NBA Rumor: Chris Paul Free Agency

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Sarver left things more open than expected, considering Paul led the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. “I don’t know — it’s kind of interesting,’’ Sarver said on the Phoenix radio show “Burns and Gambo.” “I had some discussions with him after the season. I said, ‘You’ve only been part of the organization for nine months. There’s really not a lot of history here. From a team perspective it was my best season in 17 years and it was your best season in 16 years.’ So there’s really a lot there to keep the two of us together — the Suns and him. “But he’s got a decision to make. A business decision, family decision. Unfortunately, it’s not our decision. It’s his decision. He’ll have to decide whether he’s going to become a free agent or opt into his contract. We’ll know that in the next three days.”

Paul, for his part, has indicated he’s willing to opt out of his $44 million deal for next year, sources say, though taking that position could be a leverage play with the Suns under pressure to keep him. Paul can sign a three-year contract without triggering the Over-38 rule — CBA minutiae that complicates contracts for players who have deals that stretch beyond their 38th birthday — or stay in his current deal and work out an extension with Phoenix, where he might take a pay cut after next year’s giant check.

Marc Stein: Yet I still see the Lakers as the most realistic threat to derailing the Suns’ hopes of re-signing Paul, no matter how hard it is to pinpoint a pathway for them to acquire him because of the cap complexities. The reasoning: We know Paul would want to play again in Los Angeles, where his family still resides during the season, and also that he would want to play alongside James. The fact that Magic Johnson was tweeting about Paul-to-the-Lakers scenarios minutes after the Finals were over certainly won’t dissuade conspiracy theorists from believing that the Lakers are, at a minimum, exploring the options here.

Chris Paul unlikely to sign with Lakers

CP3’s performance spiked his value, prompting multiple teams to potentially consider making a splash for the veteran playmaker. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks could float around as options for Paul. Marks: “I don’t want to burst the bubble for Lakers fans out there, but it’s highly unlikely that Chris Paul is going to take a 40-million dollar discount to go sign with the Lakers.”

For Paul to join forces with James for the first time in their careers, it would likely take a sign-and-trade with the Suns. The most the over-the-cap Lakers can offer Paul without a sign-and-trade is a $9.5 million taxpayer midlevel exception. The attraction of chasing his first championship with James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers could be an appealing option for Paul to ponder. Keep in mind that Paul, a former LA Clippers star, still lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two kids.

According to former Nets executive and current ESPN salary-cap expert Bobby Marks, the Knicks’ extensive cap space would allow them to offer Paul a starting salary of $43 million (105 percent of his current wage) and a three-year deal for roughly $135 million. That’s a hell of a potential bid. Phoenix is the only team allowed to offer Paul a fourth year under cap rules, but then again, Suns owner Robert Sarver is not exactly known as an extravagant spender. “The Knicks would be the only team I’d see Paul taking a call from,” Marks said, “because of his relationship with Leon and the state of the team right now. It’s the only team I could see him visiting if he explores his options outside of Phoenix.”

According to former Nets executive and ESPN cap guru Bobby Marks, the Suns can offer Paul a four-year deal while the Knicks can’t go past three years because of an obscure “over-38’’ bylaw in the collective bargaining agreement. Marks predicts the Suns will net Paul with a three-year, $100 million contract if the veteran decides to opt out of the $44 million final season of his current deal. If Leon Rose’s Knicks attempt to match the offer, the Suns can add a fourth year. “I don’t think they will let him go,’’ Marks said of Phoenix.

Chris Paul to opt out of contract?

Chris Paul surprised many by telling associates recently he will opt out of his $44 million final year and seek another two-year deal at age 36. It’s hard to imagine the Suns not doing everything they can to bring him back on a two-year package — whether they win the title this season or not. Meanwhile, Cameron Payne, 26, showed plenty of playmaking potential as Paul’s stand-in and will be a free agent. It would be very Knicks-like to overpay a player who has not proven himself as a full-time starter.

