The Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul can get a head start on free agency by negotiating on a contract extension this week that would add years to his $44.2 player option for the 2021-22 season.
The league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for incumbent teams to negotiate extensions with their own players on eligible contracts through the end of the league year, and Chris Paul’s is one of those.
Teams and players are not allowed to negotiate terms of a new contract for an impending free agent prior to the new league year, which begins August 2. So, for example, the Suns cannot talk to any of their six soon-to-be free agents until everyone in the league can do so on August 2.
However, Chris Paul is an exception. He is not an impending free agent (the 2021-22 player option is guaranteed by the team if no action is taken by Paul) and his contract is eligible for an extension beyond 2022. Per league rules, these exclusive talks can only be about an extension that includes leaving his player option intact, and not an opt-out scenario.
An extension is just what it sounds like: extra years at a newly negotiated salary tacked onto the end of the current contract. If you hear about an extension, the number of years will include this year at $44.2 million. The subsequent years can be of any value between the minimum and maximum players salaries.
However, as I pointed out last week, bringing Chris Paul back at $44.2 million this year leaves the Suns only $8.4 million under the luxury tax line with only 9 players under contract plus a rookie 29th pick for the 2021-22 season — likely their widest championship window with Paul at the helm.
The $44.2 million cannot be negotiated downward as part of an extension.
If the Suns and Paul mutually agree to reduce his 2021-22 salary, then Chris Paul will need to notify the league by close of business on August 1 that he is opting out of his player option which will make him a free agent on August 2.
But then it’s a free for all. Once Monday rolls around, all 30 teams are allowed to talk to Chris Paul, including the Suns. It’s possible that Paul only has eyes for the Suns, but there’s a bit of danger there when the phone lines open up and a dozen teams suddenly want to talk Paul into raising their own team’s ceiling.
For two years in a row, Paul has carried a lottery-level team into the playoffs and this year he proved he can help a team make it all the way to the Finals. He is definitely a guy in demand, despite his age, that many teams would want running their team. The Knicks have the open cap space and would love Paul running the show, but most of the team that helped the Knicks to the 4th seed are free agents which is why they have that cap space. Other teams would love for Paul to take the mid-level exception (LOL! no he won’t) or talk the Suns into a salary-matching trade if he picks up his player option. But those packages won’t bring back a Hall of Fame point guard AND would gut Paul’s new team upon his arrival.
Only the Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns can offer both the salary ($30 million plus) and the sure-fire Finals contention in 2021-22.
Let’s see what happens this week. Paul could accept an extension before August 2, or he could opt-out and become a free agent.
Either way, he’s almost certain to happily play for the Suns for the next three years as they claw to keep that championship window open.