Chris Paul

Free Agency Rumors: Collins, Cavs, CP3, Clippers

NBA teams interested in signing restricted free agent John Collins are growing “increasingly pessimistic” that they’ll be able to pry away the big man from the Hawks, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link).

The Hawks and Collins couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension during the 2020 offseason, with Atlanta reportedly making a four-year offer in the neighborhood of $90MM, while Collins was believed to be seeking the max. That gap created a sense that the Hawks may be reluctant to match an aggressive offer sheet for Collins this summer, but based on Stein’s report, it sounds like rival suitors are skeptical about Atlanta letting the 23-year-old get away.

Here are a few more free agents from around the league:

  • The Cavaliers had Alex Caruso and T.J. McConnell high on their list of free agent targets, but after agreeing to acquire Ricky Rubio from Minnesota, Cleveland may use its mid-level exception to address a position other than point guard, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
  • Like Suns owner Robert Sarver, general manager James Jones isn’t sure whether or not Chris Paul will pick up his player option to remain in Phoenix. But if Paul opts out, Jones is optimistic the two sides can reach a new deal. “I think what we have is enticing. I think he likes being here. We like having him here,” Jones said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “So I’m confident that we will be able to have a conversation hopefully in the coming days that will make everyone happy.”
  • Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said the team wants to bring back Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson, and Nicolas Batum in free agency and hopes that Serge Ibaka opts into the final year of his contract, as Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times relays. Frank also acknowledged that the club expects Leonard to miss time next season due to his ACL sugery. “That’s going to require a great deal of time and we want to support him in that,” Frank said.

Western Rumors: CP3, Wolves, Simmons, Barton, Thunder

Addressing Chris Paul‘s contract situation during an appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo, Suns owner Robert Sarver said he wasn’t sure whether or not the veteran point guard would pick up his player option.

Asked if there was a scenario in which Paul opts out and doesn’t return, Sarver replied, “I don’t know. I’m sure there probably is. But I think our first priority would be to try to get him back, but that’ll depend on his agent and (Suns general manager) James (Jones) and him and me and all that kind of stuff, so I don’t know. We’ll see next week I guess, right?”

Despite Sarver’s hedging, I’d still be a little surprised if Paul and the Suns don’t either agree to an extension or a new contract in the coming days. The Suns owner added that he’s prepared to begin paying luxury tax penalties either next season or the following year, as team salary continues to rise.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • The Timberwolves don’t have a pick in Thursday’s draft, but they’ve been making calls “all over the league,” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who says Minnesota remains in the hunt for a power forward. A trade for Ben Simmons is unlikely, but the Wolves haven’t given up on the possibility in the event the Sixers drop their asking price, Krawczynski adds.
  • There’s “growing optimism” that Will Barton and the Nuggets will be able to agree to a new deal in free agency, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barton turned down his $14.7MM player option for 2021/22, but remains interested in returning to Denver on a longer-term contract.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic has heard some chatter about the possibility of the Thunder trying to trade up to No. 3 in order to select Evan Mobley. However, he notes that the Cavaliers – and other teams that talk to Oklahoma City – will likely try to extract a king’s ransom, given the Thunder’s stockpile of draft picks. OKC may not be willing to pay that price.

Point Guard Rumors: Paul, Conley, Lowry, Dinwiddie, More

After watching Chris Paul play a key role in turning the Suns into a legit title contender in 2020/21, teams around the NBA are weighing whether they might be able to replicate that success by adding a veteran guard such as Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, or Paul himself this summer, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Those three point guards will be free agents and will headline a talented group that also includes Lonzo Ball, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dennis Schröder, and Derrick Rose, among others.

According to both Windhorst and Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, there’s a belief around the NBA that the Jazz will be able to re-sign Conley this offseason, even if they have to shed some salary to comfortably do so. However, they’ll face competition for the point guard. Windhorst and Fischer identify the Mavericks as one team expected to be in the hunt for Conley.

As for Paul, he has indicated he’s prepared to turn down his $44MM+ player option for 2021/22, but it’s possible that’s a leverage play, writes Windhorst. If the Suns and Paul are interested in continuing their relationship, a scenario in which CP3 picks up his player option and then signs an extension at a lesser rate may be in both sides’ best interest. If Paul does opt out and seeks a new team, he’ll be limited by the Over-38 rule to a three-year contract.

Here are a few more notes on the point guard free agent market:

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer confirms a Miami Herald report that stated Kyle Lowry is expected to be seeking a three-year, $90MM contract in free agency.
  • The Knicks will be among Lowry’s suitors and are willing to offer him somewhere between $20-30MM per year for two seasons, according to Pompey, who says that Spencer Dinwiddie and swingman Evan Fournier are among New York’s other potential targets. Dinwiddie is thought to be seeking $25MM annually, while Fournier is after $18MM per year, says Pompey. I’m skeptical that Dinwiddie, especially, will achieve that goal.
  • Dinwiddie is viewed as a likely Plan B for the Pelicans if they’re unable to land Lowry, according to Fischer. As Windhorst notes, current New Orleans GM Trajan Langdon previously worked in Brooklyn’s front office during Dinwiddie’s time with the Nets.
  • League executives believe the Pelicans are willing to let Lonzo Ball go if they find another option they like or if Ball receives an aggressive offer sheet, writes Windhorst.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, who had success with Dennis Schröder in Oklahoma City, is thought to be interested in a potential reunion with the Lakers guard, according to Windhorst.
  • Timberwolves veteran Ricky Rubio is among the point guards whose names have been floated on the trade market so far, per Windhorst.

