Chris Paul is one of the most talented point guards to ever play in the NBA, a surefire first-ballot future Hall-of-Famer whose name is featured across the all-time leaderboards.
Here’s a quick breakdown of CP3’s career rankings:
2nd all-time in career assist percentage (45.26%)
3rd all-time in career assists (10,977)
6th all-time in career box plus/minus (7.30)
9th all-time in career win shares (198.90)
15th all-time in career steal percentage (3.18)
Despite Chris Paul’s historic career numbers, he’s struggled in the postseason, only advancing past the second round twice in 13 playoff appearances (not counting this season’s playoffs which are still underway). Why has CP3, a player who has so thoroughly dominated the league for nearly two decades, struggled in the NBA’s second season?
Here we’ll examine Chris Paul’s 13 prior postseason appearances and see why he failed to win a championship on each occasion.
2005-06 NBA Season - Did Not Appear
The New Orleans Hornets selected Chris Paul with the 4th pick in the 2005 NBA draft, and he was the rare player who jumped into the league as a true difference-maker. The Point God averaged 16.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, and 2.2 SPG during his first campaign helping guide the Hornets to a 38-44 record, outside the playoffs looking in, but an enormous jump from their 18-64 finish the previous season.
2006-07 NBA Season - Did Not Appear
During Chris Paul’s second campaign in the NBA, he increased his statistics, averaging 17.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.9 APG, and 1.8 SPG as he formed an excellent synergy with power forward David West and center Tyson Chandler. The Hornets improved to 39-43 in 2006-07, four games under .500 and outside the postseason once again. Still, the foundations of a playoff team were laid in New Orleans.
2007-08 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals
Result: New Orleans Hornets vs. San Antonio Spurs 3-4
Stats: 24.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 11.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The New Orleans Hornets made the leap during the 2007-08 season, climbing to a first place finish in the Southwest Division with a 56-26 record. Chris Paul led the league in assists at 11.6 per game during the regular season, setting up Peja Stojakovic with perfect swing passes beyond the arc while hitting big men David West and Tyson Chandler with precision lobs or bounce passes off dives to the rack. Chris Paul and David West were each selected to the All-Star team for the first time, a genuine two-headed monster in the making.
The Hornets entered the postseason as the number two seed in the Western Conference and roughed up the Dallas Mavericks in the First Round, ending things in a gentleman’s sweep as Chris Paul led the series in points (24.6), assists (12.0), and steals (2.0). New Orleans matched up with the San Antonio Spurs in the Second Round and launched out to a 2-0 series lead, winning their first two contests by 19 points and 18 points, respectively. And then the veteran Spurs put the clamps down on the young Hornets, eventually beating them in seven games. Chris Paul averaged a double-double in the series and was far from overwhelmed. He lost to the former champions Spurs, who’d already marched up the mountain several times and knew how to get it done under the bright lights of the postseason.
2008-09 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: New Orleans Hornets vs. Denver Nuggets 1-4
Stats: 16.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The 2008-09 Hornets kept the same core—Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojakovic — as the previous season, and CP3, alongside his teammate, David West, were named to the All-Star team. Still, things never clicked for them in the same way as in 2007-08. New Orleans finished the regular season 49-33, and they entered the postseason as the seventh seed in an incredibly deep Western Conference, matching up with the Denver Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Kenyon Martin blitzed the Hornets 4-1 in the First Round. Chris Paul had one of the most disappointing series of his career, averaging only 16.6 PPG while shooting 41.1% from the floor as the Nuggets’ perimeter size overwhelmed him.
2009-10 NBA Season - Did Not Appear
The Hornets' 2009-10 season was a disaster. Tyson Chandler left for Charlotte during the offseason, and Chris Paul missed nearly half the season with torn cartilage in his left knee. The Hornets, top-10 defense from the previous season, plummeted without their rim protector and their point-of-attack point guard. The Hornets finished the year with a 37-45 record, well outside the playoffs, and head coach Byron Scott was predictably fired during the 2010 offseason.
2010-11 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: New Orleans Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers 2-4
Stats: 22.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 11.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The New Orleans Hornets brought in this season’s NBA Head Coach of the Year, Monty Williams, to take over for Byron Scott. Chris Paul had one of the least productive seasons of his career under Williams in 2010-11, averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 9.8 APG as the Hornets’ offense ground to a halt behind one of the slowest paces (88.7) in the last 20 years, ultimately finishing the seasons ranked 19th in OFFRTG. Still, the Hornets’ defense was solid, and they did enough to slide into the playoffs as the 7th seed in the Western Conference with a 46-36 record.
The Hornets lost in the First Round 2-4 against a Lakers team that was later swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the Second Round. Chris Paul was the most dominant player in the series, averaging a massive 22.0 PPG and 11.5 APG while shooting 47.4% from deep and 54.5% overall from the field. New Orleans was undermanned in the middle and got pounded on the inside by the Lakers trio of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.
