Now that Chris Paul's quest to win the 2020-21 NBA title fell two wins short, the veteran point guard will need to decide on his $44.2 million player option for next season.
As we reported in June, several sources believe Paul intends to opt out to sign a new contract in the three-year, $100 million range. If the Phoenix Suns are willing to offer him a deal of that size, Paul is likely to stay.
But with Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges becoming extension-eligible this offseason, will Phoenix commit significant resources to a roster that exceeded all expectations? Should a team built around 20-somethings invest heavily in a player who turned 36 in May?
After the Suns' Game 6 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, former Los Angeles Lakers executive Earvin "Magic" Johnson chimed in with his opinion on Paul's future.
Johnson never seems to lack enthusiasm. However, his awareness of the Lakers' salary-cap position appears tenuous at best.
Why the Lakers May Not Make Sense
The Lakers project to have either the $9.5 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception or the $5.9 million taxpayer MLE, neither of which is close to Paul's opt-out number.
Paul, who serves as the National Basketball Players Association president, is far too savvy to take a $35 million pay cut.
The Lakers could clear about $21 million in cap space by either trading, waiving or renouncing everyone on the roster (including the No. 22 pick in next week's NBA draft) except for LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker if they didn't bring back any players in return.
That may not be possible, but even if it were, why would Paul opt out of $44.2 million if the most the Lakers can only pay him is $65 million over three years? He'd make more by opting in than he would over two years with the Lakers even if they give up nearly everyone on the roster.