Heat Rumors: Lowry, Herro, Dinwiddie, Beal, Dragic, Ariza

The Heat will have interest in Kyle Lowry in free agency, but they’ll face plenty of competition for the veteran point guard, who will have a high asking price, according to Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. A source in touch with Lowry tells the Miami Herald that the 35-year-old is expected to seek a guaranteed three-year contract worth $30MM per year.

Lowry may not ultimately achieve that goal, but he seems likely to get at least $25MM per year, per Jackson and Chiang. The Herald duo suggests a reunion with the Raptors isn’t considered particularly likely for Lowry, but he’s expected to draw interest from the Sixers, Lakers, Mavericks, and Pelicans, as well as the Heat and Knicks.

As Jackson and Chiang outline, the Heat could theoretically open up enough cap room to offer Lowry about $85MM over three years if they waive or renounce several veterans who are free agents or who have non-guaranteed salaries. They could retain RFAs Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn in that scenario, but would otherwise be limited to the room exception and minimum-salary contracts to fill out the roster.

A sign-and-trade for Lowry is another possibility and wouldn’t necessarily require the Heat to part ways with so many veterans, but the Raptors would have to approve the compensation in any deal. Miami remains unenthusiastic about including Tyler Herro in any sign-and-trade for Lowry, according to The Herald.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • If things don’t work out with Lowry, count on Spencer Dinwiddie to be among the Heat’s top targets, according to Jackson and Chiang. Chris Paul could also be an option for Miami if he opts out, though that’s likely a longer shot.
  • If Bradley Beal were to request a trade, the Heat are among the teams that would appeal to him, per The Miami Herald. However, Beal isn’t available for now and Miami wouldn’t be able to offer many draft assets if he does land on the trade block.
  • Goran Dragic isn’t likely to return to the Heat on his $19MM+ team option, but the club would have interest in re-signing him at a lower price point, according to Jackson and Chiang. Miami would also be interested in re-signing free agent forward Trevor Ariza.

Lakers Eyeing Veteran Point Guards

After failing to sign Dennis Schröder to a contract extension during the 2020/21 season, the Lakers will get another chance to sign the veteran to a new deal in free agency this summer. However, it sounds like the team is considering contingency plans to address the point guard spot.

According to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the Lakers “have been on the hunt” for a veteran point guard. Chris Paul of the Suns and Russell Westbrook of the Wizards are among the players on Los Angeles’ list as possible targets, says Spears.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Los Angeles Lakers]

While those names will raise some eyebrows, they come with several caveats. For one, the capped-out Lakers don’t have a clear path to acquiring an impact player in free agency — if Paul turns down his player option with Phoenix, L.A. wouldn’t be able to sign him outright unless he were willing to take a massive discount.

A sign-and-trade is a possibility for CP3. And if he were to pick up his option, he could be acquired via a standard trade. But the Lakers surrendered multiple future draft picks in the Anthony Davis blockbuster and aren’t in position to put together an especially tantalizing trade package for a star. It seems unlikely that Phoenix would want to send Paul to the division-rival Lakers unless the return was significant.

Westbrook is under contract for two more seasons, so he’d also require a trade and there has been no indication so far that the Wizards are looking to move him.

Spears suggests that “there have been talks” about the Lakers acquiring Westbrook in a deal that includes Schröder, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Kyle Kuzma. However, it’s unclear which parties have been involved in those “talks” — the wording could indicate internal Lakers conversations or even just speculation amongst league sources. Schröder and Horton-Tucker would both have to agree to be signed-and-traded to D.C. in such a move, further complicating matters.

Paul and Westbrook both have strong ties to Los Angeles – Paul and his family live in the L.A. area, while Westbrook was born and raised in Southern California – but a number of obstacles would have to be overcome for either player to end up with the Lakers this offseason . Still, the fact that the Lakers are considering such options suggests that the team is willing to get creative and isn’t resigned to simply meeting Schröder’s asking price in order to address the point guard position.

Suns Notes: Paul, Payne, Ayton, Bridges

Over the course of his 16 years in the NBA, point guard Chris Paul has never come closer to winning a championship than he did this season with the Suns. But ultimately, his season ended like most of those other 15 did — with a playoff elimination. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, Paul now holds the ignominious distinction of being the only player in NBA history to lose four different series in which his team held a 2-0 lead.

Paul has a $44MM player option for the 2021/22 season and it remains unclear what his plan is for that option. Picking it up and trying to work out an extension with the Suns would be one viable path. Opting out in search of a new multiyear deal would be another. After Tuesday’s loss, the 36-year-old wasn’t ready to discuss his intentions, simply confirming that he’s not considering the possibility of retirement.