2011-12 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs 0-4
Stats: 17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.9 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
During the 2011 offseason, the NBA took control of the ownerless New Orleans Hornets. During the NBA’s search for a wealthy businessman willing to buy the Hornets, commissioner David Stern infamously traded Chris Paul to the Lakers before canceling the swap and then sending him to the Clippers. CP3 teamed up with Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups, and DeAndre Jordan on LA’s other team, and they mainly ho-hummed their way through the regular season, finishing with a 40-26 record behind their 18th ranked defense.
The Clippers squared off against the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference First Round as the number five seed. The Clippers eked out the series win in seven games against the Grit and Grind Grizzlies before the San Antonio Spurs ruined them in the Second Round 4-0. San Antonio made Chris Paul’s life miserable in the Semifinals, holding him to 12.8 PPG and 9.3 APG while shooting 36.8% from the field. CP3 looked lost against the Spurs, a deer standing wide-eyed in front of the headlights, which led to the first whispers about his inability to get it done in the playoffs.
2012-13 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies 2-4
Stats: 22.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The Clippers finished the 2012-13 season with a 56-26 record driven by one of the most explosive offenses in the NBA. They entered the First Round of the playoffs as heavy favorites against the Grizzlies, and then Memphis dispatched them in six easy games. Chris Paul averaged 22.8 points per game on a 53.3% clip from the field against the Grizzlies as his partner in crime, Blake Griffin only managed 13.2 PPG, and DeAndre Jordan averaged a sad 3.7 PPG in 24.1 minutes nightly. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol obliterated the Clippers in the paint, which Chris Paul can hardly be blamed for, yet the playoff whispers centered around the Clippers' point guard grew louder.
2013-14 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 2-4
Stats: 19.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 10.3 APG, 2.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The Clippers predictably axed head coach Vinny Del Negro during the 2013 offseason after their First Round loss to the Grizzlies, bringing in Doc Rivers for a future first-round draft pick in one of the most bizarre trades in NBA history. The Clippers finished the season with a 57-25 record and a top-10 offense and defense. They met Golden State in the First Round as the number three seed in the Western Conference, eventually beating the young Warriors as Stephen Curry, 25, averaged 23.0 PPG, 8.4 APG, and 38.6% from deep while outplaying Chris Paul and showing the world he was coming.
The Clippers faced off against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals. Westbrook averaged 27.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 8.8 APG, and the Thunder out-hustled the CP3-led Clippers on their way to a 4-2 series win. Chris Paul put up 22.5 PPG, 11.8 APG, and shot a 51.0% clip from the field but was overwhelmed by Brodie. The playoff whispers turned into questioning murmurs.
2014-15 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets 3-4
Stats: 22.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG
2014-15 was the height of “Lob City” in Los Angeles. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan “lobbed” teams to death as they finished the season with the top-rated offense in the NBA and a 56-26 record. The Clippers fought Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and the San Antonio Spurs tooth-and-nail through seven intense games before Chris Paul hit the game-winning bucket at the end of game seven.
Unfortunately, the Clippers’ victory against the Spurs was the beginning of Chris Paul’s string of playoff injury woes. CP3 strained his hamstring toward the end of game seven against San Antonio, and although he was able to stay in the game and finish off the Spurs, he missed the Clippers’ first two Second Round games versus James Harden, Dwight Howard, and the Houston Rockets. Despite Paul’s absence, Los Angeles split games one and two. CP3 joined the fight in game three, and the series careened toward the penultimate seventh game. The Clippers ultimately lost game seven by 13 points as The Beard outperformed a hobbled Chris Paul. Even with CP3’s obvious leg discomfort, the postseason murmurs against him gained strength.
2015-16 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers 2-4
Stats: 23.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The Los Angeles Clippers finished the 2015-16 season fourth in the Western Conference (53-29) with a top-10 offense and defense. They entered their First Round matchup versus the Portland Trail Blazers as heavy favorites and raced out to a 2-1 lead. Then Chris Paul broke his hand during the fourth game and missed the rest of the series as the Clippers lost in six games without their floor general. Chris Paul added to his legacy of early playoff exits in 2016 as the playoff murmurs turned into questioning taunts.
2016-17 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz 3-4
Stats: 25.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 9.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
The Clippers finished in the middle of the Western Conference pack again during the 2016-17 season and entered the playoffs as the fourth seed against the Utah Jazz. The Clippers lost to a Utah Jazz squad led by the far from stellar trio of Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Joe Johnson in seven lackluster games. Chris Paul averaged an excellent 25.3 PPG and 9.9 APG while shooting 49.6% from the field. Even so, the Clippers appeared disinterested as rumors that DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were annoyed by The Point God’s constant preaching swirled around the team. The Clippers’ First Round series loss in 2017 marked the end of “Lob City.” Chris Paul was dealt to the Rockets during the offseason amid shouts from fans and experts about his yearly playoff struggles.
2017-18 NBA Season - Western Conference Finals
Result: Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors 3-4
Stats: 21.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
The Rockets acquired Chris Paul from the Clippers for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick, and cash in a massive trade during the 2017 offseason. The Houston Rockets stomped on the league behind their All-Star backcourt duo, Chris Paul and James Harden, during the regular season, compiling a 65-17 record. Houston entered the playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference and smacked the Timberwolves and Jazz with consecutive gentleman’s sweeps in the First and Second Rounds, respectively.
