The Phoenix Suns aren’t playing it safe this summer. Many teams would have; they have two of the dozen or so best players in the world in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, but they but only got to see them together for a few weeks. There was a very real case for standing pat, finding the right mix of minimum contracts and role players around them, and running it back.
That’s clearly not what the Suns and new owner Matt Ishbia are doing though. They fired revered head coach Monty Williams and hired former championship winner Frank Vogel to replace him. They are shopping Deandre Ayton. And this week, reports that they were planning to retain Chris Paul quickly turned into reports that they were about to waive him.
It is unclear yet what will happen with the player, but it is possible that waiving Chris Paul could be the precursor to a major move.
While they haven’t officially done anything, it seems unlikely the Suns will find a trade partner for Paul’s $30.8 million salary. They could waive him and eat the $15.8 million guarantee this season, or even waive and re-sign him. The boldest move, however, is to waive and stretch Paul, reducing this season’s cap hit to just over $3 million.
That opens up the full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE), but also sets the stage for a second bold move: moving Deandre Ayton into another team’s cap space to open up something close to max room to sign a star in free agency.
The Suns could then go big-game hunting, courting the big names on the free agent market to form a proper “Big 3” to go after the title this season. They could also trade Ayton directly to a team with a free-agent star and work out a sign-and-trade, so they have a few different paths to this outcome.
Who could they look into signing? Avoiding for the moment the landmine that would be Kyrie Irving pairing up again with Durant in Arizona, there are three free agents who the Suns might just be angling to sign this summer.