I bring up Hayward because of the similarity of their contractual situations. Paul has a player option for 2021-22 that pays him $44 million, so he’s not walking away from that for just anything. But as with Hayward a year ago (who turned down a $35 million option once four years and $120 million were on the table from Charlotte), one wonders if Paul might walk away from the option year if a longer deal for less annual money were out there. He won’t lack for suitors. Dallas, for instance, is craving a secondary ballhandler to pair next to Luka Doncic and just so happens to have about $35 million in cap room coming its way. Could the Mavs offer a three-year deal worth $110 million to lure CP3 to Texas as the third pillar of an All-Star triangle next to Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis?

A few wilder scenarios also stand out. What about a return to New Orleans, for instance? The Pelicans could get to $30 million, cap-room wise, if they let Lonzo Ball walk and use the stretch provision on Eric Bledsoe. And the Knicks, of course, will always lurk as a team willing to overpay for a star. New York needs a point guard, is firmly in win-now mode and could offer Paul his max, $124 million over three years … while still having $20 million or so left over to bring in more help.

It’s too soon to tell how well the Suns’ and their point guard’s timelines will sync up. Paul has a player option worth $44 million for 2021-22, but if his play and the team’s results both shine, he could be on the move again just as Booker, Ayton, Bridges and the rest are hitting their stride. For now, though, there’s an unmistakable sense of ownership, even pride, in Paul’s voice when he talks about the Suns’ capacity to win and build at the same time. “I’m gonna tell you something: Win or lose this game, I already know who this team is,” Paul said after Friday’s victory. “I know who every guy on this team is. I know what they’re made of. I know the kind of energy they bring … Regardless of what happens night in and night out, I know what type of team we have and what each guy represents.”

Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul dismissed the idea that being stuck on a rebuilding team in OKC next season will be a problem in an interview during Game 3 of the NBA Finals Sunday night. “I just love to hoop,” Paul said while watching as a virtual fan, talking to the broadcast team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. “[Former Thunder coach] Billy Donovan was amazing. My teammates have been amazing. “So, for me, you call it twilight years, I call it a blessing. Just being able to compete at a high level at 35 years old, [I’m going to] just keep rolling.”

Chris Paul: No plans of opting out

“January was like a lifetime ago… You told Sports Illustrated at that point that you didn’t have any plans to opt out of the last year, $44 million, of your contract to seek a trade or anything like that… Where are you with that today?” Kellerman asked. Paul remained consistent. “I don’t control that… Sam Presti has been amazing this year and Oklahoma was amazing, obviously we’ll see what happens this summer or whatnot. It’s nice to be here and be close to my family. I think for me, I’m gonna let everything play out, see what happens, but I’m in a good place. I wish we could’ve kept advancing in the playoffs, but I don’t have no plans of opting out no time soon, neither.

It’s only natural to wonder if James might partner with his best friend and fellow free agent in Paul, and we’ve been wondering for six months or so if that might be the case. But while the Rockets appear resigned to the fact that James won’t be coming their way, they also remain fully confident that Paul is going nowhere. When Paul pushed his way from the Clippers to the Rockets via trade last June, there was a mutual understanding about how his next contract would look. It remains to be seen if it comes in the form of a five-year, $205 million max deal – one that would have him making a whopping $46.7 million in the final year of the deal while nearing the age of 38 – but there remains a strong sense within Rockets circles that he’s staying put.

Chris Broussard: From what I’m told, there is tension now between Houston and Chris Paul. Because there was definitely some type of handshake, wink wink, “we’re going to max you out” last summer. But here’s the thing: Now, they’re not so sure. Houston, with good reason, doesn’t want to do that. But they’ve got an out, because they have new ownership. So, Daryl Morey can go to Chris Paul and be like, “I want to do it, but we’ve got the new owner doesn’t want to give you five years, four years.”

