Few contenders are facing more uncertainty this offseason than the Phoenix Suns. A second-round loss to the Denver Nuggets made it clear the team isn’t ready to contend; how can they reach that point with limited cap flexibility and a distinct lack of trade assets?
Let the Chris Paul trade rumors begin. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Suns are expected to aggressively shop the veteran point guard. Naturally, the Philadelphia 76ers — amid looming offseason uncertainty of their own — have relatively high odds to land the future Hall of Famer.
The logistics of such a move, however, are difficult.
1 trade to land Chris Paul with the Philadelphia 76ers
The only way for the Sixers to realistically match salaries is to include Tobias Harris’ expiring $39.2 million contract. Paul is making $30.8 million next season (with two years left on his deal), meaning the Suns would have to add salary on top of Paul to get to Harris’ number.
A look at Phoenix’s cap sheet provides one clear answer: Landry Shamet, making $10.2 million next season (with three years left on his deal). That Shamet contract has potential stinker written all over it, but Shamet did have chemistry with Joel Embiid when the Sixers drafted him a few years back. Maybe he can rediscover some of that movement shooting magic working out of DHOs with the reigning MVP.
With Paul and Shamet in tow, the Sixers attach their 2029 first-round pick (with protections) to incentivize the Suns. It will be interesting to see what the market is for CP3. He has some gas left in the tank, but how much exactly is an open-ended question. He’s 38 years old and he showed definite signs of decline in 2022-23.
Here’s the rub for Philly: that 2029 first-round pick is the only pick they have left to trade after trading everything and the kitchen sink for James Harden. This would leave the Sixers starved of trade assets for the next half-decade, all for extremely short-term gains given Paul’s age. He’s old to the point where he doesn’t really align with Embiid’s competitive window, and Embiid is already 29.
And, of course, there’s the James Harden factor. The Sixers have no reason, fit-wise or otherwise, to trade for Paul if Harden re-signs. Paul only becomes a viable consideration if Harden bolts for Houston. Then the Sixers suddenly have a significant playmaking void in the backcourt.
Sure, Paul would be an excellent set-up man for Embiid in the pick-and-roll. He would also figure to establish fast chemistry with Tyrese Maxey, who loves galloping ahead in transition or attacking off the catch in the halfcourt. It’s the age factor that makes the trade hard to stomach, combined with the inherent defensive concerns. No matter how bad Harden is on defense, he’s at least 6-foot-5 with some measure of positional flexibility. Paul is 6-foot in shoes and is no longer the athlete of yesteryear. Starting him and Maxey, another small guard, in the backcourt would make it very hard for the Sixers to generate stops — even with Embiid casting a wide net at the rim.
The Sixers definitely could trade for CP3; especially if he let it be known that Philadelphia was his desired destination. Daryl Morey worked with Paul in Houston. That relationship might be on shaky ground after Morey traded Paul to OKC, but the NBA is a business and both understand that dynamic. The primary question is, should they trade for CP3?