude. He was overwhelmingly supportive of his teammates’ performance in a postgame press conference and even criticized the officiating.

This is the leadership the Knicks have been lacking for years — someone who will just pick the team up and motivate everyone regardless of circumstance. Between hiring Rose, Thibodeau, and Wesley, New York is fully committed to this kind of change.

In trading for Paul, this commitment would be all the more reinforced.

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