Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones said he is “confident” that the team will have a conversation with starting point guard Chris Paul regarding his impending contract negotiations “that will make everyone happy” during a Zoom call with local reporters on Thursday night.
Paul, who helped lead the Suns to their third NBA Finals appearance and first of his career during his opening season with the team in 2020-21, could enter unrestricted free agency on Monday if he declines his player option of $44.2 million, which is viewed as the most likely scenario. He could also sign an extension this week with the Suns that leaves his player option intact.
Though Paul’s decision on his player option has not been confirmed, Jones said “we’ll have a chance to talk” with Paul on Monday and that “we’ll know what his decision is at that point in time.”
“I think what we have is enticing,” Jones said. “I think he likes being here, we like having him here.”
In his 16th season of his career, Paul was named an All-NBA second-team selection after leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, which was the second-best mark in the league and pushed them to the postseason for the first time since 2009-10. Paul and the Suns defeated the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, third-seeded Denver Nuggets and fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers en route to a Western Conference championship before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Paul played in 70 of the Suns’ 72 regular-season games, averaging 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting his second-best mark from the field (49.9 percent) and best clip from the free-throw line (93.4 percent), which also led the NBA.
Paul averaged 19.2 points, 8.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals during the Suns’ 20-game playoff run, in which he was hampered by a shoulder contusion in the first round and a wrist injury in the Western Conference Finals and perhaps beyond that. Still, he shot 49.7 percent from the field (44.6 percent from 3-point range) and set multiple records for his performance as a 36-year-old.
“I love everything Chris is about, as a competitor, as a player, as a team leader, as a — just as a leader,” Jones said. “The way he approaches the game, the way he builds his teammates up, the way he cares about his group. He genuinely cares about every guy improving.”
Paul’s impact was profound on a Suns team that had eight players on its active roster who had not made the playoffs before this past season, including its core of starting shooting guard Devin Booker, starting forward Mikal Bridges, starting center Deandre Ayton and backup forward Cameron Johnson, all of whom are under 26 years old.
Those players and the entirety of Phoenix’s roster spoke very highly of Paul’s impact on their performance, with Ayton saying he is “the best thing that happened to my career.”
“I never [known] a guy who cares so much about basketball and competing at everything,” Ayton said. “And it’s contagious and that’s what he built in me as well and just having him as a teammate and the experience that he’s went through and teaching me the little things has helped me and it’s working.”
Resigning Paul will be a big step toward the Suns building a contending roster for next season. Seven players aside from Paul, including backup guard Cameron Payne, will enter unrestricted free agency on Monday. Phoenix reportedly added to its backcourt depth with a trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Landry Shamet on Thursday, sending Jevon Carter and the No. 29 pick in the NBA Draft (Day’Ron Sharpe) in exchange.
Paul’s return would certainly give the Suns another chance to compete for a Finals berth. Jones called his impact “immeasurable.”
“You can’t put it into words,” he said. “That’s why he’s one of the best or arguably the best point guard to ever play the game.”