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Chris Paul Leaves LA: This and Other Top Story-Lines Heading Into NBA Free Agency

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This year’s free agency class is full of big name players who can and will have a huge impact on whatever team is able to sign them to a new deal. Ranging from Gordon Hayward, to Blake Griffin, and Paul George (although he is still under contract). There are so many great and intriguing story-lines as a result of all these big time players be out on the open market, but here are a few that you should keep a close eye on.

1. Chris Paul to play outside of LA next season and join Houston, will Griffin follow?

One of the biggest name players on the market this summer is Blake Griffin, yet the rumors surrounding him have been few and far between. After news broke of the CP3 trade to Houston, many spectators are awaiting Griffin’s next decision. At first, many believed that him and Chris Paul were most likely just leveraging the Clippers into giving them more money this off season and would continue to pursue getting a ring in L.A., however now that the Chris Paul Trade is official, Griffin might seem more willing to explore other options. Both Denver and Boston have been rumored to inquire about the star power forward, and if Boston’s plan to sign Hayward falls through, they will make a serious push to lock up Griffin to a max contract.

One thing is for sure, if Boston is able to land Hayward/George or Griffin/George than it certainly makes the Celtics a much more intriguing team next season.

Just like in the past, Celtics vs Lakers is back – but off the court this time. Both are deeply invested in Paul George and if anyone can pull of a heist, Ainge might be the guy.

2. Where will Paul George play next season? Boston, LA, Washington, Houston?

The best player “available” this off season is hands down Paul George. However, unlike Hayward and Griffin its gonna take more than a max deal to acquire him. George still has one more year on his contract with the Pacers and although the Pacers have shown a willingness to deal George after he made it clear that he will not be returning, it still is going to take a good haul to lure him away from Indiana. Also since George has been pretty clear with his intent to play for the Lakers, even if a team is able to acquire him, it’s no definite that he will even engage in extension talks. Still one year of Paul George and the small chance of being able to resign him is still worth a lot. All signs are pointing to George playing for another team this fall and their certainly hasn’t been a lack of interest in the star from teams around the league. The Lakers, Celtics, and Cavaliers are the most interesting teams to ask about George’s availability. The Lakers could wait until next off season and try and sign George then, but that would be extremely foolish of Magic Johnson. Although George has stated he wants to play for the Lakers now, his mind could change if he plays for another team and wins. They must make the trade now and lock him up long term instead of allowing George to explore other options.

The Celtics have the most assets to make a deal for George and Ainge is always one to make headline moves despite George’s unwillingness to sign long term the Celtics should still pull the trigger. Who knows adding Paul George certainly makes a series with Cleveland more interesting.

Speaking of Cleveland, they seem the most unlikely to trade for George but that doesn’t mean they won’t. If we’ve learned anything: never count LeBron out. In the end George’s willingness to negotiate a new contract might decide were he ends up, but it certainly makes the off season more intriguing.

3. Is Gordon Hayward already a Boston Celtic?

It’s been known for more than a year now that Brad Stevens ( Hayward’s coach at Butler) and the Boston Celtics have been very interested in the Jazz’s all star. Now it feels like the feeling is mutual. Boston has been rumored to be the clear favorites to land Hayward in free agency with Miami expressing desire to sign him to a max deal as well. All signs point to Hayward going to Boston to reunite with his former college coach, however its not a lock. Despite the fact that Boston is the favorite and Hayward has expressed interest in playing for them, the lure of Miami could step in. Granted this is unlikely but Hayward and the Heat have been rumored for quite some time now and it wouldn’t be the first time that a free agent has gone against the rumor mill. The Celtics themselves have shown they aren’t 100% confident that Hayward will sign with them. They are waiting to make a strong move for Paul George because of the uncertainty surrounding Hayward. Although its a long shot that he lands anywhere but Boston or Utah, Pat Riley has proven before he has an ability to lure big time players away from teams.

4. Is Carmelo finally going to leave New York?

Now that Phil is out of NYC, the Knicks focus shifts toward their superstar’s next move. Carmelo Anthony could likely be on his way out of New York via trade, and with his good friend Chris Paul joining the Rockets, options for Melo are looking bright.

He could find himself playing in either Houston, Cleveland, Washington or just about anywhere else next season. It’s really all up to Melo, but at the moment it still seems as if his heart is in New York.

Edited by Kyle Hirshkind

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