clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NBA Free Agent Market: Which point guards could replace Chris Paul?

Who can the Phoenix Suns target to fill out their point guard rotation?

Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Welcome to the Free Agent Market series. In this five-part series we will analyze the state of the Phoenix Suns roster while exploring who is available via free agency this offseason.

The point guard position for the Phoenix Suns is one filled with uncertainty as the team prepares for the 2023-24 season. The point guard position, particularly in Phoenix, has traditionally been filled by a big star. Charlie Scott. Kevin Johnson. Jason Kidd. Stephon Marbury. Steve Nash. Chris Paul. Through the 55-year franchise history, more times than not they’ve been led by an All-Star caliber point guard.

That most likely will change entering the upcoming season, unless James Jones makes a move to bring in a name like Kyrie Irving or Fred VanVleet. But with the new CBA in effect, that may not be the right move, or the path the Suns are financially able to explore.

Before we explore who is available via free agency at the point guard position, we must understand what the state of the position is as it relates to the Suns roster.

Entering this off-season, the Suns carry over only seven contracts into the new year:

Two of those contracts at the point guard position: Chris Paul and Cameron Payne. If the Suns were willing to pick up the guarantee on Chris Paul’s contract for the season, which we’ve been made aware that they are not going to, they would’ve had $37.3M of their potential $134M salary committed at the point guard position between Paul and Payne.

But that’s not going to happen.

Chris Haynes reported last week that Chris Paul will be waived, while Shams Charania of The Athletic stated that being waived is one of the possibilities for Chris Paul. However the Suns choose to navigate Paul’s contract and future with the organization, one thing is clear: they are not paying him $30.8M to play point guard for the team next season.

So what does this mean?

It means that they are going to have to explore either the trade market or free agency to fill out that position. We know James Jones’ affinity for building his roster with the “three-by-five” methodology. He wants to be three deep at all five positions.

If he doesn’t move on from Cameron Payne, that’s one deep. If they waive and re-sign CP3, that’s two deep. But if they trade/waive them both, they’re looking to fill all three.

As we explore the options out there, those are the questions you must ask yourself: Do I want this player as our starting point guard? Do I want him as the back up? Do I want him as the back up to the back up?

There are four tiers of available player calibers (All-Star, starter, rotation, and fringe) who are available four differing ways (unrestricted free agent, restricted free agent, player option, club option). Below we will explore who is available under each category, as well as classify their tier. Those I’m interested in, I might give a thought or two.

Club Option Guys

These are the players who will wait and see if their team is wanting and willing to bring them back.

Fringe Tier

  • Michael Carter-Williams — Orlando Magic: Club option for $3.1M
  • Miles McBride — New York Knicks: Club option for $1.8M
  • Derrick Rose — New York Knicks: Club option for $15.6M

Obviously the only interesting name here is Derrick Rose. The Knicks currently have $163.6M committed next season (if they were to keep Rose and guarantee Josh Hart’s salary). That’s a big chunk of change that will surely hurt them with the new CBA, but that includes 11 players. They don’t need much more to fill out their entire roster.

The question they’re faced with is whether or not they’d want to run it back with that roster. That roster netted them a 47-35 record last season with a second round exit at the hands of the Heat.

Shedding Rose’s salary would benefit them greatly, at which point he'd become a UFA. How would you feel about Rose as a veteran minimum guy filling in as the back up? Or the back up to the back up?

Player Option Guys

These are the players who will determine whether or not they want to stay with their current team or take a chance on the free agent market.

There currently are no players in this category. Fred VanVleet was the big name here, but following the news that he was opting out of his contract, he’s moved on to the UFA category.

Restricted Free Agent Guys

These are the players who can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the player’s original team can retain him by matching the terms of that offer. The original team is said to have the “right of first refusal.”

Fringe Tier

  • Gabe York — Indiana Pacers: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • McKinley Wright IV — Dallas Mavericks: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Duane Washington, Jr. — New York Knicks: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Scotty Pippen, Jr. — Los Angeles Lakers: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Mac McClung — Philadelphia 76ers: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Theo Maledon — Charlotte Hornets: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Saben Lee — Phoenix Suns: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Trevor Hudgins — Houston Rockets: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Collin Gillespie — Denver Nuggets: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Trent Forrest — Atlanta Hawks: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Jeff Dowtin — Toronto Raptors: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • J.D. Davison — Boston Celtics: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Jared Butler — Oklahoma City Thunder: Qualifying offer is $1.8M

This is your “two-way” category, as all of these players were on two-way contracts with their organizations last season.

