Would you rather keep Chris Paul or DeAndre Ayton with the Suns?
2. The case for keeping Chris Paul
Paul’s main advantage at this point is what it would do for the Suns financially if he came back over Ayton. He is going to be waived, and that means that the organization will only have to pay him $15.8 million of the $30.8 million owed to him this season. Unfortunately for the Suns, this would still appear on their cap sheet for 2023-24.
Waiving and stretching the deal over five years to eat the salary in $3 million chunks is much more like it for the team, but in this instance Paul is then not allowed come back on a different deal. To be clear, this option is still very much on the table, and it would allow the Suns to go after a higher level of free agent this summer.
But if we stick with the waive and return theory, the Suns can still add some sort of depth to their rotation, and address their key need which is on the wing. In doing so, they get to keep a future Hall of Fame player, and one of the smartest players in the league. The idea of Paul teeing up Durant and Booker each night is likely part of the reason Durant wanted to join to begin with.
At 38-years-old, there is no doubt Paul slipped some last season, mostly because of injuries. This is the main risk associated with bringing him back. It is entirely possible he can’t remain healthy anymore when it really matters, which already happened this year when he failed to play a single minute against the Denver Nuggets in their second round matchup.
In the regular season he only managed 59 games, all starts, but was right there each night giving the Suns 13.9 points and 8.9 assists. The other big factor going in Paul’s favor, is that the Suns would really struggle to adequately replace him if he was to be waived. Even if the contract was also stretched.
The Suns can’t keep Ayton (which in this scenario they are doing if Paul is gone), add meaningful wing depth and bring in an above average point guard. There just is not enough money to go around. The idea of Cam Payne running the show then is far less appealing, and is likely not the running mate Durant had in mind when he joined.