Chris Paul led the Phoenix Suns to within two wins of the 2021 NBA Championship, but things haven’t gone according to plan since. Phoenix suffered a narrow home loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 last season. Now they’re hovering around . 500, with Paul posting a career-low score (his 13.7 points per game) and most value metrics. Phoenix took the pole hoping for an immediate push. Two years later, the window seems to be closed for him.
Paul is currently 37 years old. Devin Booker, Mychal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Deandre Ayton are all 24-26 years old. This is still a pretty young team, with one old cornerstone and now it looks like the Suns are out of the championship picture, but they. It makes sense when you think about it. According to Marc Stein, the Suns are beginning to evaluate their post-pole futures, and as such are eyeing point guards like Fred VanVleet, Immanuel Quickley and Terry Rozier at the trade deadline.
Phoenix is in a pretty enviable position from a trade standpoint. The Suns still have all the first-round picks. Ultimately, you can turn Jae Crowder into something else of value. But from a salary standpoint, if the Suns are planning a major deal, Paul almost needs to be included. The Suns have nearly $25 million in expiring salaries between Crowder, Dario Surik and Tory Craig, so they plan to import starting-caliber point guards, although not in the short term. They should probably get off the rest of Paul’s deal if that’s the case.
Paul’s deal is only partially guaranteed after this season, but for obvious reasons the team, which has already paid the luxury tax, has given Paul $15.8 million to play for another team next season. It would make more sense to use the $28.4 million cap figure as the contract salary for getting an outside point guard this season.
Each target Stein mentions brings something different. VanVleet fits just about any team considering his shooting and defense, but Phoenix is one of the least equipped teams to get the most out of him. Sands never reaches the rim. VanVleet’s shot his diet almost entirely he’s a 3-pointer. The Suns can make up for it in other ways, but given the rest of the roster, they likely prefer someone who can hit the rim, with Rosier being the best of the three. He has 5.3 shots per game in the restricted area. That’s about a quarter of his 21.6 shots, the Suns’ team average. But just 6-1, he’s relatively inefficient near the rim, even if he gets to the rim frequently, and is bound by a long-term contract that the thrifty Hornets are trying to move.
Quickley hasn’t signed a long-term contract yet, but he will need one after next season. There’s no way of knowing what he’ll look like. But with his salary so low right now, that could be an advantage as the Suns can afford to keep Paul as they make their transition plans.
Ultimately, Phoenix’s next move will be decided by new owner Matt Ishbia. He plans to take control of the team before the trade deadline, and if his priority is to win now, Phoenix will likely turn its assets to players who can supplement pole and their current core. However, if they want to focus on making the most of Booker’s heyday, there’s a good chance Phoenix will pursue a new point guard that fits into other roster timelines.