Chris Paul has been an integral part of the Phoenix Suns going from bottom-of-the-Western Conference to perennial championship contenders over the past few years.
That said, Paul is nearly 38 years old and putting up a career-low 13.1 points per game. There is also no ignoring that the Suns got trounced in embarrassing fashion in last year’s playoffs and are 21-24 this year.
Even if Phoenix manages to turn things around, clearly Paul isn’t a long-term solution at point guard for them. And not because of his incessant dirty plays or off-the-court drama — because he has already missed 20 games this year and that trend will only continue going forward
This week, a report surfaced suggesting that the team’s front office may already be looking for Paul’s potential replacement.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Phoenix is one of two squads to keep an eye on when it comes to Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet.
“The Suns and Magic have emerged as potential free-agent suitors for All-Star guard VanVleet,” he reported.
“VanVleet — the 2019 NBA champion and one of the league’s greatest undrafted success stories — spoke recently about his pending free-agency status in the offseason and how he remains focused on the Raptors: ‘I’m completely focused on his team. My loyalty is to this team and to this franchise and trying to get us back to the level that we’re accustomed to around here.’”
VanVleet is averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 assists per game this season. Although his shooting percentages are a bit off right now, he is a career 38.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
The big problem for Phoenix when it comes to adding VanVleet, assuming he makes his peace with leaving Toronto, is money.
VanVleet will likely command $30 million annually after he waives his player option for next year, and the Suns won’t have an easy time reaching that number without making some big moves.
Paul is currently making $28.4 million and is due $30.8 million in 2023-24. Only $15.5 million of that 2023-24 number is guaranteed at the moment, though.
The Suns could also presumably try to acquire VanVleet now via trade and then use their Bird Rights to re-sign him to a larger deal over the summer.
He’s done it again. The video speaks for itself. https://t.co/lh3K8sFkNQ
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 18, 2023
Time will tell if they choose to go that route.
In any case, the writing is clearly on the wall when it comes to Paul’s future with the team. He isn’t long for Phoenix, no matter what.
Will VanVleet step in and become the next franchise point guard once he is done? Time will tell.