Momentum seems to be building for Chris Paul’s career to continue in Phoenix, and a new report from Jake Fischer at Bleacher Report indicates it may already be a done deal.
According to Fischer, the Suns are nearing an agreement on a deal totaling three years and $90 million, and Paul returning to Phoenix is “all but destined.” The report indicates that despite attempts from the Lakers and Pelicans to lure Paul away and a belief around the NBA last week that Paul could be had, he will end up returning to the Suns.
Still, it is unclear based on Fischer’s wording whether this contract would be an extension on top of the $44.2 million he is set to make to finish the contract he initially signed with the Rockets, or if Paul might opt out and sign a new deal worth an average of $30 million annually.
The Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook coupled with New Orleans seemingly not being an attractive destination (despite their hiring of Willie Green), mean Paul’s best chance to make money and win will be to stay in Phoenix. We may never know how strongly Paul considered leaving, but it sounds as if teams with cap space like Dallas and New York either did not or have not yet made a push for Paul. The league seems to view Kyle Lowry as a more attainable player — and Lowry is also younger.
Were Paul to play out his current contract, the extension would be for about two years and $45.8 million, or an average annual value of $22.9 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24. At the end of that contract, Paul will have just celebrated his 39th birthday.
Should he opt out and sign a brand new contract, his 2021-22 salary would decrease from $44.2 million to likely somewhere below $30 million, escalating from there across three seasons. This would provide flexibility for the Suns under the salary cap, but would not give them any cap space to spend on free agents, meaning they would still likely only have the taxpayer mid-level exception, the bi-annual exception, and minimum contract spots.
Altogether, the most sensible solution would seem to be an extension on top of Paul’s current deal. This allows the Suns to go all in this season and then begin to get relief next year, when extensions for Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton would kick in and when the contracts of Jae Crowder and Dario Saric would become expiring and likely more movable.
In addition to Fischer’s reporting on Paul, he also brought up the first news regarding free agency for the Suns, noting that Phoenix is expected to pursue Doug McDermott in free agency. McDermott made $7.3 million last season but has not progressed on defense or as a play-maker enough to necessarily earn that much on his next deal at age 29.
The Suns could seek to use an exception to fit McDermott onto the books after John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports recently reported that the Suns are prepared to go into the luxury tax to field a title-caliber roster in 2022. They could also see McDermott as an option on a minimum contract similar to Langston Galloway in 2020-21.
While McDermott would not provide much defensively, he has the size to stay on the floor and provide floor-spacing during the regular season, and would give the Suns more depth in case of injuries.
Despite rumors beginning to emerge regarding the Suns, it’s worth bearing in mind that nobody had heard a thing about the Landry Shamet draft-day trade before it happened, so it’s hard to imagine that reporters suddenly have the Suns solved. Paul’s market hasn’t developed, so a return seems imminent, but we’ve yet to hear much on Cameron Payne or Torrey Craig, and the McDermott thing could be hearsay.
When it rains, it pours in the NBA transaction game, so stay tuned.