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Suns’ Chris Paul wants another big contract, but would it be smarter to opt in for $44.2 million next season?

Chris Paul is making the many folks who were all too happy to prematurely pen his NBA eulogy look more foolish every time he steps on the court. Two years ago, when the Houston Rockets traded Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder, his four-year, $158 million contract was seen as one of the worst deals in the league. Two All-Star seasons, the most recent of which earned him a top-five MVP finish, have reshaped the perception, and now the question is whether Paul can secure another big-money contract at 36 years old. 

Paul reportedly believes he can. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus recently noted, per his sources, that Paul “intends to decline” his $44.2 million player option for 2021-22 to instead become a free agent this summer, when he’s hoping to land a multi-year deal in the vicinity of $100 million. 

If he can get that, obviously he should take it. That’s three more years of security and $55 million extra in guaranteed money. But Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated is hearing different numbers in terms of what Paul could potentially fetch on the open market. 

If Mannix’s sources are closer to the truth, and Paul is actually looking at a deal closer to $60 million than the $100 million he reportedly fancies, it would make more financial sense to pick up the $44.2M option for next season. He would only have to make $16M over the two following seasons to come out with the same money, and assuming he doesn’t fall off a cliff next season or take on a bad injury, that’s a virtual guarantee to happen. Heck, even if his game does go to trash, he could make that much for his leadership presence alone. 

More likely, Paul would make $44 million next season and then get two more years for at least $15 million a year. That’s $74 million in total over the next three, and that’s conservative. Again, the guy just finished fifth in MVP voting. He’s a superstar. Yes, an aging one, but a superstar nonetheless. 

With how well things are going in Phoenix, my bet is Paul opts in for the $44 million next season and the two sides work out an extension right away for two more years on top of that. That covers Paul in case of an injury, and he had all the leverage he needs with the Phoenix organization right now considering where they were before he arrived. 

We’ll see how this shakes out. Right now, Paul is focused on winning his first championship. If that happens, or even the Suns just make the Finals, Paul is going to get seriously paid one way or another.