Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder were not supposed to be a playoff team. The Thunder traded two of the biggest stars in the game in Paul George and Russell Westbrook for pieces like Danillo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. This was nowhere near the same team compared to the past that boasted jerseys like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Westbrook, and George.
However, Paul helped lead that team to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and nearly upset the Houston Rockets, his former team, in seven games. Even though Paul has never played in the NBA Finals, there is no denying that he helps his team compete. Now, with his third team in three seasons, Paul is a core part of a team that is 5-2 and contending with the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 1 seed in the West.
Through his years with the Pelicans (formally the New Orleans Hornets), Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, and now the Suns, how has he consistently helped his teams compete?
Chris Paul Is A Leader
Nobody should be surprised that Paul is a vocal member of any team he plays for. When Paul played for New Orleans from 2005-2011, that was his team. The point guard is typically associated with being a captain since the position is known as “the floor general.” When Paul played in New Orleans, he was averaging a double-double of close to 18 points and 10 assists per night. Even in his younger years, he had no problem calling the shots.
After he was traded to the Clippers, he slowly picked up more leadership opportunities. In 2013, Paul became the National Basketball Players Association president. He has spent 11 years in total on the executive committee. Over the years, he has been on the frontline of heated labor negotiations and league-changing decisions.
At this point in his career, Paul has dealt with knee and hamstring issues, which caused him to take a step back in shot volume. Since the 2017-2018 season, his shot selection has decreased but he knew that it was okay. At 35 years old, other players could step up.
In Houston, James Harden & Paul led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals. Last season, Paul knew that Gallinari was having a great shooting season, while Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder could score when needed. He just needed to facilitate and lead by example. With youngsters like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton buying into the message, it certainly helps the Suns with their early surge.
High Basketball IQ
This is the 16th year that Paul has been in the league. He owns career averages of 18.4 points, 9.5 assists, and 2.2 steals. He is a 10-time All-Star and has been selected to the All-NBA Team nine times in total. Altogether, he has one of the most remarkable careers we have ever seen and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Do you think that it was by chance that he has piled up the accolades? Paul is one of the smartest players on the court. When Paul was on the market, some members of the media were calling for the Los Angeles Lakers to trade for him because LeBron “doesn’t want to teach you how to play basketball.”
Chris Paul is the perfect fit for the Lakers:
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) October 16, 2020
What stands out is that he is not just an effective player on offense, but he has been one of the best defensive players of our generation. He is a nine-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team, including qualifying for the First-Team seven times. There’s a reason that he can pick apart offenses so well. It’s because he knows what stops what on offense. Paul understands the entire game of basketball.
His IQ has helped him remain a highly effective player at his age. He uses his understanding of the game to help make his teammates better. Defensively, the Suns allow the least amount of points per game (102.4). Last year, the Suns were ranked 20th in the league in points allowed. That’s no coincidence.
Even in the late stages of his career, Paul has no problem taking the last shot. Could Booker pull up from three-point land and drain a shot? Absolutely. We have seen him do it before. Ayton is taking on a larger role in the post and could go head-to-head with anybody down low. However, the 35-year old remains one clutch and that has everything to do with his confidence in himself.
— NBA (@NBA) January 2, 2021
Paul’s teams have qualified 12 times, which gives him a 75% playoff qualifying rate. The Suns are on pace to make the playoffs, which would mean that Paul has played postseason basketball for an 11 straight season. He has found a way to adapt to the current landscape of the league. To us, Paul playing exceptional is the norm but one day we are going to look back and realize that we took everything for granted.