The name that jumps off the page, and who I believe the Suns should prioritize in returning, is Saben Lee. 23 games played, 6.3 points and 2.8 assists, and a 37.9 3PT% with a funky shot. He attacked the cylinder. He’s young, he’s athletic, he could help fill out the roster, and he’s worth keeping on the roster.

Rotation Tier

  • Dalano Banton — Toronto Raptors: Qualifying offer is $2.2M
  • Coby White — Chicago Bulls: Qualifying offer is $7.7M
  • Ayo Dosunmu — Chicago Bulls: Qualifying offer is $5.2M
  • Tre Jones — San Antonio Spurs: Qualifying offer is $5.2M

Coby White is an interesting name, and someone who the Bulls exercised their club option on the past two seasons. Woooooowwww.

But it is Tre Jones who gets me excited. San Antonio is so far under the cap, however, they’d have no reason not to match an offer sheet bestowed upon Jones, but if Phoenix can pry the former Duke guard away, he’d be solid addition. He averaged 12.9 points in 29.2 minutes last season as their starting point guard.

Unrestricted Free Agent Guys

These guys control their own fate and can choose who they want to play for.

Fringe Tier

  • Frank Ntlinikina: Last year of last contract was $2.0M
  • Raul Neto: Last year of last contract was $2.5M
  • Aaron Holiday: Last year of last contract was $1.9M
  • George Hill: Last year of last contract was $4.0M
  • Goran Dragic: Last year of last contract was $600k
  • Matthew Dellavedova: Last year of last contract was $2.6M
  • D.J. Augustin: Last year of last contract was $300k

I know what you’re thinking. You saw two former Suns on this list and you felt things. Sure, you might want to bring back the familiar. But no. Stop. As Paul McCartney said, “Let it be”. The back up to the back up is the only thing you could potentially find here, but I’m not interested in visiting the past to do so.

Rotation Tier

  • Ish Smith: Last year of last contract was $4.6M
  • Cory Joseph: Last year of last contract was $5.0M
  • Kendrick Nunn: Last year of last contract was $5.1M
  • Dennis Smith, Jr.: Last year of last contract was $2.1M
  • Reggie Jackson: Last year of last contract was $900k
  • Jevon Carter: Last year of last contract was $2.1M
  • Gabe Vincent: Last year of last contract was $1.7M
  • Dennis Schröder: Last year of last contract was $2.6M

Now it’s getting interesting.

These are some names that the Suns absolutely can — and will — pursue. Whether they need a back up or a back up to the back up, you have some quality players who can surely impact your team in this tier.

I am a fan of what Reggie Jackson could be with Phoenix, especially if the Suns choose to move on from Cameron Payne via the trade market. Perhaps it’s some PTSD from the 2021 postseason, as Jackson went for 20.3 points a game against the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. But I like the 33 year-old.

Starter Tier

  • Russell Westbrook: Last year of last contract was $46.3M
  • Patrick Beverley: Last year of last contract was $800k
  • D’Angelo Russell: Last year of last contract was $29.3M

Heavy hitters here, and in Pat Bev’s case, that hit is probably from behind.

I don’t know if I see the Suns taking a swing at any of these guys, and I’m highly interested to see how the NBA market reacts to their availability with the new CBA. The middle-class contracts that Westbrook and D’Lo would most likely receive might not be available as they have in years past. Teams will, in theory, want price for value paid. And the one dimensional way those guys play might not get them the money they desire.

All-Star Tier

  • Fred VanVleet: Last year of last contract was $21.5M
  • Kyrie Irving: Last year of last contract was $34.1M

Now it’s getting juicy.

Two questions you have to ask yourself. The first is whether or not the Phoenix Suns should invest the money into a point guard of this caliber?

The new CBA hinders the overall depth of your roster if you do so, given the contracts of Kevin Durant and Devin Book, but if the Suns were to take a swing at somebody like Vanvleet, it could be worth it. He’s durable. He plays a ton of minutes. And he’s a quality point guard on both ends of the floor. He opted out of his $22.8M contract because he wanted to test the free agency market and see what his value truly is. Can Suns give him what he thinks is his value?

And then, of course, there’s the Kyrie Irving conundrum. No one knows what he’s gonna want in free agency, but given the personality that he is, it’s assumed that he’s going to want as close to a max deal as possible. So question number two are you willing to compensate Irving, knowing that there is plenty of baggage with him?

I return to the price for value paid conversation from above. Despite his amazing basketball skills, I don’t think that Kyrie Irving provides the price or value paid simply due to his intangibles. I could be wrong. But that’s my opinion. What’s yours?

There’s the list. How do you think the Suns will approach the point guard position this offseason? How should they? Let us know what you think below.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun