Given recent depracation of Google Contacts API and Google+, what is the practical difference between the two? Can i disable Contacts Sync and still get same experience inside the Contacts app?

In a Google account, you are allowed to sync Contacts as well as People details.

I understand that originally, People details related to the release of Google Play Games the goal of maintain a uniform and unique "identity" for you in all related Google content. And that the Contact sync is for the usual contact details that a user saves directly on your phone or work pc. Has People replaced Contacts sync? and finally if I wish to ensure maximum privacy should I stop sharing my friends contact details by turning off People Sync?

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