In news that was sure to make the mobile phone of Chris Haynes explode on Monday afternoon, he announced that the Phoenix Suns plan to waive future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul. An astonishing turn of events for the 38-year-old, given that his current teammates in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Ayton represented his best ever chance to win a championship.
It is not yet known what this actually means for where Paul will next suit up, and we will return to that later, but it is clear that head coach Frank Vogel and the front office of the Suns are done beating around the bush in trying to win it all. Since Mat Ishbia took over as owner of the franchise, he has been extremely aggressive in trying to create a winner.
The waiving of Paul is the boldest move yet by the Suns, and it represents a cut-throat attitude and willingness to leave sentiment behind to try and win a title.
Before delving into what this might actually mean for Paul and the Suns, they must first be commended for getting their business done so early in the summer. The NBA Finals are still taking place, and already the organization have re-signed lead assistant Kevin Young, snagged David Fizdale from the Utah Jazz, and had an introductory press conference for Vogel.
They are moving quick, and this will stand to them when everybody returns for training camp and the group can hit the ground running together. But could it be that Paul is actually right there with the team on that first day? It is not as out of the question as you may think, and if that were to happen, it still shows just how ruthless the Suns now are under Ishbia.
Paul was due to make $30.8 million this coming season, and alongside the other three aforementioned players, their contracts would have added up to over $120 million. With a new CBA beginning this offseason, one which features a hard cap, it is just not possible when four players are making that much money to surround them with the necessary role players to win.
But Paul is still guaranteed $15.8 million from the Suns even after being waived. Crucially, this will still count towards their cap sheet for this coming season, so it is not the massive saver that it looked like on initial viewing. It certainly helps, and means the Suns could move away from the Jae Crowders of the world, and look at perhaps a Gabe Vincent type.
But waiving Paul points to something bigger going on, and it could be that the Suns have already found a way to circumvent the new CBA by waiving Paul now. We all know how badly Paul wants to win, and playing with the Suns represents one of the best chances he’d get across the entire league to do that.
So it may be that he is happy to be waived, collect half his paycheque anyway, and then re-sign for less money. This would allow the Suns to add more depth, while also ensuring Paul gets to stay with a franchise who will be aiming for the finals at a minimum next season. He does not have many years left, and can’t afford to take chances elsewhere in hopes it will work out.
Of course there is another way of looking at this, and that is that there simply was no viable trade options out there for Paul. They still have to eat half of his salary, but getting him off the books allows them to fill out the rest of their roster in a better way. This may yet include the dealing of Ayton as well, as the organization looks for a way to round out their roster as best they can.
It is clear they are crying out for some depth at the wing position. Mikal Bridges is a huge loss, while Cam Johnson was also in the rotation before both were traded for Durant. Waiving Paul does allow the Suns to go after decent wings to help. Perhaps even Bruce Brown, who is having himself a season with the Denver Nuggets.
What then happens to their point guard rotation? Are the Suns really foolish enough to think Cam Payne can be the starting point guard for a championship level team? Surely not, but then they won’t have any money to address both the wing depth and the need for a floor general. Paul was literally a better option than anything they could afford.
There may still yet be other pieces to fall here, but Paul was still productive last season, and the Suns didn’t even manage to get all of his money off their books. We saw James Harden opt out of a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers last season, only to re-sign at a lower number so the franchise could go out and get more players to try and help them win.
This is a different take on that, but the new CBA has made getting cute around skirting the hard cap a harsh reality for a team like the Suns who have gone beyond all in. There’s just no way coach Vogel wouldn’t want Paul on his roster, and at a lower figure he makes sense in Phoenix in a way he doesn’t elsewhere. There is more to this story, and it feels like it could end with Paul returning.