My best forecast at this juncture? Fixate on Chris Paul. If Paul stays with the Rockets, Houston becomes a dangerous player, no matter how complicated it would be for the 65-win Rockets and their general manager, Daryl Morey, to orchestrate the requisite salary-cap gymnastics to bring James in. But don’t discount the idea that James could try to bring Paul with him to a team that can afford two superstars, such as the Lakers, because he and Paul really are that close.

Adrian Wojnarowski: “When the Rockets made that deal for Chris Paul, knowing they would re-sign him [once he hit free agency], they made a conscious decision that they were gonna have to live with [paying him] $46, $47 million a year salary when he’s not nearly the player anymore in his late 30s, but, ‘we’re gonna make a run at it now, we wanna win a championship now. We’ll deal with it [Paul’s contract] later.’ We’ll see how that plays out in their contract talks [with Paul] here in free agency. Chris Paul didn’t turn down $200 million from the Clippers because he thought that somehow the Rockets were gonna talk him into saving them luxury tax money. I don’t imagine it playing out that way.”
4 years ago via ESPN

They are underdogs, maybe big ones, but Morey has long promised that he will go for it if he thinks Houston has even a 5 percent chance of winning a ring. He will hunt likely LeBron this summer, per league sources, and hopes to sign Paul to another long-term deal. With Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza headed toward free agency, just bringing this group back could vault Houston well into the luxury tax. Tilman Fertitta, the team’s new owner, has said he would pay the tax to preserve a contender.

As for how Houston could find a way to give max salary contracts starting at $35 million annually to both James (who has a player option worth $35.3 million for next season) and Paul (who will be a free agent) without the necessary cap space, Morey would indeed have to become a salary cap gymnast. The NBA salary cap is expected to be $101 million next season, and the Rockets are, well, capped out. But Morey is one of the league’s renowned risk takers, the kind of relentless executive who might already have hypothetical trades lined up for players like Ryan Anderson and others who would have to go for the Rockets to be able to sign one of the greatest players of all time in James. It’s also seen as possible that, like Kevin Durant did last summer with the Warriors, Paul could take less money to make James’ salary fit.

Chris Paul planning to talk with Rockets, Nuggets?

Paul also has plans to talk with the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, one executive said. Griffin can sign a five-year deal worth $175 million with L.A., or sign a four-year deal worth $130 million with another team. The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder are two teams that will make a bid for Griffin, according to several executives. “West knows he has a big task ahead of him with the Clippers,” one executive said. “But he feels as if Steve Ballmer is going to be one of the great owners in this league.”

The Spurs don’t do Draconian, especially when it involves franchise icons like Parker and Ginobili. Stein reported that his source believes the Spurs are all but guaranteed a face-to-face meeting with Paul, should he become a free agent, but Western Conference basketball management types aren’t losing sleep over the prospect of another conference superteam, this time based in San Antonio. “I think all that talk is nothing more than leverage,” one Western Conference basketball executive said Thursday. “Chris is just trying to make sure he can leverage Doc (Rivers). “If you’re the Clippers, don’t you have some reservations about giving him that big commitment? I know I would. So, if you’re Chris, you’ve got to create some interest out there in the league that then puts pressure on your own people to give you what you want.”
4 years ago via ESPN

All-Star point guard Chris Paul intends to give the San Antonio Spurs serious consideration in free agency this summer in the event he decides to leave the LA Clippers, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN that Paul, for all of his undeniable fondness for Los Angeles, is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Most Valuable Player top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in his quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded Paul to this point in his career.

“Not that I see,” Wojnarowski said of Paul’s chances of ending up with the Spurs. “I don’t know where that came from. I’ve spent a lot of time around the Spurs this spring. They would have to just tear up that entire payroll. It’s almost unlike anything the Spurs would’ve done or would do to even have a chance at him. I mean, they’d have to really gut the roster. And to do that for a 30-plus year old point guard, who has a couple great years left, there’s no question — I think there’s more pressure on the Clippers to have to re-sign him than for the Spurs to turn their whole franchise over to make a run at him.”
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October 27, 2021 | 3:37 pm EDT Update