The New Orleans Pelicans enticed Chris Paul with $100 million and the chance to play for his first NBA franchise, but CP3 ultimately used the offer to get a fourth year in contract negotiations with the Phoenix Suns.
Most considered it a foregone conclusion that Paul would re-sign with the Suns once he declined his player option for the 2021-22 season. The Point God found a home in Phoenix and developed a strong rapport with young stars such as Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
However, the Pelicans were intent on pushing the envelope.
Chris Paul began his NBA career in New Orleans
New Orleans (and Oklahoma City) served as witness to Paul’s ascent to becoming the best point guard in the NBA.
The Pelicans, then known as the Hornets, drafted Paul with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. The franchise was forced to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There was plenty of uncertainty, but one certainty was Paul’s greatness.
CP3 was named 2005-06 Rookie of the Year. By his third season, also the first back in New Orleans, he led the NBA in assists (11.6) and steals (2.7) en route to being named All-NBA First Team. Paul nearly helped the Hornets defeat the favored San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
The next few seasons cemented Paul’s elite status. He led the NBA in assists and steals for a second consecutive season during the 2008-09 campaign, making his first All-Defensive First Team in the process.
Paul would make four All-Star teams in New Orleans. However, a lack of playoff success irked Paul, who informed the Hornets he would not sign an extension. He was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, which chartered a path for the remainder of his career.
The Pelicans offered Paul $100 million and he used the offer to secure a better deal with the Suns
Most of the rumors surrounding the Pelicans’ approach to free agency had to do with their pursuit of Kyle Lowry. However, one of the reasons New Orleans might have missed on Lowry is because it was desperately trying to land Paul.
On the Hoop Collective podcast, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that the Pelicans offered CP3 $100 million to return to the birthplace of his NBA career. Paul weighed the offer, but Windhorst reported he used it as leverage to get an extra year out of the Suns.
“And Chris Paul, who [the Pelicans] offered $100 million from what I understand,” Windhorst said, via CBS Sports. “It helped convince Phoenix to give him at least [a] partially guaranteed fourth year. … I think Chris entertained it for some period of time.”
The Pelicans forced the Suns to improve their offer. That’s exactly what Phoenix did.
Paul and the Suns worked out a deal that makes sense for both sides. The contract can reach a maximum value of $120 million over four seasons, but the third year is partially guaranteed, and the fourth year is a club option. This gives Phoenix a bit more flexibility in terms of future cap.
Can Paul lead the Suns back to the NBA Finals?
The Pelicans came up empty in their pursuit of Paul and ended up with Devonte’ Graham. That probably isn’t how president of basketball operations David Griffin envisioned free agency playing out.
Meanwhile, the Suns will be preparing for another run at the NBA Finals.
Paul helped galvanize Phoenix’s roster last season. Ayton made tremendous strides in the playoffs, while Booker seemed to relish playing alongside CP3.
The Suns added more shooting with Landry Shamet and retained backcourt depth by extending Cameron Payne. All in all, though, they’ll hope to run it back with mostly the same group that won the Western Conference last season.
Time will tell whether Paul can capture that elusive first championship. Regardless, he is likely to play out the remainder of his career in Phoenix, despite the Pelicans trying to bring him home.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.