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As the Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul figure out their next steps heading into the offseason, James Harden is emerging as a potential option for the Suns if they want to bring in a new point guard.
Per Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, a Paul-for-Harden sign-and-trade deal has been “quietly” circulating among some league personnel since the NBA Draft Combine last month.
B/R’s Chris Haynes reported earlier this week that the Suns notified Paul they plan to waive him, which would make him a free agent.
Soon after Haynes’ report, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium noted Paul and the Suns are “exploring multiple options” including a potential trade, waiving him and stretching his contract over multiple years or waiving and potentially re-signing him.
Paul’s contract includes a partial salary guarantee of $15.8 million for next season that becomes fully guaranteed at $30.8 million on June 28.
Harden has a $35.6 million player option with the Philadelphia 76ers for next season that he must decide on by June 29.
Haynes previously reported Harden is expected to decline his option and become a free agent with the goal of securing a four-year contract. If the former NBA MVP leaves Philadelphia, the Houston Rockets have been cited as his most likely landing spot.
Charania said on FanDuel TV this week that Harden is “torn” between Philadelphia and Houston.
Appearing on Wednesday’s episode of Mason and Ireland on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said the Suns are a team to “keep your eye on” for Harden because Phoenix wouldn’t make a decision about Paul without “feeling pretty good” about someone else coming in.
The Sixers might have work to do convincing Paul to play for them. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor noted the 38-year-old might prefer staying near the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs cited as potential landing spots.
Philadelphia would have to get creative to find a starting point guard if Harden does leave in free agency. The Sixers would still be over the cap if he signs with Houston but would have access to the $12.2 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
A potential sign-and-trade would make it easier for the Sixers to replace Harden if it comes to that. Paul is past his peak at this point in his career, but he still averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 assists per game while shooting 37.5 percent from deep in 59 starts for the Suns this season.
Harden averaged 21.0 points and a league-high 10.7 assists per game while shooting 38.5 percent from deep in 58 starts for the 76ers in 2022-23.