The Phoenix Suns are weighing multiple options regarding Chris Paul's future with the club and could look to trade or waive the veteran point guard this summer, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. The first report on this situation came from Turner Sports' Chris Haynes, who indicated Paul will be waived. It seems, however, that no final decision has been made, though the Suns will look to make one soon before Paul's contract for next season becomes guaranteed on June 28.
Paul, who has spent the past three seasons in Phoenix and helped turn the franchise around, averaged 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game this season. He struggled in the playoffs, however, and missed the team's final four games due to a groin injury. His inability to stay on the court in recent years is certainly weighing into the Sun's thought process.
It's first important to take stock of Paul's contract. He has two years remaining on his four-year, $120M deal, but only $15.8M of that is guaranteed for 2023-24 and no money is guaranteed for 2024-25.
If the Suns want to trade him, any deal would have to be done based on his current full $30M rate. That, combined with his age and declining production, and the Suns' lack of leverage, makes a trade unlikely. It doesn't hurt the Suns to try and get some sort of return if they're considering waiving him anyway, but that seems like a longshot at this point -- even if, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports, they possibly try to include Deandre Ayton in a package deal.
As of now, waiving Paul seems the most likely outcome. If they go that route, the front office could stretch the $15.8M over the next five seasons to spread out the cap hit, but they would not be able to re-sign him if they do that. They could, however, waive Paul, take the cap hit for this season and attempt to re-sign him on a longer deal at a lower annual rate.
Under both scenarios, though, Paul would become a free agent and have the ability to sign anywhere he wants. Per Haynes, Paul still intends to play for multiple seasons and hopes to help a team compete for a championship -- something he has still not won during his historic career.
While Paul is well past his prime, he figures to have plenty of options this summer, especially if he's willing to take a pay cut and play a lesser role. It's easy to think of plenty of teams who could use a veteran with his skillset right off the top of your head: the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
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The extent to which he's interested in doing either, however, remains to be seen. His usage has declined in each of the past four seasons, and sliding into an even less demanding role would figure to help some of his health issues. That may be an easier sell. Regarding the financial aspect, it's worth noting that he's never been one to take less money; recall, as president of the Players Association, Paul negotiated a rule that specifically benefitted himself and other veteran free agents and allowed them to sign significantly bigger contracts.
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, this is going to be a fascinating story to watch from every angle. Where does Paul sign and what does this mean for the final stages of his career? How do the Suns plan to move forward after an eventful few months in which they changed ownership, traded for Kevin Durant and hired Frank Vogel as their new head coach? Which teams will make a push to sign Paul and perhaps swing next season's title race?