When growing up, we have someone that has influenced the direction of our lives. In the NBA, it seems that all power forwards or centers that have played with Chris Paul have been influenced positively. When looking back on the teams that have had Paul on their roster, you will likely find that the team’s big man had one of his best years with Paul at the helm.
From his start in New Orleans to his current team, the Phoenix Suns, Paul has helped big men elevate their game. Let’s take a look at how some of these players saw their career take off to the next level with Paul in the fold.
West was drafted with the 18th overall pick in 2003 when New Orleans was originally known as the Hornets. After recording modest production in his first two seasons, he enjoyed a breakthrough in his career when West and Paul played their second full season together. In 2005-2006, West averaged 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds with a 51.2% shooting clip. That year, he finished second in the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year voting.
West was forced to play as the team’s starting center due to the team’s lack of true post players in 2006-2007. In that season, West averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds despite missing 30 games due to an elbow injury. By the 2007-2008 season, the combination of West and Paul had true chemistry, which led to the two being selected for the All-Star game together.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons were the only years that West ever recorded an appearance in the All-Star Game. The 2009 season saw West post a career-high 21.0 points per game. West enjoyed one successful scoring season with the Indiana Pacers post 2011, but his production never was the same. West even played with the likes of Paul George during those years. His final two seasons saw him win a championship with the Warriors, but by then West was midway through his 30s and not the same player.
Jordan was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008. Before Paul was traded to the Clippers, he had played three full seasons. His best season before Paul showed up was in 2010 when he averaged 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.
It took two years for Jordan and Paul to mesh, but by year three, Jordan was one of the best overall centers in the league. From 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, Jordan posted three straight seasons where he posted at least a 70% field goal percentage or better. Jordan’s lone All-Star appearance came in 2017, where he led the league with a 71.4% shooting clip.
Jordan also made two All-Defensive First Teams, as well as an All-NBA team in 2016. He led the league in rebounding twice in 2014 and 2015 as well. We are seeing how Paul has helped the likes of Deandre Ayton in today’s game. We can’t forget that he did this same exact transformation with Jordan back in the day.
Capella entered the league in 2014 with the Rockets. By the time Paul came to town, Capella had played three full seasons. At the end of his third season, Capella posted a then career-high 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
When Paul arrived in Houston in 2017, he had already put 12 years of work into the NBA. Forming relationships did not take him two to three years like before. When he began playing with Capella, the two had immediate chemistry and Capella posted career-highs across the board.
That started with their first year together where Capella averaged 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds. Then, he averaged a current career-high in points with 16.6, as well as 12.7 rebounds. At one point that season, Capella scored 23 points and pulled down 25 rebounds. He finished as the runner-up in the Most Improved Player voting, again proving that centers improve when Paul plays with them.
That brings us to our final player in the Sun's 2018 No. 1 overall pick. Ayton has told the media himself that Paul has helped transform his game and brought him to the next level. When one looks at the stats, you will see that Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. All three of those categories are down this year, but let’s break it down.
Ayton’s field goal percentage grew from 54.6% last year to 62.6% this year. That goes with his 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Even though his numbers are down, Ayton is taking better shots, as well as finishing more. With Paul and Devin Booker on the team, Ayton doesn’t have to play like the team’s second scoring option. Ayton is a more refined DeAndre Jordan at the very young age of 22 years old.
If you closely watch the Suns, you will see that Ayton is a much more active player on defense too. Paul, a nine-time All-Defensive selection, takes defense very seriously. From West to Jordan to Capella to now Ayton, it goes to show that their overall game takes a new level when Paul is a member of the team.