The Phoenix Suns are coming off one of their most successful seasons in franchise history, narrowly missing out on the NBA title.
Fresh off a hard-fought loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals, there’s no rest for the weary in the desert metropolis. Future Hall of Fame guard Chris Paul is slated to hit free agency.
There’s also this question about a potential contract extension for Deandre Ayton and a number of other issues facing up-and-coming general manager James Jones heading into the offseason. Below, we look at Phoenix Suns rumors as well as some top trade and free agent targets for the 2021 NBA offseason.
Phoenix Suns rumors: Will Chris Paul return?
At first glance, the pairing of this 11-time All-Star and the upstart Phoenix Suns did not make a whole lot of sense. Boy, did CP3 and Phoenix prove the skeptics wrong. Despite some glaring struggles in the NBA Finals, the 36-year-old Paul more than lived up to his bargain. He proved to be that veteran leader star two-guard Devin Booker desperately needed in the backcourt.
The question now becomes whether Paul will return to the desert. He has a $44.21 million player option for the 2021-22 season — one that the future Hall of Famer will certainly decline.
While a return to Phoenix would make the most sense from an on-court and financial perspective, there’s every reason to believe Paul will at least test the market. Two large-market teams in that of the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have been mentioned as possibilities recently. After coming up just short of winning his first ever title, Paul should decide on the best situation to lead him to that elusive championship.
Will the Phoenix Suns reward Deandre Ayton will contract extension?
After an absolutely brilliant playoff run that saw him average 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds on 66% shooting from the field, there’s now no questioning Ayton’s status as a franchise cornerstone in Phoenix. While he won’t be compared to fellow 2018 classmates Luka Doncic and Trae Young, the 22-year-old Ayton is among the best young centers in the NBA.
Phoenix can offer Ayton a whopping five-year, $168 million rookie-level max extension this summer. In turn, the center would be smart to take it. Look for the Suns to work on a deal with both Ayton and fellow stud youngster Mikal Bridges this summer.
Phoenix Suns free-agent rumors: How to attack the market
Depending on the Paul situation, Phoenix could find itself with north of $30 million to spend under the cap. That would obviously be a less-than-ideal scenario, meaning that CP3 had decided to leave the Suns after one season. It would also put the Suns in a position in which they’d have to attack NBA free agency to find a starter-caliber point guard. Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley and even Lonzo Ball come to mind in that unlikely event.
The likelier scenario here is that Paul re-signs with the Suns on a four-year contract. This would leave Phoenix with the $9.54 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception that it could use on one player or a number of veterans to create depth.
With a solid core of Paul, Booker, Ayton, Bridges and Cameron Johnson, the Suns would then be able to target specific role players at certain positions. They also have to think about potentially re-signing an improved guard in that of Cameron Payne.
Phoenix Suns free agent targets
- Serge Ibaka: Despite missing Los Angeles’ playoff run due to a back injury, Ibaka will likely opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Having averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds over the course of the past decade, he’s still a solid player. Ibaka also makes sense as a traditional power forward with Cameron Johnson having played that role to an extent in 2021-22.
- Montrezl Harrell: Staying in the low-post, a score-first big man could also make sense for Phoenix. Likely to decline his player option, Harrell would seem to be a fit. He’s averaging 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds on 61% shooting since the start of the 2018-19 season.
- Paul Millsap: Noticing a theme here? Veteran big men with both regular-season and playoff experience. Millsap would fill that role to a T and could potentially be had at the mid-level exception.
Phoenix Suns trade rumors: Any moves on the horizon?
There is a chance that Phoenix attempts to attach the 29th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft with someone like Cameron Johnson or 2020 first-round selection Jalen Smith to find yet another starter-caliber player. Of course, this assumes Chris Paul doesn’t bolt in free agency.
It’s easy to conclude that James Jones will be aggressive in adding to this championship-caliber core with Paul, Booker, Bridges and Ayton.
Purely hypothetical, but the idea of bringing a true star at power forward could help matters a great deal. I’d personally love to see if Phoenix could entice the Indiana Pacers with a package surrounding Johnson, Smith and multiple first-round picks for All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis. How fun would that starting five be?