Phoenix Suns and the future of Chris Paul

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns are giving their long-anguished fans a spring to remember, but the specter of losing Chris Paul is looming.

Phoenix is back in the playoffs after an 11-year absence, having dispatched the mercurial Los Angeles Lakers in six entertaining games. The Suns are set to take on the Denver Nuggets in a Western Conference semifinal series beginning Monday night in Phoenix.

But some Suns backers can’t help but allow some dread about the future to creep into their thoughts.

Phoenix Suns fans shouldn’t feel like there’s any certainty to the idea of losing their All-Star and future Hall of Famer — simply because this offseason decision will be entirely in Chris Paul’s court.

A few points for context:

Paul holds a $44,211,146 player option for the 2021-22 season, a nice number for a 36-year-old veteran.

But there is significant reason for him to make a business decision and turn down the option. Paul could likely attract a new deal worth in excess of $100 million.

Phoenix would be able to pay him more than other teams, and his dynamic cohesiveness with Devin Booker seems to have some serious staying power.

There is reason to believe any number of suitors would offer three years and $100 million, leaving it up to Paul the decision of where to play – and his decision may be influenced by the Suns’ finish to these playoffs.

Not exactly a dilemma, is it? Grab a nine-figure salary to cap your career or do nothing and play the season as the league’s third-highest-paid player.

From Bleacher Report:

“Paul has a $44.4 million player option, which according to several sources, he intends to decline with hopes of inking a new multiyear deal (perhaps in the $100 million range over three seasons). It’s unclear if his recent shoulder injury changes his plans.”

The shoulder injury is not likely to be any kind of factor when determining Paul’s worth for next season, and the Suns need Paul to prove his worth in the matchup with the Nuggets.

Paul could collect at least 140 big ones on a three-year deal with the Suns.

Would Phoenix be cool with that? Time will tell.

Here’s the other side to the coin.

Think about the cap space created if Paul were to leave — and the Suns were to entrust their point guard future to Cam Payne — or a free agent.

Done thinking?

OK, a few names: Goran Dragic, Lonzo Ball? Both are possibilities. And Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and Derrick Rose all are set to become unrestricted free agents.

Paul put up16.4 points and 8.9 assists per game in 70 games for the Suns this season. He shot almost 50 percent from the field. He’s really, really good.

Does he love Phoenix like Phoenix loves him?

“I mean first and foremost, I love it here,” Paul said in April. “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left. I don’t really think about that, either. I feel too good.

“Seriously, this summer, I have no clue. As much as I’m involved in the union and stuff like that, I don’t know what anybody’s teams are, (what their) caps are, I don’t know none of that stuff. I just play.”

The New York tabloid headlines already have “Knicks target” preceding Paul’s name when it comes to offseason possibilities.

New York? Paul has connections there, to be sure, and the Knicks would certainly be able to make him happy financially.

But one of the bigger reasons he chose Phoenix was the city’s proximity to L.A. and his family.

New York is a bit farther away.

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