“It will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality,” Paul said, per McMenamin. “Get back to work. I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work.”

While Paul didn’t specifically address his contract situation, his comments after Game 6 made it sound as if he’s leaning toward remaining in Phoenix, McMenamin notes. The veteran guard spoke about the Suns’ desire to continue improving and to compete for a championship again in 2022.

“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” Paul said. “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.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Although the Suns’ loss adds to Paul’s list of playoff disappointments, his legacy as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the all-time great point guards has already been cemented, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Mark Medina of USA Today makes a similar case, arguing that CP3’s legacy shouldn’t be tarnished by Phoenix’s loss.
  • In his preview of the Suns’ offseason, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) takes a closer look at Paul’s contract situation and several of the other decisions facing the Suns, including Cameron Payne‘s free agency and possible rookie scale extensions for Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Adding backcourt bench depth will also be a priority this summer for Phoenix, Marks adds.
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic also explores what’s next for the Suns, suggesting that the team should be open to moving the No. 29 pick in next week’s draft for veteran help if the right deal arises.

Western Notes: Williams, Suns, Blazers, Gilgeous-Alexander

The Suns will look to regroup in Game 6 after losing three straight contests to the Bucks, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. Phoenix now trails 3-2 in the series entering Tuesday’s pivotal game.

“We got to win one game to put them back on the plane,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “That’s it. And you have to have that determination that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to put them back on the plane.”

Game 6 of the Finals will take place in Milwaukee, meaning a Suns win would allow the team to play Game 7 at home. The club won its first two contests in its own arena before dropping Saturday’s game 123-119.

“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Chris Paul said. “We didn’t expect it to be. It’s hard. Coach said it all year long: Everything we want is on the other side of hard, and it don’t get no harder than this.

“So, we got to regroup, learn from this game. But it’s over. We got to get ready for Game 6.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • The Suns have been hampered by defensive issues and ball protection, according to The Arizona Republic. Phoenix struggled in non-Deandre Ayton minutes during Game 5, playing Torrey Craig, Jae Crowder and Cameron Johnson when Ayton sat on the bench. The team mostly played Dario Saric in those minutes during the regular season, but Saric suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of Game 1.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated examines the current situation between Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. To this point, Lillard has publicly denied the notion that he plans to request a trade, but he’s also explained the importance of building a contender around him this summer. The Blazers were eliminated by the short-handed Nuggets during the first round of the playoffs this spring. “Right now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Lillard said on Friday. “My intention, my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But I think over time, you want to win it all. I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform. We all have to be making strides toward that.”
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores why it wouldn’t make sense for the Thunder to trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander appeared in 35 games for the team this year, averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per outing.

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

Stein’s Latest: Paul, Holiday, Leonard, Harrison

The Bucks considered a trade for Chris Paul last offseason before deciding to make a run at Jrue Holiday, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column. Milwaukee wanted to add a veteran guard who could fill a leadership role after a disappointing playoff loss to the Heat, and Paul was an obvious name to consider.

The Bucks opted for a younger alternative in Holiday, who has helped them reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 50 years. Stein believes the addition of Holiday helped convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to commit to the franchise with a five-year, $228MM contract extension.

Holiday finds himself matched up in the Finals against Paul, whom the Thunder promised to trade to a contender last fall as they began rebuilding. Paul wanted to be closer to his son in Los Angeles, so the Bucks would have been at a disadvantage if he’d been their preferred choice.

Stein offers more news from around the league:

  • There were rumors that Paul might be interested in opting out of his $44.2MM salary for next season and leaving Phoenix this summer, but that seems less likely after the Finals run. No matter what he decides on the option, Stein expects Paul to be back with the Suns next season, noting that he fits perfectly alongside Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and coach Monty Williams. Booker said recently that the team’s 8-0 record after the restart motivated management to pursue Paul.
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has a $36MM option decision to make, and the ACL surgery he had this week will likely influence his thinking. League sources expect him to remain in L.A., according to Stein, but several teams will be interested if he hits the open market. Stein states that the Mavericks are willing to sign Leonard even if the ACL prevents him from playing next season.
  • New Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison said he has received offers from other teams in the past, but he chose to remain with Nike until the opportunity with Dallas arose. League sources tell Stein that the Spurs and Lakers are among the franchises that have shown interest in Harrison.

Pacific Notes: Warriors Workouts, Lakers, LeBron, CP3

The Warriors, who hold the seventh and 14th overall picks in this year’s draft, are busy this week working out prospects, many of whom could be in play for one of those two lottery picks.

As Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets, Cameron Thomas, Tre Mann, Isaiah Todd, Quentin Grimes, Nah’Shon Hyland, and LJ Figueroa came in for a group workout with the Warriors on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell is conducting an individual workout with Golden State before Jalen Johnson, Kai Jones, and Moses Moody audition later in the afternoon, according to Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link).

Of those 10 prospects, Mitchell (No. 7), Johnson (12), Moody (16), Jones (20), Mann (22), Thomas (26), Grimes (29), and Hyland (30) are all projected by ESPN to be first-round picks.

Here’s more from around the Pacific: