Now it is Chris Paul.
Paul has been passed around from contender to contender over the last six seasons. Over those years, the teams– this time the Phoenix Suns– looked at his production and pedigree and invested in him even at an increased age.
Statistically, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pure point guards of all time, the former 4th pick on the 2005 NBA draft has not plenty of shortcomings to pick on (Ask his daughters’ bullies). Front in center of those failings is Paul’s durability. Much of his team’s failures have revolved around his injuries, which have only multiplied with age. Even so, Paul’s greatness will still have a variety of teams projecting his fit into their rosters.
"[My daughter] at the age now where at school kids talk crazy to her. She had a little boy at school that said some reckless stuff to her was like, 'Your daddy ain't never gon' win no championship.'"
Chris Paul on not winning an NBA title
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 7, 2023
Below is a breakdown of Chris Paul’s current contract situation and what potential teams could acquire Paul in the offseason:
Paul’s contract is one of the more interestingly structured contracts in the league. Paul signed his deal with the Suns in the summer of 2021. Initially, for four years and a total salary of $120,000,000, the veteran’s guards deal included a partial guarantee of his annual salary this upcoming season and no salary guarantee for the 2024-2025 season, according to Spotrac.
The Suns could lessen their salary cap burden in several ways if they waive Paul. The deadline for Paul’s guarantee goes into effect on June 28th. By that date, the Suns have two options regarding releasing him. Suppose they waive and stretch Paul’s $15,000,000 cap hit over the next five years. By doing that, the Suns would lose the ability to re-sign Paul but could open up the most financial flexibility. If the Suns waive Paul and take the cap hit in one big chunk, they could re-sign Paul to a much lower, veteran minimum-style contract.
The final option would be to trade his entire contract ($30,000,000 cap hit) to an interested team. Theoretically, this would be the only way for the Phoenix Suns to get assets in return for the 12-time All-Star. Finding a trade partner for Paul’s large contract might be too complex to accomplish directly. If Paul were to be traded, other pieces, perhaps even Deandre Ayton, could be packaged in a bigger deal.
Chris Paul Landing Spots
The Los Angeles Lakers:
It is not 2011; your eyes are deceiving you. Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers is a legitimate possibility. The Lakers need a point guard, especially if they are unwilling to resign D’Angelo Russell or Dennis Schröder. The argument against signing Paul center around his durability; If signed by the Lakers, he will join a trio of aging superstars. Stats-wise, Paul averaged 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game last season. The worry is that Paul, James, and Anthony Davis missed a combined 76 games last season. Betting on that to change when each of them is a year older is a sizable risk.
Los Angeles Clippers:
A reunion with the Los Angeles Clippers would be sentimental but probably not the right bet for the organization to make at point guard. The clock is about to strike midnight in the Paul George–Kawhi Leonard era. Adding another aging superstar isn’t going to make fans trust their aspirations. The best version of Paul-George-Leonard could be a potent and efficient offensive group, but the Clippers should aim to get younger and more athletic. Chris Paul will be remembered in the Clippers organization for Lob City. Let’s keep it that way.
The most likely scenario is Paul someway, somehow returning to the Suns. The secondary reporting around the Sun’s intention to waive Chris Paul revealed the previously mentioned scenario of him returning on a cheaper contract after he is waived. The tendency to look for other destinations for players like Paul is shortsighted. Paul and the Suns reached new heights. Bad luck with injuries has hurt them. Still, many teams would talk themselves into a big three of Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker. Phoenix can get better in other places. Ayton is a tradeable piece. Also, the added flexibility from Paul’s contract potentially allows Phoenix to add a rotational player.
Here is Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe talking about the CP3 situation
Windy seems to hint at the Suns retaining CP3 pic.twitter.com/pSn9Qth4JS
— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) June 7, 2023
San Antonio Spurs:
It feels like basketball heads are trying to speak this possibility into existence. And that’s alright because the San Antonio Spurs are the most exciting landing spot. The attractions are playing for head coach Gregg Popovich and the potential number-one pick in the draft Victor Wembanyama. The situation Paul would be thrown into is a familiar one too. Just four seasons ago, Paul was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and helped lead a young rebuilding team into the playoffs. Could Paul rekindle the same type of magic by running the most insane pick-and-rolls with Wembanyama? It sounds like a lot of fun to watch.
The Philadelphia 76ers are thrown in here for the fundamental reason that they are a contending team. Paul has been linked to teams of that caliber, and considering the 76ers might need a new point guard, it seems like a logical landing spot if you ignore the risk. The 76ers must embrace Tyrese Maxey as their second-best player next season, regardless of if James Harden resigns. But a Maxey-Paul backcourt would be incredibly small and porous on defense. Not that Harden is a good defender, but at least his size allows him to float to bigger players on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, Paul and Joel Embiid would be effective in the two-man game, but it would be a tough sell to Philadelphia and their fans that the answer to their playoff problems is a 38-year-old Chris Paul.
Much like the 76ers, the Boston Celtics are in this discussion because of their expectations to win next season. The Celtics were obstructed from advancing this postseason due to their ineptitude in late-game situations. Paul would be the best candidate to organize an offense late in the game. Different than other teams on this list is that Boston, theoretically, has the defensive versatility to hide Paul, much like they did with Malcolm Brogdon last season. Speaking of Brogdon, he, Payton Pritchard and/or Grant Williams would be the players packaged to the Suns if he isn’t waived. Undoubtedly, the Celtics have a lot of decisions to make within the next year; it’s unclear if Paul fits with their plans.
The last place Paul could end up is a sleeper destination. The Memphis Grizzlies are left waiting to see what the NBA decides on Ja Morant’s discipline. By signing Chris Paul, they could effectively solve two problems at once. If or when Morant is suspended, Paul will serve as the starter. Memphis has a solid roster already. Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Tyus Jones, to name a few. Add Paul as a floor general, and Memphis would still be pretty good. The other function Paul could serve is as a mentor to Morant. It’s easier to write that sort of thing in an article than for it to actually happen, but Paul does have a pedigree attached to leading teams with younger players. Paul could be the adult that Memphis has desperately been searching for.
Matt Strout is a contributor to Back Sports Page. Matt studied Journalism and Sociology at Temple University for four years and graduated in May of 2022. While there, Matt wrote for multiple student and professional publications covering sports and the City of Philadelphia. Matt is originally from Maine and now resides in California. He has written content primarily for the NBA and PGA Tour. You can catch Matt frequently as a guest on the “Cut The Nets” podcast featured on the Back Sports Page network. When Matt is not writing, he enjoys cooking and playing golf. Follow Matt’s social media on Twitter @TheRealStrout or Instagram @matt_strout96
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