Could the Atlanta Hawks realistically land Suns’ Chris Paul?

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

While the Atlanta Hawks were busy hosting a slew of prospects ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns were busy plotting the exit of one Chris Paul.

Paul, 38, is set to count for $30 million against the salary cap next season if he remains on the roster by June 28. The 12-time All-Star, Paul, is due another $30.8 million in the 2024-25 season in the final year of his four-year, $120 million contract that was supposed to keep him in Phoenix to finish his career.

In lieu of paying that, both sides are exploring other avenues including potentially waiving Paul before the deadline which would cost them $15.8 million. Paul’s return is also possible, though there is a belief that a split is most likely.

So, could Atlanta use Paul? And, if so, how realistic is it that they could land him?

The Hawks notoriously passed on Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft, instead selecting Marvin Williams with the No. 2 overall pick despite a clear need for a point guard.

Flash forward 18 years later, and Williams had a nice 15-year career but he was never considered the best at his position as Paul was for the better part of a decade. The latter is also still going and is “eager” to help some team “contend for a championship”, per Bleacher Report NBA insider Chris Haynes who broke the news of Paul’s possible release.

Paul averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 assists this past season after leading the league in assists per game in 2021-22 and shot 37.5% from beyond the arc, proving he’s still effective when he’s healthy.

Atlanta certainly doesn’t seem like an ideal landing spot with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray both around to split the lion’s share of any point guard minutes. But Paul has not been healthy over the last two seasons missing 23 games this past year and 17 in 2021-22.

Aside from the fact that many of his issues are of the soft-tissue variety, the worst part for Paul has been time with the likely Hall-of-Famer suffering injuries in numerous postseason runs at critical times. Joining a roster like Atlanta’s – where he could be put on a pitch count during the regular season – could help him extend his career the “multiple years” he is still looking to play.

Getting Suns’ Chris Paul to the Atlanta Hawks is complicated

Atlanta faces a $13-plus million luxury tax bill (per Spotract) if they cannot shed salary, and owner Tony Ressler’s track record of avoiding the tax has left doubt he would be willing to pay now.

One way the Hawks could try to ensure they got Paul, assuming they want him and vice versa, would be to offer up the oft-discussed John Collins whose $25.3 million salary in the third year of a five-year, $125 million contract would have fit nicely in a trade last season.

But the new CBA that goes into effect for the 2023-24 season limits how much money the Hawks can take back being on track to surpass the first luxury tax apron of $162 million. And the Suns, who were interested in a Collins trade, were not keen on taking on his contract in a deal for Deandre Ayton.

It’s possible they change their minds if it is for a player they were okay releasing in Paul instead.

The most realistic route – “realistic” being relative to this discussion since Paul should have suitors offering both playing time and a title shot – would be for him to get his unconditional release.

Even then, though, the Hawks would have to shed salary unless Paul is willing to accept the veteran minimum to help Young and the Hawks get over the hump.

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It’s easy to forget this team was just in the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons ago, two games away from an NBA Finals berth where they would have faced Paul and the Suns.