With the draft come and gone, and the NBA's calendar flipping to the 2021-22 season Monday, this summer's free-agency period will center on the league's rapidly spinning point guard carousel.
The biggest fish, Chris Paul, appears all but destined to return to Phoenix, sources said, on a deal that's now widely rumored to be for at least three years, $90 million.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the New Orleans Pelicans did have their sights set on prying Paul away from Phoenix. And there was a period this past week in which league personnel widely discussed the possibility of Paul playing elsewhere. Suns governor Robert Sarver, after all, appeared Wednesday on Arizona Sports' Burns & Gambo and said, "[Paul's] got a decision to make and a business decision and a family decision and all that kind of stuff."
The Pelicans even attempted to acquire Paul in a trade prior to last season, sources said. Head coach Willie Green was just hired away from the Suns, and Green is known to hold a close relationship with Paul. The All-Star actually lobbied Houston management to bring Green on board as an assistant during Paul's tenure with the Rockets, sources told B/R.
But Paul finding his way out of Phoenix, and particularly to Los Angeles, always seemed unlikely because of salary-cap complications, plus a long rivalry between the Suns and Lakers. When Steve Nash joined L.A. in 2012, Sarver's front office demanded the deal become a sign-and-trade that sent two future first-round picks back to the Suns.
Acquiring Russell Westbrook in a draft-day blockbuster clearly then satisfied Los Angeles' demand for a dynamic creator to supplement LeBron James in the Lakers' playmaking duties next season. Westbrook's increasing desire to leave Washington and join James in Los Angeles played a significant factor in Bradley Beal's own wavering commitment to Washington, as Bleacher Report previously reported. Ultimately, Westbrook did request a trade from the franchise, sources confirmed to B/R, and the Wizards are moving forward with the expectation that Beal will remain their franchise face for some time.
With that, the next name off the point guard market appears likely to be Spencer Dinwiddie to Washington, sources said, in a sign-and-trade that could reroute the newly acquired Kyle Kuzma or Montrezl Harrell to Brooklyn. The Nets continue their efforts to move DeAndre Jordan's salary as well, sources said.
Kyle Lowry remains the top domino that teams and league personnel are anxiously waiting to see fall. By offloading Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe onto Memphis' cap sheet, New Orleans has enough room to offer Lowry the same three-year, $90 million framework that Phoenix and Paul are expected to agree upon. Multiple cap analysts around the league have also told B/R that New Orleans can clear upward of $36 million to offer Lowry by renouncing both Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. By just renouncing Ball, the Pelicans could offer roughly three years, $100 million.