Earlier today, Brian Windhorst of ESPN joined me to dive deep into the story he helped break last night; the Suns have had discussions to acquire Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The entire interview is jam packed with juicy trade nuggets but Windhorst told me he thinks it's a better than 50/50 chance the Suns pull off the deal.
When I asked him about whether the Suns would need to give up the #10 overall pick in next week's draft, Windhorst replied that he would not give up that pick because the financial savings the Suns would help the Thunder realize, more than $50 million over the next two years, should be enough but acknowledged that the Thunder may have the leverage to force the Suns into a game of trade chicken.
Windhorst also said told me that:
I think Chris Paul is interested in being a Phoenix Sun…..and that is not a minor statement”
Phoenix's proximity to LA and Paul's family, his familiarity with Monty Williams, James Jones and Jeff Bower (who originally drafted Paul in 2004 as the GM of the then New Orleans Hornets) and the possibility of teaming up with Devin Booker all help make Phoenix an ideal spot for Paul to play for the next two years.
So, now that we've established that the Suns are not being catfished and that one of the NBA's best PG's is actively interested in joining the team with one of the worst profile pictures in the NBA, should they make the trade?
Chris Paul is scheduled to earn $41 million next season with a player option for $44 million in 2021 that Paul will almost certainly pick up at age 37. That's a lot of money. But remember, thats a lot of money for someone else (cough, Bobby Sarvs, cough) to pay. It's not your money.
And as Windhorst explained in my interview with him, the Suns would not necessarily need to spend any of their actual available cap space to pull off this trade, preserving around $20 million to spend on additional reinforcements alongside Paul. This would not only help the Suns become the kind of contender that Paul would want to play for, it would demonstrate the seriousness by which Robert Sarver is willing to pursue success.
It's not like the Suns are giving Paul a 5 year, $200 million dollar free agent contract. Two years, $85 million dollars is a small price to pay for Devin Booker's happiness.
Plus, what other high priced player are the Suns actually going to land in the next two years? Its a poor free agent class this year and while next year's class headlined by Giannis, Kawhi Leonard (possibly), Paul George (possibly), Lebron James and Anthony Davis sounds amazing, there's a slightly worse than 0% chance the Suns are in any of those conversations.
Paul is a difficult player to watch. He's one of my least favorite NBA players to watch play basketball. He complains, he barks, he acts like a 5 time NBA Champ with 5 MVP's but he does get results.
In his career, he's won 54 playoff games. Steve Nash won 56 in his career.
The biggest question may be how he fits in on a roster of young players who may be comfortable with the team they have. Paul's time with the Clippers ended in reported drama between Paul and fellow Lob City star Blake Griffin. In Houston, he obviously clashed with James Harden. In OKC, there were no stars to clash with, it was the Chris Paul Show and he helped lead the team to the playoffs while earning All NBA 2nd team honors.
In Phoenix, Booker is dating Kardashians and reveling in the first real national attention he received from his bubble play. Think of the Clippers buzzer beater Booker made over George and Kawhi - does he even get that shot if Paul is in a Suns uniform?
But even Booker would have to respect Paul's accomplishments as one of the most statistically prolific pure point guards in NBA history and one of the most clutch guards currently in the NBA. Its a test of Devin Booker's approach: he could look at all the ways Paul would negatively affect his shots, moments and leadership or he could look at all the ways Paul could help him become the winner he so desperately craves to be.
Both players would likely have to make some concessions on their style to acquiesce to the other but those are the sacrifices teammates should be willing to make to help the Suns do something they haven't done in over a decade: win and win more than eight games.
Most importantly, Paul is a widely, largely respected NBA figure. As an influential power broker with the NBAPA, Paul's fingerprints are all over everything in the league. No matter the industry, the best way to attract top talent to your business is to have great people already working for you. The Suns already have Monty Williams and Devin Booker, Paul could help permanently transform the Suns reputation from that of a bumbling franchise to one of a booming franchise.
Chris Paul is outrageously expensive for a 35 year old point guard with a checkered injury history. Chris Paul is infuriating to watch. Chris Paul is a demanding floor general with a reputation of aggressive leadership. Chris Paul would require breaking up a team coming off the best stretch of Suns basketball in many years.
Chris Paul also makes the Suns one of the eight best teams in the Western Conference. Chris Paul has a track record of making teammates around him better. Chris Paul would immediately fill the on court leadership void that has plagued the Suns for years. Chris Paul is not going to be paid with your money.
In other words, Chris Paul is exactly what the Suns need.