Phoenix Suns: Why the Suns have the upper hand in signing Chris Paul

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Chris Paul has one of those “good” problems to consider when this NBA Finals run is finished.

The Phoenix Suns have concerns more immediate, of course, such as how to shut down the Milwaukee Bucks’ two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but in just a couple of weeks, the focus will shift to NBA contract season.

The Phoenix Suns may hold the advantage over Chris Paul in the negotiations that likely will follow Paul’s decision to opt out of his current deal.

Paul has a player option for next season at $44,211,146, but after the past couple of months showing everyone he’s as good as he’s ever been, he now can command much more in guaranteed money if he wants to play through his age-39 season.

The Phoenix Suns — who looked great in their Game 1 win, by the way — are in a position to dictate just how much money is available at Paul’s preferred destination (returning to Phoenix).

The Suns’ accountants will have to fit Paul’s money and still leave the team able to secure an exciting, primary core – not just for the next couple of years but for a championship window of five to seven years.

The Suns will be clear how much money they have for Chris Paul after Paul (assumedly) opts out.

The Phoenix Suns have plenty of stars whose contract situations should/will be addressed.

Deandre Ayton is eligible for a healthy extension, as is Mikal Bridges; Cameron Payne is a pending free agent, as is Torrey Craig.

And the Suns could go shopping for a rim-protecting backup center.

Dario Saric’s torn ACL doesn’t help the team’s concerns about big-man depth. Jae Crowder will be in the second year of a nice, three-year deal and Cameron Johnson is safely under contract, too.

There seems little doubt that it’s in everyone’s best interests for Paul to opt out and re-sign with the Suns.

But HoopsHype clarified the situation if Paul did decide to opt in.

"If CP3 exercises his player option, he can extend for an additional two years for a maximum of $97 million. That route would have him earn $140 million over the next three seasons, but there’s no guarantee the Suns would want to pay him close to $50 million annually in his late-thirties."

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns probably don’t need to worry too much about the vultures – unless the Suns decide it’s not financially feasible to re-up CP3

Another big reason the Suns have an advantage here: There is a dearth of potential suitors — with teams eliminated by contender status, proximity to Paul’s home in Los Angeles, and salary cap wherewithal.

It’s difficult to imagine the two sides stumbling into a rift that causes CP3 to play elsewhere, but that doesn’t stop the national media from rampant speculation.

The optimism for Suns fans is founded, in part, by the inability of the big-market teams (read: New York Knicks) to outspend the Suns.

Paul, president of the NBA’s players association, helped change the over-36 rule to the over-38 rule in 2016. No team may sign a player for more than three years if that new offer would spill into the player’s age-38 season.

The advantage to those big-market teams would be disposable income, as in: “We’ll give you five years and $150 million even though we know you’ll retire in three years. But that’s OK, you’ll keep getting paid for your first two years of retirement! Deal?”

So a team – let’s say the Knicks – could offer only three years.

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The thought here is that Paul’s representation will press the Suns to the limit of their available resources – without damaging the team’s plans for the core.

The prediction is three years at $32 million per year. A guaranteed $96 million should free Chris Paul’s mind and keep the Suns’ legitimate championship window open.