The Suns wasted no time in free agency to ensure they bring back their main core of players who led them to their first finals in 45 years. The Suns were able to do this by bringing back both point guards Chris Paul and Cam Payne, signing them to longer-term deals.
Paul, the All-Star point guard who also finished top-5 in MVP voting, declined his $44.2 million player option Sunday, allowing himself to become a free agent. This included his name being connected to the Los Angeles Lakers(before they traded for Russell Westbrook) and the New York Knicks. However, Paul decided to stay in the valley for a longer-term deal which is 4-years/$120 million. According to Ric Bucher from Fox Sports, however, only the first two years of the deal are guaranteed. The third-year is partially guaranteed and the final year is non-guaranteed.
Paul actually turned down more money for this upcoming season by declining his player option. Even though he had an incredible season last year, by declining his player option, he took out any worry of an injury or decrease in the quality of his play which may have had an impact on a larger deal in 2022.
This is something the Phoenix Suns and their front office knew they had to do during free agency. They had to bring their leader and their difference-maker back in order to keep moving forward. If the Suns would have lost Paul, their chances of making it back even to the Western Conference Finals would have dropped significantly.
The difference in the quality of play this year with Paul on the floor was drastic. When All-Star guard Devin Booker has the ball in his hands as the point guard, there is a lot more attention on him which limits his space to the rim and on the wing, his bread and butter. However, when Paul is on the floor, his ability to create space opens up looks for Booker that would have felt forced earlier in his career.
The Suns also inked playoff breakout, Cam Payne, to a new deal. Payne, who joined the team in the bubble last August, earned himself a 3-years/$19 million contract. He will return to the team as the backup point guard and probable sixth man.
Payne’s energy and speed off the bench created instant offense for the Suns. He ended up being a huge contributor to the team when his number was called. Signing Payne was a smart move by the front office because of Payne’s ability to create offense and be a spark plug off the bench. His new importance to the team was something the Suns could not afford to lose.
However, the Suns had some tough decisions to make including letting forward Torrey Craig walk . Craig accepted a contract from the Indiana Pacers for 2-years/$10 million. Although Craig was only a role player, he impacted the game when he was on the court. This is the type of player the Suns will need to try to find in free agency to maintain their depth. His defense and length were important in causing turnovers and shutting down top-tier wings. He will be missed by the Suns.
Paul and Payne’s contracts ensure the Suns will keep their similar core from this past season, the same core that learned how to not only play together in under a year but, also, win together. Especially in the increasingly tough West, having a team that understands each other and knows their strengths and weaknesses could be the difference between being once again towards the top half of the West or being a disappointment.
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