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Per insider: Suns wouldn’t waive Chris Paul without a plan so ‘keep your eye on James Harden’

Ramona Shelburne discussed the latest rumors involving Chris Paul and James Harden.

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days in the NBA.

Jake Fischer left us a few breadcrumbs on Tuesday with a new Yahoo Sports post. In that one, Fischer noted that:

“The Rockets harbor plans to invest in winning additions to Houston’s three-year rebuild, but have so far only been linked to the franchise’s former All-Star centerpiece, James Harden, as well as other potential veteran newcomers who could slot alongside Harden, should he spurn Philadelphia on the open market....

...And for that, should Harden ultimately stick with the 76ers, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet has often been linked to Houston as a secondary option who could perhaps slot into the team’s lead ball-handling role.”

And shortly after we were digesting the idea that the Rockets would like to (but may not be able to) add perhaps two max-level players (they can wrangle up around $60-70M in cap space this summer), we heard more about The Beard from The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Charania, appearing on the Ryen Russillo Podcast said “my sense right now is that James Harden is someone that’s torn [about whether to stay in Philadelphia with Joel Embiid or bolt for Houston where he has family].”

And today, Charania posted more of the same from his appearance on FanduelTV:

Take a breath, there’s plenty more coming. Ready?

Next, Chris Haynes reported that Chris Paul’s future with the Phoenix Suns may be in flux.

Frantically, we started to wonder the salary cap implications of a 2024 title hopeful straight up waiving a future Hall of Famer. What would it mean for Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the Suns? And what would it mean for an acquiring suitor?

Cap wizards started crunching the numbers for us.

Would new owner Mat Isbia prefer a $12.2M non -tax payer’s mid level exception and dodging some luxury taxes to keeping his Point God on a $30.8M salary for a championship run?

It would be kind of nutty if CP3 were waived (apparently they don’t have to make a decision until the end of the month) then turned back around and re-signed with the Suns, for what would essentially amount to a hefty pay cut. That would be tantamount to the type of restructuring deals we so often see in the NFL.

Then Shams weighed in with more info, noting nothing is solidified, and may not be for a couple more weeks.

And as a Sixers fan I must admit, reading this stuff, suddenly visions of CP3 playing on a dirt-cheap mid-level for the Boston Celtics, grifting for fouls against Paul Reed in a huge playoff moment in Philly, sending the Celtics into the bonus with nine minutes left in the third quarter of a closeout game, started to give me tremors. Then I wondered if Philadelphia could afford him, or if he would get over his frustration with Daryl Morey once having traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But I reminded myself there’s way too much more slop coming to get too worried about any one scenario. And sure enough, ESPN Insider Ramona Shelburne dropped the next breadcrumb for us.

Appearing live on the Mason & Ireland on ESPN Radio show, Shelburne said:

“[The Phoenix Suns don’t waive Paul] unless they feel pretty good about somebody else. And I want you to keep your eye on James Harden. I don’t want to report anything, but that was in the wind for the past month or so. Everybody thinks it’s like Philly or Houston but I don’t know, there has been discussions in the wind.”

It’s not the first time we’ve heard the Suns named as a possibility for Harden.

Hypothetically, Harden could opt into the final year of his salary and extend in Phoenix down the road. That would be the tidiest way to accomplish this, although there would be more risk for him there personally/financially.

But doing so would allow the teams to swap the two former teammates.

Harden could be sign-and-traded to Phoenix by Morey for CP3 too. That’s probably the next tidiest way, with much less risk for James, but a bit more cap headaches for the Sixers.

There are also some three-time monstrosities we’ve joked about.

But here, unlike deals with the Houston Rockets, the Sixers would not need to bargain for a traded player-exception.

Harkening back to Shams words, Harden is torn between Philly and Houston. But if you got James off the record, don’t you think he’d love a third option to mull over for the next few weeks as well? One that might well be his best shot at a championship?

To that end, Shelburne says this may not be a two-team race, and reminds us that Harden and Durant are cool, as they traveled to Europe together last offseason. She says there’s no lingering tension from their failed title pursuit in Brooklyn and that everyone wants to play with Devin Booker, basically.

This is all purely hypothetical but as long as we’re thinking about it... Paul wouldn’t be an upgrade over Harden at this point, having recently turned 38-years-old. He’s had an unbearable time staying healthy deep into May over the last few years. But if you’re the Sixers and you no longer want (or have learned you’re losing) The Beard, CP3 is probably better than a player/s you might get with the type of $12.2M contract Harden’s leaving would make available.

But don’t tell that to Phoenix. So far it sounds like they might beg to differ.

Just saying, Paul and new head coach Nick Nurse would be one heck of a duo, both seem pretty feisty.

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