Chris Paul finally made it to the NBA’s final four for the first time in his career, only to square off against the mighty Golden State Warriors. The Rockets handled Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the Warriors during the early stages of the series as Chris Paul, James Harden, and Eric Gordon formed into an unstoppable three-headed backcourt spear. Houston went up 3-2 and was on the verge of slaying the Warriors (pun intended). But Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury during the waning seconds of the Rockets game five victory. CP3 was sidelined for the final two games of the series, and the Warriors predictably took advantage, easily beating the Rockets in games six and seven. The Chris Paul playoff shouts transformed into frothing jeers across the NBA universe.
2018-19 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals
Result: Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors 2-4
Stats: 17.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG
James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Rockets never seemed to regroup from their 2018 playoff collapse. They slogged their way through the season as James Harden took matters into his own hands, averaging 36.1 PPG, off 24.5 field goal attempts per game as Chris Paul and the rest of his teammates mainly stood around and watched him work out of ugly isolation sets. The Rockets eventually finished the 2018-19 season with a 53-29 record, good for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
The Rockets beat the hapless Utah Jazz 4-1 in the First Round and then found themselves in a matchup with the Warriors for the second year in a row. James Harden dominated the ball against the Warriors, shooting nearly twice as many field goal attempts as Chris Paul in the series. Golden State wisely let The Beard “get his” while his teammates sulked on the perimeter. The Warriors whipped the ball around the court, scoring at will, while Harden relegated Chris Paul, the most talented playmaking point guard in the NBA, to a ball-watching spot-up shooter. The Warriors predictably defeated the Rockets in six games. Chris Paul predictably asked out during the offseason. Fans and experts alike predictably blamed CP3 for another quick trip to the playoffs.
2019-20 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round
Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets 3-4
Stats: 21.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.6 SP, 0.4 BPG
The Rockets’ two-year postseason elimination at the hands of the Warriors was primarily discerned as Chris Paul’s fault. CP3, at 34-years-old, was seen by most experts as a surly, washed veteran who envisioned himself as a top-10 NBA player, but in fact, wasn’t capable of leading a playoff squad. Houston went along with the national consensus and traded Chris Paul to OKC for Russell Westbrook, two future first-round picks, and two pick swaps in what turned out to be the steal of the century by master GM Sam Presti and the Thunder.
Chris Paul led an OKC team that was predicted to land at the bottom of the Western Conference to a 44-28 record, qualifying for the fifth seed in the Western Conference and a date with (Oh My God!) the Rockets in the First Round of the Playoffs. Chris Paul led the Thunder during their First Round series against his old team with 21.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 5.3 APG while playing I-want-to-destroy-you defense on Russell Westbrook and James Harden. OKC pushed Houston to seven games, ultimately yielding to the more talented Rockets in the final contest. Despite the Thunder’s loss, Chris Paul was applauded for his postseason performance instead of lambasted for the first time in nearly a decade.
2020-21 NBA Season - NBA Finals
Result: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks 2-4
Stats: 19.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The rebuilding Thunder traded Chris Paul along with Abdel Nader to the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round pick during the 2020 offseason, in a move that changed the Western Conference landscape. Chris Paul helped launch the Suns toward the upper echelon of the NBA before running off playoff wins against the Lakers, Nuggets, and Clippers on their way toward a Finals matchup with the Bucks.
The Suns lost 2-4 in the Finals against a Bucks team that proved too long and athletic with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, P. J. Tucker, and Bobby Portis in the fold. Still, Chris Paul played excellent basketball, averaging 21.8 PPG and 8.2 APG while shooting 52.2% from deep and playing 110% point-of-attack defense throughout the championship round. CP3 didn’t hang a banner, but he silenced nearly all the whispers, murmurs, questions, and shouts.
The 2021-22 NBA Season - Currently Playing In The Western Conference Semifinals
Current Results: Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks 3-2
Playoff Stats: 18.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 9.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Chris Paul and the Suns finished off the New Orleans Pelicans in the First Round of the 2021-22 playoffs and are currently beating the Mavericks 3-2 in the Western Conference Semifinals. We have a long way to go. However, the Suns looked poised to make a return trip to the Finals, where CP3 can try to finally get over the hump and win his first title in 14 trips to the playoffs.
Overall Playoff Resume
1 NBA Finals Appearance
Stats: 19.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 9.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
After the Suns’ most recent victory against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals, Chris Paul’s playoff record is hovering a few games over .500 at 72-68. Despite CP3’s playoff struggles, his postseason win percentage is far from the worst in NBA history. Kevin Garnett ended his career with a .490 playoff win percentage. John Stockton’s playoff win percentage was .489, Dirk Nowitzki retired with a .476 playoff win percentage, and Steve Nash has a .475 playoff win percentage.
Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki won a title while John Stockton and Steve Nash never reached the pinnacle of the NBA. Chris Paul still has time to join KG and Dirk as players who struggled in the playoffs early in their careers before pocketing a chip.