Chris Paul has been the most important addition to the Phoenix Suns franchise in a long time, following a path previously blazed by Charles Barkley in 1993 and Steve Nash in 2005 by immediately playing like an MVP while pushing the team to one of the league’s best regular season records.
In his first season with the Suns, Paul has as good a chance to make the NBA Finals as any season in his career to date. Yes, he had great teams in LA and Houston, but the West is so wide open this year that a path to the Finals is more available than ever. The Suns are 42-17 with the league’s second-best record and only 13 games to go before the playoffs start. They will be favored to make at least the Western Conference Finals, a peak he’s reached only once in 12 previous playoff runs.
And yet, he might only be a one-year wonder in the Valley of the Sun.
Paul has a one-year $44.2 million player option for next year that he could decline after the season is over to become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team in the league.
Why leave such a good thing with the Suns? If he leaves, it’s likely because he sees a better chance at a championship somewhere else. Sure he’s 36 years old, but at least a couple of contenders (Miami, Dallas) have the cap space to give him a very good multi-year deal. And that the tail end of his career, he’s likely to want his best shot at a ring.
Right now, Paul is just focused on right now.
In a recent interview with Sam Amick of the Athletic, Paul was noncommittal about his future beyond this season.
“I mean first and foremost, I love it here,” Paul said when asked about the option and whether Phoenix might be his final NBA stop. “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left. I don’t really think about that either. I feel too good.”
“Seriously, this summer, I have no clue. As much as I’m involved in the union and stuff like that, I don’t know what anybody’s teams are, (what their) caps are, I don’t know none of that stuff. I just play. And like I say, I’m lucky to have my brother, my brother who helps. I focus on playing.”
So yeah, Chris Paul has not set down roots in Phoenix. And you know he’s not one to do anything of the sort. He’s played for five different teams in his 15-year career, made the All-Star team with four of them and gotten MVP votes with (at least) three.
If he sees a better chance somewhere else, he might just take it. But then again, he’s got a whole lot going for him in Phoenix that he didn’t have in his recent stops.
In Phoenix, there’s no continual playoff disappointments (Clippers, Rockets) which ultimately bred discomfort with other stars (also Clippers, Rockets).
In Phoenix, there’s no need to establish his legacy in a bigger market (Hornets/Pelicans).
In Phoenix, he’s got a fellow superstar who reveres him and a coach who adores him. And that feeling is quite mutual.
“I think Monty and the staff that was here, they had already set what the culture was going to be,” Paul said of Williams, who is in his second season with the Suns. “And I came in, and that was a huge thing. When the trade happened, I had a long call with Monty. Monty was at my wedding. There’s an unbelievable trust there that goes deeper than just a coach.”
—Paul to Sam Amick of The Athletic
The connections with the Suns organization are deep. He loved playing for Monty Williams and alongside Willie Green (who is now a Phoenix assistant coach) in New Orleans. The GM at that time who orchestrated a trade to honor Paul’s wishes of going to a bigger market was Jeff Bower, now a VP with the Suns.
And he really wanted to play with Devin Booker. They can’t stop raving about each other, all season long.
He didn’t have any of these “deeper than basketball” connections in Oklahoma City.
What will happen this summer when Paul gets to decide his future? I don’t know. But I am glad for him that he’s got the power to choose his future for himself.
*You should read the whole article from Sam Amick — lots of great stuff on Paul and his career journey leading him here.