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This probably isn’t the way Chris Paul wanted to be the talk of the basketball world during the NBA Finals.
Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported the Phoenix Suns will waive the veteran point guard. Haynes followed up to report Paul “plans to play for several more years and is eager to help a team contend for a championship.”
Dan Devine @YourManDevine
Greetings from Miami, where we’re all digesting and reacting to the news that Chris Paul’s getting waived, and also hearing reports that a basketball game will be played here later
That the Suns are moving on from the 38-year-old isn’t a complete shock because he has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks. But Haynes had reported May 17 that Phoenix was “of the mindset that Paul will open up next season as the team’s starting point guard.”
Here are some quick takeaways from Wednesday’s unexpected development.
Is This Much Ado About Nothing?
Only $15.8 million of Paul’s 2023-24 salary was guaranteed. Waiving him outright or using the stretch provision could be a cost-savings maneuver.
Eric Pincus @EricPincus
Guessing that the Suns stretch Chris Paul’s $15.8 milion guarantee over five years at $3.16m per season
There’s another possibility, and one that arguably makes the most sense: The Suns will simply re-sign Paul to a lower salary after he clears waivers.
Michael Pina @MichaelVPina
so the suns are just going to re-sign paul at a lower annual number, right? otherwise this is weird.
The 12-time All-Star’s value was hampered by the $30.8 million he was originally owed for the upcoming year. Age and injury history were undoubtedly complicating factors as well. He was limited to 59 games in the regular season and missed the final four games of the Western Conference semifinals.
Trading Paul was unlikely to yield a massive return.
Still, he averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 assists and shot 37.5 percent on three-pointers. Although the surefire Hall of Famer is clearly no longer at his peak, he continues to be a productive floor general.
That’s what makes the Suns’ decision so difficult to understand if they don’t have a plan to bring him back.
As things stand, Cameron Payne is tentatively set to be the starting point guard on a team with championship-or-bust expectations. The salary relief from waiving Paul isn’t really enough on its own to fill out the roster with adequate reinforcements, either.
Haynes’ report sent social media into a frenzy, but fans might be getting ahead of themselves since this could all end with Paul staying in Arizona.
The Stage Is Potentially Set for Long-Awaited LeBron/CP3 Collaboration
If Paul doesn’t return to Phoenix, then the Los Angeles Lakers are the most obvious landing spot.
The Lakers could be in need of a point guard with D’Angelo Russell and Dennis Schröder both hitting free agency, and a perfect solution may have just fallen into their laps. Paul would address their backcourt need, and he might come at a bargain price.
Maybe general manager Rob Pelinka finds a way to retain Russell while he’s at it.
Sam Quinn @SamQuinnCBS
Chris Paul and D’Angelo Russell would be a weirdly appealing package deal for the Lakers if they could swing both of them.
DLo eats the regular-season innings and then Paul becomes the playoff point guard.
You wouldn’t think Los Angeles is too scarred from the Russell Westbrook experiment to be dissuaded from pursuing Paul because they aren’t the same player.
Unlike Westbrook, Paul has shown he can be effective alongside another ball-dominant playmaker from his time with James Harden and Devin Booker. The Suns’ success with him on the squad speaks for itself too.
Granted, there would be some concern about banking on another oft-injured vet to occupy a key role alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom have battled injuries throughout their Lakers tenures.
But Pelinka doesn’t have many other choices.
The Ishbia Era Brings More Unpredictability
NBA insider Marc Stein reported in May how Suns team governor Mat Ishbia “pushed for the expensive completion of the Kevin Durant blockbuster” shortly after assuming control in February.
The firing of Monty Williams was reportedly driven by Ishbia as well, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski writing how the owner “had never warmed to Williams as his coach.”
Now comes the waiving of Paul.
Bucking the conventional wisdom or acting impulsively isn’t always a recipe for failure, and if nothing else, Phoenix’s ownership is showing it’s willing to pay whatever costs are necessary to win a title.
But there’s a fine line between disruption and dysfunction.
It’s far too early to judge Ishbia’s decisions, yet it feels safe to say they’re going to end either very well or very badly. There might not be much in between.
If this is what fans can expect moving forward, then the 43-year-old’s stewardship of the franchise will be eventful.