Chris Paul didn’t want to talk about it.
Minutes after a loss in the NBA Finals is not when a fierce competitor will talk about free agency and contracts.
“We just lost a few minutes ago, you know what I mean?” Paul said when a reporter broached the subject after Game 6, where the Bucks ended the Suns season with a loss. “Right now, we’re going to process this and figure this out. I think everything else will take care of itself.”
Eventually, Paul will have to process his summer options.
CP3 is expected to decline his $44.2 million player option next season, seeking something with more guaranteed years and money, likely in the three-year, more than $100 million range. He also could opt into next year’s contract and sign an extension off of it to stay in Phoenix.
Sources around the league almost universally expect Paul to re-sign with the Suns. Especially after this run to the Finals, and on a team where Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton credit him for lifting them and the franchise up. However, there are plenty of teams “monitoring the situation.” One is the Los Angeles Lakers, reports Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated (although the logistics of a Lakers/Suns sign-and-trade to get Paul the money he seeks are immensely complicated and hard cap the Lakers, forcing them to strip down most of the roster outside what would be the three stars).
While Paul didn’t discuss it directly, he also sounded like a guy who expects to be back in Phoenix next season.
“For me it just means back to work. Back to work. Nothing more, nothing less,” Paul said of what was next after Tuesday’s loss. “Ain’t no moral victories or whatnot. We sort of saw what it takes to get there and hopefully we see what it takes to get past that…
“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough. So, we got to figure it out. I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more, and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”
The Suns will pay Paul what he wants — it would be a public relations disaster for the franchise not to — but we’ll also see how deep owner Robert Sarver is willing to reach into his pocketbook to run back the rest of the roster.
Backup point guard Cameron Payne is an unrestricted free agent and teams looking for a point guard — hello Knicks! — might try to poach him (the Suns can offer him up to $10.7 million a year to start through early Bird rights). How much will the Suns pay to keep him? Fan-favorite Bobby Portis is expected to opt-out of his $4 million for next season and seeks a bigger payday from the Suns or someone else. Ayton and Mikal Bridges are extension eligible. On top of all that, the Suns need a backup center for better minutes when Ayton sits.
Winning gets expensive. How much of that tab will Sarver pick up? Will he go into the luxury tax to keep this team together?
The one question that feels safe to answer is Sarver and the Suns will pay what it takes to keep Paul, they know they can’t let him walk.