This was out of the blue.
According to Chris Haynes, who is one of those insiders with tons of player and agent connections, the Phoenix Suns have notified Chris Paul that he will be waived this month before his 2023-24 salary becomes fully guaranteed.
Chris Paul was set to make $30.8 million in 2023-24, but that contract is only guaranteed for $15.8 million if he is waived from the roster before June 28, 2023.
Now, the Suns will have the option to stretch the cap hit across five seasons with $3.16 million annual hits from 2023-2028. Note: if they do the ‘stretch’, they cannot re-sign him. Also note: the stretch doesn’t really help the Suns financially or on the cap sheet.
The Suns will now need to look for a new starting point guard for what they hope is a contender next season, but will not have any cap space to sign one.
The combination of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, plus the much smaller contracts of Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne and Ish Wainright still puts the Suns over the projected salary cap of $134 million even if they stretch Paul’s guarantee. Waiving Payne ($2 million guaranteed) and Wainright (non-guaranteed) only barely drops the Suns under the cap, leaving them with less than the Mid Level Exception ($11 million per year) if they just stay with the 6 remaining players.
See what I mean on there not being much incentive here? I’m even questioning the incentive to waive Paul at all, stretched or not, so I’m guessing this is about Chris Paul the player as much as Chris Paul the contract.
The Suns now only have three starting-caliber players under contract for the 2023-24 season in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
The Suns must have another plan in mind for a starting point guard. ESPN insider Brian Windhorst on a recent podcast hinted the Suns might release Paul (which still gives him $15.8 million this year) and then re-sign him as a free agent to a league-minimum deal (another $3 million), putting him at $19 million this season.
Local insider John Gambadoro, who’s been batting perfect this summer, has this to add.
The Suns were NEVER going to pay him $30 million for this season. Only options were waive and resign for vets minimum or waive and stretch in which he could not come back to Suns. https://t.co/10Vp0jnTJl— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) June 7, 2023
But the danger there, for the Suns, is that Paul can almost certainly get more than league minimum from most every other team in the league while also getting his $15.8 million from the Suns anyway.
Haynes indicates Paul is not interested in a one-year minimum salary deal.
Chris Paul plans to player several more years and is eager to help a team contend for a championship, sources say.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 7, 2023
Multiple OTHER insiders, including our own local Duane Rankin, tried to verify this info and were told by the Suns that they haven’t actually done anything yet. Paul is still on the roster at this moment.
If the Suns do go through with the release, they will have purged the team of the Coach, Monty Williams, and best player, Chris Paul, who willed the franchise to their third-ever NBA Finals appearance just two years ago.
But Paul lived up to every expectation as a Sun, good AND bad.
On the good side, he led the Suns to the Finals in 2021 and the most wins in the league in 2022 while becoming the first Suns player named to back to back All-NBA teams since Steve Nash.
On the bad side, he got injured in all three playoffs.
- He suffered three different maladies in 2021 (shoulder stinger, COVID and had wrist surgery right after the Finals)
- something undisclosed in 2022 that dropped his production from 22 and 10 the first eight games to 9 and 5 the last five games of the second round (rumor was COVID again)
- Strained groin in 2023 that made him miss the last 4 games of the second round.
Check back on this story later, as I’ll add some more thoughts on Suns next steps.