Veteran's departure to pacific rival would be major kick in the guts for Warriors

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers / Harry How/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors decision on veteran point guard Chris Paul is set to play an integral part in their plans over the coming months, with the 39-year-old holding a $30 million non-guaranteed contract for next season.

Given the franchise's exorbitant payroll and desire to duck under the NBA's second-tax apron, the Warriors are expected to either waive Paul or guarantee part (or all) of his contract to utilize in a trade. If the 12x All-Star is cut by Golden State, or another team post-trade, he would become a free agent for the first time in his illustrious career.

The chance of Chris Paul departing the Golden State Warriors for the Los Angeles Lakers has been described as a "real possibility"

Following a successful year with the Warriors as a backup point guard for the first time in his career, Paul is expected to have a number of suitors should he become a free agent ahead of his 20th season in the league.

One of those could be Golden State's pacific rival in the Los Angeles Lakers, with Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus telling the Athletic's Jovan Buha that a Paul move to the Lakers is a real possibility

"There is a reasonable chance he gets traded or just cut by the Warriors. He and LeBron obviously have a close relationship. There is a universe where the Lakers sign Chris Paul. It makes a lot of sense to me. Is Chris coming for the minimum? I don’t know. I don’t want to say he comes cheap to the Lakers, but in the absence of a better offer, I could see that."

Eric Pincus

Given the Warriors hold Paul's future in their own hands, few rival fans will be sympathetic if they themselves choose to move on. However, the franchise could hold hopes of bringing Paul back on a lesser deal, though that does leave themselves vulnerable to him opting for a different destination.

A deflection specifically to the Lakers would be a kick in the guts to the Warriors, particularly if it's on anything close to a minimum contract. Paul had been headed to the Lakers in a blockbuster trade in 2011, only for the league to famously veto the deal.

A close relationship with LeBron James could lure Paul to the Lakers on a cheap deal, with Golden State themselves having tried to pair the two when they made a stunning play for James at the mid-season trade deadline.

Paul averaged 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 58 games for the Warriors after being acquired in a trade centered around Jordan Poole last offseason.