PHOENIX SUNS

ESPN’s Marks: Paying Chris Paul big money should not concern Suns

Aug 2, 2021, 10:02 AM | Updated: 10:05 am

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and center Deandre Ayton (22) talk during a timeout during the fo...

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and center Deandre Ayton (22) talk during a timeout during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets during an NBA basketball game in Houston, Monday, April 5, 2021. (Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP)

(Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP)

When running it back is on the table, decisions become easier for a team coming off an NBA Finals appearance.

Even if running it back requires handing out multiple long-term contracts.

For the Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul on Sunday reportedly opted out of his $44 million year left on his current contract to pursue a long-term deal. Phoenix general manager James Jones also has the next few months to extend starters Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, who have one year left on their rookie contracts.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks sees the benefit in getting things done now, even if the collection of payments owed get steep starting in 2022-23.

Marks told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Monday that he believes Paul, who averaged 16.4 points and 8.9 assists over 70 regular season games, will be back with the Suns.

“I’ll put it at 99.9,” Marks said.

While the point guard will command a large contract as a 36-year-old, projecting the future salary cap can ease concerns about the team’s financial flexibility in the later years of the deal.

“I think you’ll see him probably come to some type of agreement whenever this 6 p.m. (ET Monday) time comes, for three years — potentially four years,” Marks said. “I don’t know if all that money will be guaranteed. I think that money will go down from $44 (million) to a little bit lower.

“We’re probably going to have this conversation in two years, and you’re going to be saying, ‘Bobby, what do you think about this Chris Paul contract? This man is terrible.’ But right now? It is what it is, the nature of the beast.”

The point guard is coming off his second All-NBA Second Team season in a row, and while he was banged up throughout the playoffs, his injuries were general wear-and-tear. Marks believes how the Suns use him — not putting too much on him offensively — can prolong his career.

That’s why Marks sees good reason to keep Ayton and Bridges around with extensions rather than allowing them to reach restricted free agency, where other teams could force Phoenix’s hand next summer.

“I just don’t think you can afford to let it play out and then allow (Ayton) go into restricted free agency,” Marks said. “Instead of getting him on a five-year contract, you might have a team throw an offer sheet at three years, player option for that third year like we saw with Gordon Hayward a few years back, and then he becomes a free agent again.”

Paying Ayton and Bridges would signal a commitment by Suns owner Robert Sarver, as well as Jones.

It’s important to remember star guard Devin Booker’s own max contract ends in three years. Showing him the team isn’t “cutting corners” will keep Booker happy, Marks said.

All that means a lot of money going to four players. But expecting the NBA salary cap to get out of a stall due to the COVID-19 pandemic will help ease the books down the road.

“I think in a couple years we’ll get a new TV deal, so we’ll get another infusion of money coming in here where the cap won’t stay flat or increase 3% — that there will probably be a big jump, probably maybe when Chris is in that third year,” Marks said.

Still, Paul would be 39 years old by the time a three-year contract ends. Assuming his yearly annual earnings will be a reasonable chunk of the $44 million he passed on for next season, he’ll be making a historic amount.

Marks has done his research on the uniqueness of Paul’s position.

“I was digging around, he’ll become only the third player since 1999 to sign a contract for more than $25 million dollars over the age of 35,” Marks said. “Him and LeBron (James) and Dirk (Nowitzki) back in Dallas. He’ll join elite company there.”

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ESPN’s Marks: Paying Chris Paul big money should not concern Suns