Windhorst: Belief in NBA is Suns PG Chris Paul won’t hit free agent market

Jul 30, 2021, 8:42 AM | Updated: 4:42 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul warms up before Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwauk...

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul warms up before Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

A busy NBA Draft day that tipped off early with a blockbuster trade may have ended league-wide skepticism about point guard Chris Paul leaving the Phoenix Suns via free agency.

Paul, who has a player option worth $44 million for next season, could still opt out. However, the Los Angeles Lakers’ agreed upon trade to acquire point guard Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards took a rumored Paul landing spot out of the equation.

“The feeling within the league now is Chris Paul is going to stay put in Phoenix,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective podcast.

“Whether or not he is going to opt out and sign a new deal or extend his contract or whatever, the belief is Chris Paul is not ever going to be on the open market.”

The Lakers — based on speculation only — were viewed as a potential landing spot for Paul because they should be a contending team and are led by one of his good friends, LeBron James. Los Angeles is also where Paul’s family currently resides.

Before the Westbrook trade, however, the financial situation for Paul landing with the Lakers made little sense, as he’d have to either take a significant pay cut or be willingly traded by Phoenix. Now with Westbrook reportedly headed to Los Angeles, the Suns even moreso appear to be the best fit for the point guard. He can sign one more hefty multi-year deal while chasing a title after Phoenix made it to the NBA Finals this past season.

Paul can opt in or out of the one year left on his current deal by Sunday, and free agency negotiations can begin officially on Tuesday.

He could opt out and still sign an extension with Phoenix.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are set on acquiring Westbrook from the Wizards for three players and the rights to first-round pick Isaiah Jackson.

Two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press that the Lakers are trading Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell to Washington for Westbrook, who is a Los Angeles native and helped lead UCLA to a pair of Final Four appearances.

The Lakers had the 22nd overall pick in Thursday’s draft and selected Jackson, a 6-foot-11 forward from Kentucky.

The deal can’t be officially announced until Aug. 6, when the salary cap becomes official and teams can also begin making moves for the upcoming season. The Lakers will also receive second-round picks from the Wizards in 2024 and 2028.

The Wizards also aren’t holding on to Jackson. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Jackson’s rights were traded by the Lakers to the Indiana Pacers via the Wizards a couple picks later.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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