Phoenix Suns: Point Guards to Bring in if Chris Paul Departs as Free Agent

Chris Paul and Mike Conley, Phoenix Suns(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Chris Paul and Mike Conley, Phoenix Suns(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Chris Paul leaving the Phoenix Suns right after a run to the NBA finals would be quite an abrupt ending to such a hope-filled season.

But with factors coming into play such as Phoenix’s potential budget issues, and Paul’s friendship with LeBron James, more and more rumblings have continued to pop up regarding an exodus from the Valley for the Point God. This indicates that at the very least, re-signing him is not something entirely guaranteed.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Miami Heat all seem to want Paul’s services, and if the willingness to throw money at the veteran point guard is there, we might need a new floor general for next year. Since I like hypotheticals, how about we take a look at few potential alternate timelines for the Suns regarding the point guard spot they indeed were to let CP3 walk.

Phoenix Suns: Similar fits to Paul at Point Guard

Kyle Lowry (UFA), Mike Conley (UFA), and Goran Dragic (RFA) are all point guards that offer a similar dynamic to Paul. While all of them are a tier down from him as shot creators, they are all small guards who still provide you with all the essentials from an offensive standpoint: spacing, elite playmaking, and above average shot creation.

These guards differ though in ball dominance, pace, and defensive skills. While Lowry is on Paul’s level in terms of small guard defense, and in some situations even better due to his sheer strength and extra 20 lbs, Conley and Dragic lack the versatility and instincts required to defend well. This especially applies to Dragic though, who at times has been known as a defensive liability.

But each guard’s decreased ball dominance compared to that of Paul’s is an even more glaring difference. This likely occurs due to how much less Dragic, Conley, and Lowry all look to create for themselves in isolation. They refuse to micromanage the game and slow it down to the same hyper-methodical extent which Chris Paul does.

Any of these point guards would change Phoenix from a squad operating as a two-headed monster featuring a fringe-star and solid role players, into a more equal opportunity offense centered around Booker and Ayton.

This can give way to both positives and negatives. It would promote a much faster pace on offense, with less stalling in the half court, and would likely involve Ayton to a much greater extent due to the extra shots available.

However, when you remove a guard who used to consistently slow the game down and hit tough shots in crunch time, you put far more pressure on Booker to be the sole source of that. This threatens to drop the Suns down the rankings of best clutch teams, which they were very high on last season from a statistical standpoint.

Phoenix Suns: Tough Covers at Point Guard

Spencer Dinwiddie (UFA), Dennis Schroder (UFA), and Reggie Jackson (UFA) are all tenacious scoring point guards, with Dinwiddie and Schroder having the capability to facilitate at an above average level. These two also bring additional defense and hustle to the table, and Dinwiddie distinctly brings size.

Their fit with the Suns however feels somewhat questionable. Both their games center around needing the ball with limited ability to provide spacing. This ball dominance and lack of off ball value, combined with the fact that neither of them can match Paul’s efficiency could signal diminishing returns for Phoenix’s offense.

However, these two remain a step above every other guard mentioned so far when it comes to defense, with Lowry as the only exception. Dinwiddie in particular provides a higher level of shot creation than every other guard listed thus far as well.

But the most important question for Dinwiddie and Schroder is how many shot attempts and touches will it take for them to stay happy and effective in their roles. You simply cannot take away more shot attempts from the incredibly efficient Ayton, and you also want the role players around him to stay in rhythm.

Reggie Jackson on the other hand, would be a seamless fit scoring-wise, assuming that his shooting from the 2021 postseason even partially translates over into next season. But again, he does lack the defensive prowess and playmaking of his contemporaries. Basically, it comes down to weighing each player’s opposing pros and cons.

Phoenix Suns: The Odd One Out

To me, Lonzo Ball (RFA)  is an interesting prospect that could be a pleasant surprise with the Suns. Ball is big guard who can defend at an elite level, shoot 38.0 percent from deep on seven attempts per game, and work as a fantastic transition facilitator thanks to his extraordinary court vision.

The former No. 2 overall pick does not need the ball at all time to fulfil his purpose on offense as well. However, he is not perfect. Ball struggles to attack the rim consistently, and does not get to the line as often as he should, receiving criticism for playing too passively at times.

But the potential of having a backcourt that tall with Booker already oversized at the shooting guard spot feels intriguing enough to outweigh most flaws. It also gives the Suns the ability to fully lean into a fast-paced, ball movement heavy offense— poised to add even more excitement to the team.

Phoenix Suns: Ranking these Point Guards

Of all the players mentioned, I would say easiest ones to acquire go ranked as such:

  1. Dennis Schroder
  2. Goran Dragic
  3. Spencer Dinwiddie
  4. Kyle Lowry
  5. Reggie Jackson
  6. Mike Conley
  7. Lonzo Ball

If CP3 heads elsewhere, it will likely be through a sign and trade deal, so it is safe to assume that the teams who want Paul would be willing to exchange some of their current players as well (i.e. the Lakers and Heat).

Dinwiddie will likely not go for an extremely expensive contract with him coming off a partially torn ACL from last winter. The Suns would be an excellent spot for him to prove his worth though, and possibly look for another contract the year after.

The rest are all toss ups, but generally unlikely to end up as Suns seeing as how their current teams would most likely want to either retain them, or due to their price tags simply being too high.

Regardless, it would be in Phoenix’s best interest to re-sign Paul for a reasonable price, as it was his focus and determination that elevated the team and helped it reach the league’s grandest stage last year. In any case, due to CP3’s age, he will definitely have to take a backseat in the offense sooner rather than later though.

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This means that regardless of who the Suns starting point guard is next year—Booker, Ayton, and Mikal Bridges will all have to take greater strides, and be featured in more prominent roles if they hope to uphold this team’s offense. That also will need to happen faster if Paul does leave.