Phoenix Suns agree to trade for Chris Paul
By Marc Stein
The long-awaited reopening of the NBA’s trade market on Monday delivered an immediate blockbuster that will send Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns to join Devin Booker in what has the look of a dynamic backcourt.
Oklahoma City will receive Kelly Oubre Jr., 24, and veteran Ricky Rubio, 30, from the Suns as the headliners of a package for Paul that also includes a 2022 first-round draft pick. The deal came together in the first hour after the NBA permitted trades for the first time in more than nine months.
On Sunday, the rebuilding Thunder struck a verbal agreement to trade the reserve guard Dennis Schroder to the Los Angeles Lakers, according to two people familiar with the agreement. Oklahoma City will also acquire Danny Green and the No. 28 pick in tonight’s draft for Schroder, meaning that Thunder general manager Sam Presti — once the trades are made official — will have amassed 16 first-round picks over the next seven NBA drafts through 2026.
“Chris has been the consummate leader and has left a tremendous legacy in a short period of time,” Presti said in a statement Monday announcing the trade.
Rubio, fresh off helping the Suns have a surprising 8-0 winning streak to close last season alongside Booker, appeared to react to the trade on Twitter with some exasperation: “…what a business,” he posted, followed by an upside-down happy face emoji.
The Thunder were one of last season’s overachievers after acquiring Paul in a trade with the Houston Rockets that netted two of those 16 future first-round picks as well as the right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2021 and 2025. Yet it quickly became apparent, after the Thunder lost a first-round playoff series to the Rockets in seven games, that Presti was poised to commission a rebuild.
Coach Billy Donovan left the Thunder in September instead of trying to hash out a contract extension and was hired shortly thereafter as the coach of the Chicago Bulls. More recently, Presti told Paul and his representatives that they could try to find a trade partner that would appeal to the All-Star guard, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Paul, 35, who has two seasons and roughly $85 million left on his contract, wanted to remain in the Western Conference to be near his family, which stayed in Los Angeles last season while he played in Oklahoma City. Paul also has a strong relationship with Suns coach Monty Williams, according to the person, after playing for Williams for one season in New Orleans.
In addition to reuniting with Williams, Paul will now team with the Suns’ young cornerstone duo of Booker and Deandre Ayton to try to restore Phoenix to Western Conference relevance. The Suns have missed the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons, the second longest active playoff drought behind Sacramento’s 14. But Phoenix was one of the surprise stories of the NBA restart at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., after arriving with the second-to-worst record of the 22 teams participating yet only missing the postseason by a half-game after the 8-0 flourish.
The trade is the latest milestone event in an eventful year-plus for Paul. During the 2019 offseason, Houston gave up four draft assets to persuade Oklahoma City to absorb Paul’s contract. This offseason, after Paul played at an All-Star level for the Thunder, Oklahoma City was able to acquire a first-round pick in trading him away.
“Man, I’m 35 years old and I still get a chance to play basketball every day and say that’s my way of life,” Paul said last week when asked about trade rumors during an appearance in the Time100 speakers’ series. “That is crazy in itself, so regardless what happens, I’ll be ready.”
Paul averaged 17.6 points and 6.7 assists per game last season in earning his 10th trip to the NBA All-Star Game. Oubre averaged a career-best 18.7 points per game for the Suns last season but did not play in the NBA bubble while recovering from knee surgery; Rubio averaged 13 points and 8.8 assists in his first season with the Suns after signing a three-year, $51 million contract in July 2019.
Oklahoma City’s Schroder trade, as The New York Times reported Sunday, came together in part because the Lakers fear Rajon Rondo will command offers in free agency after a strong run in the playoffs, making it difficult for them to re-sign him given the reigning champions’ budget constraints. The Lakers see Schroder, who averaged 18.9 points and 4 assists per game as one of the league’s top sixth men last season, as a huge boost to their offense.
The Lakers also have interest in signing Milwaukee’s Wesley Matthews Jr. in free agency to replace Green’s defensive ability, 3-point shooting and experience, according to a person familiar with the team’s plans who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.