Like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul has a big decision to make in the coming days.
As noted by ESPN's Bobby Marks, Paul has until Aug. 1 to decide if he's going to pick up his $44.2 million player option for the 2021-22 season. If he does, he will play out the final season of his contract with the Phoenix Suns, who are fresh off of a run to the NBA Finals. If he doesn't, he will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Paul isn't far removed from celebrating his 36th birthday, but he remains one of the league's best point guards and is the second-best player in this free agent class.
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In 70 games with the Suns this season, Paul averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals on .499/.395/.934 shooting splits. He earned his 11th All-Star selection in the process, as well as his 10th All-NBA selection.
Paul is not a high volume 3-point shooter (4.0 3PA over the last two seasons), but he's an efficient one, both off the catch...
...and off the dribble.
He's still an assassin from midrange, leading the league in makes from that distance this season while converting them at a 51.6 percent clip.
And, of course, he's one of the savviest floor generals, the type of player who makes everyone around him better.
Paul dished out the second-most assists (622) in the NBA this season while committing only 2.2 turnovers per game, tied for the second-lowest mark of his career.
There's a good chance Paul will simply re-sign with the Suns even if he does opt out of his player option, but there will be plenty of interest in him around the league if he does decide to test free agency.
So which teams could pursue Chris Paul?
The New York Knicks check two important boxes. Not only do they have money to spend - the Knicks are projected to have more cap space (up to $50 million) than any other team in the league this offseason - but they have a need for a point guard, especially if Derrick Rose, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, walks. Given their recent success, as well as the development of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, New York is a much more attractive free agent destination than it was 12 months ago.
The Dallas Mavericks are another option. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said following the team's first-round exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs that they're looking for a "secondary ball handler with some size." Paul lacks size, but he would be able to take some of the playmaking burden off of Luka Doncic, much like he did in Phoenix playing next to Devin Booker. Per ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Mavericks will have $34 million in cap space if they renounce Tim Hardaway Jr. and Josh Richardson declines his player option for next season.
The Miami Heat deserve mention. They're coming off of a tough season, but they made it to the Finals in 2020 and have one of the league's best duos in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Paul, Butler and Adebayo would make for a dynamic trio that has the potential to compete with the best of the best. Picking up the team options of Goran Dragic ($19.4 million) and Andre Iguodala ($15.0 million) would help the Heat match salary in a sign-and-trade while declining both of their options would open up $22 million in cap room.
Last but not least, the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, they're "on the hunt" for a veteran point guard this offseason and Paul is believed to be on their list. Since the Lakers aren't projected to have any cap space this offseason, Spears adds that it would likely take a sign-and-trade for them to acquire Paul. Otherwise, the most they could offer Paul in free agency is the taxpayer midlevel exception ($9.5 million), which would require him to take a big-time pay cut.
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