Chris Paul’s race against father time will dictate if this trade is a success, or another Suns failure

One of the biggest decisions a rebuilding organization faces is at what point it’s okay to stop “building” and actually go for it. Patience is a virtue, but only to a point. Everybody wants to win, and for the teams that haven’t done so in years, watching the growing pains stopped being fun a long time ago.

For the Phoenix Suns, a franchise who have been perennial losers since Steve Nash departed, fun has only been associated with the franchise when Devin Booker explodes for 45 plus points. But even then it never equated to success.

So coming off their un-probable undefeated “Bubble run,” with an emerging squad centered on the talents of guard Devin Booker and center Deandre Ayton, the Suns were feeling themselves a bit and had a decision to make: go all in or trust the process?

On Monday they pushed their chips in, agreeing to trade Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a future first-round pick to Oklahoma City for the future hall of fame, the Point God himself, Chris Paul.

But does this make sense for both CP3 and the Suns?

Paul is 35, he has put together a hall of fame career, but is missing one accomplishment: a championship. At this stage of his career, considering the “big brother” role he filled in OKC while still playing at an elite level, may point to the fact that while still wanting to compete, he is okay with guiding talented young players down the right path.

That appears to be the way things will play out in Phoenix. This isn’t the move that puts the Suns on the brink of title contention, given they still don’t have a top 10 player on their roster. But they are in a better place today than they were yesterday.

The population that believes “ring or nothing” is the only way will likely clown the Suns for making this move. But only one team of the league’s 30 wins the championship each year and for most franchises, even maneuvering into that conversation requires a rare combination of skill and fortune.

A team like the Suns, who have been floating around 20 wins per season for the past 8 years, should celebrate the chance at making a move to bring in a hall of fame talent who will immediately push them into the playoff race.

The Suns should have a heck of a team, particularly if they don’t screw up the other pieces over the coming days. Phoenix still has the 10th pick in Wednesday’s draft and the pieces of a strong starting group with Paul, Booker, Ayton and defensive stopper Mikal Bridges.

Paul’s hefty contract does limit the Suns finances headed into the offseason, but they’re not big game hunters in free agency anyway. Phoenix can re-sign Aaron Baynes and Dario Saric with Bird Rights, but neither of those guys are moving the needle; the Suns could find bench help that isn’t of much different quality with lower dollar exception money.

One move to watch that would further send the Suns all-in but could change my perspective on the cap decision: Using the 10th pick in the draft plus Kaminsky, Diallo and Okobo to acquire another high-level starter. Not likely but I would like to see the Suns test the waters further.

This squad might not have the Lakers quaking in their boots, but it’s a nice team that, at the barest minimum, should end the playoff drought.

The good news in this case is that the price for the Suns wasn’t even that bad. A protected first-round pick in 2022 (protected 1-12 in 2022, 1-10 in 2023, 1-8 in 2024, and unprotected in 2025, according to Shams Charania) isn’t a huge package to upgrade from Rubio to Paul.

Rubio is a better player than people think, with his shooting a magnet for critics who consistently underestimate his defense, but there is no doubt that the Suns badly needed another halfcourt shot creator to ease the strain on Booker. In Oklahoma City, Rubio can hold down the fort as a starter until he’s, almost certainly, dealt someplace else at the trade deadline.

As far as the other assets included, Oubre is the prize. He’s a talented but erratic forward who comes off his best season and is only 24. The Thunder should try to hang on to him as a piece of their own rebuilding puzzle rather than flip him for the diminishing returns of yet more draft picks.

The trade comes with potential downsides for the Suns, so let’s talk about them.

Paul makes $41.3 million this year and has a player option for $44.8 million the year after – an overpay even for a player of his level, and potentially a worrying one for 2021-22 if Paul starts to decline this year.

It’s possible Paul plays one fantastic season in Phoenix, but opts out and flies the coop for one of the many greener pastures with cap space in the summer of 2021. The better he plays, the bigger the risk of that … but the worse he plays, the worse the potential hit of the giant 2021-22 cap hit.

The discussion. everyone is avoiding at the moment:

Will Father Time catch Chris Paul before the Suns catch a playoff birth?

That is what this trade crumbles down to. The Suns made the move because they believe with Booker and Ayton, they are on the cusp of competing for the playoffs. But they need that boost of a veteran all-star to show them the ropes. If Chris Paul can once again fend off father time at least for one more season, and Booker plays like he did inside the bubble, I think the Suns could snag the 8th seed in a stacked Western Conference.

Is Chris Paul any closer to that elusive championship today as he was yesterday? No. But here is what I do know.

Devin Booker finally has a real big time running mate. Ayton, Bridges, and Cam Johnson will develop their game 10x faster with Paul in the Suns facilities.

The Suns are relevant again.

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