Chris Paul is destined for the Hall of Fame. The point guard extraordinaire is one of the best ball-handlers and playmakers of his generation, and also one of the best leaders the game has seen. Paul has made 11 All-Star Teams, 10 All-NBA Teams, and 9 All-Defensive Teams. Despite standing only 6’0” and weighing 175 lbs, Paul is one of the best two-way point guards of all time. Chris Paul also led the NBA in steals 6 separate times and assists 4 separate times. In a nutshell, Paul is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But unfortunately, Chris Paul is the first player who ever blew 4 separate 2-0 leads in multiple Best-of-7 Series. In 16 years as a professional, this was the closest Chris Paul ever had to win his first NBA championship. Especially when up 2-0, the 36-year old will likely never have a chance to shut up all the critics who doubt his ability as a playoff performer. As of this point, Paul might have added more fuel to that fire. Looking at his career as a whole, from his rookie season until his disappointing Finals exit in 2021, here is how Chris Paul’s legacy is affected by tonight’s loss.
Chris Paul Is A Top-6 Point Guard, But Will Never Be Top-5
Before his Game 6 exit, Chris Paul was on the cusp of becoming a top-5 point guard who ever lived. He had achieved everything on an individual level and is still one of the best two-way players in the NBA at 36 years old. His on-court leadership makes every team he plays on instantly better, and his track record of changing franchises is truly special. He placed the Hornets and Clippers on the map, before making the Houston Rockets title contenders.
He even guided the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs last year when they should have been in the lottery. This year, Paul made his first NBA Finals with a Suns franchise that hadn’t seen the playoffs since 2010. Everywhere Paul goes, success follows and that cannot be disputed. But unfortunately for the point guard, he never quite got over the hump. That does not take away from Paul’s greatness, because he is still a top-6 point guard who ever lived.
The only issue Chris Paul fans will have about the loss in Game 6 is that the “Point God” will never be among the top-5 who ever did it. At 36 years old, it is likely Paul will never have a chance at winning an NBA title as the Finals MVP of his team. Rather, Paul will have to accept a lesser role on a title contender with the hopes he can enter the top-5 conversation again. But this was his best shot, and he could have been named among the best who ever did it by surpassing John Stockton as the 5th best point guard ever.
CP3 Is A Great Leader, But Not Necessarily A Great Winner
When people talk about leadership, one of the first names out of their mouths is Chris Paul. Even though Paul has been known to ruffle feathers and even bother teammates and coaches, it was all because he wanted to win. In fact, Paul probably wanted it more than any teammate he has ever played with outside of a select few. That is a massive reason why Paul never quite got over the hump in the postseason. But in fairness to his critics, Paul could not close deals in a few series he was supposed to win.
The worst moments of Chris Paul’s postseason career came with the Clippers in 2014 and 2015. His Game 5 performance in 2014 was inexcusable and possibly had the worst moment of his career happen in the final 17 seconds. Chris Paul turned the ball over twice in that span of time and killed their chance to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2015, the Clippers were embarrassed by Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, and Jason Terry of the Houston Rockets in a 40-15 4th quarter in Game 6 which included superstar James Harden watching from the bench. Of course, Paul’s poor performances in Games 3, 4, and 5 against the Suns in this year’s Finals is another frustrating playoff experience the point guard was forced to endure. It is worth mentioning that Paul also suffered countless injuries in postseason runs as well, the most crucial happening in 2018 when he missed the final 2 games of the series against the Golden State Warriors.
Even though Chris Paul made the Hornets, Clippers, and Rockets playoff contenders; he never quite got over the hump whether it was due to his own play or frustrating injury concerns. His loss in Game 6 is yet more fuel to the fire of his critics pointing out his failures, and they have a point when looking at his track record. But still, even with the loss in the 2021 Finals, Chris Paul is one of the best to ever do it.
Even With An Iffy Playoffs Track Record, Put Respect On Chris Paul’s Name
Chris Paul could have done better in the series against the Bucks, and he knows it. That is why he will never be named a top-5 point guard of all time. But the loss is not entirely on him, especially when he is playing on a young team led by a young coach. Devin Booker is only 24 years old and showed glimpses of not being ready for the moment. Deandre Ayton had been spectacular in the postseason, but he looked petrified at times in the Finals. Outside of Jae Crowder, who is a role player, Chris Paul did not have an experienced crew beside him.
The Suns are immensely talented and have a bright future, but the co-stars and even the coach deserve blame for failing to capitalize on a 2-0 lead. Of course, credit is due to the Bucks for playing dominant basketball, especially on the defensive end. But we have to put things in perspective because Paul has literally made every team he has played for title contenders.
Paul was not supposed to be in the Finals this year with such a young group of players, but his leadership led the way. Losing in the Finals after a few playoff blunders (especially in 2014 and 2015) does not look too good on Paul’s resume, but he did a tremendous job getting this far with a new team. Paul’s consequences from not winning his first NBA title is that he will forever be looking up at John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, Isaiah Thomas, Stephen Curry, and Magic Johnson on the all-time point guard rankings. But the consequences need to end there. Paul has been so great for so long that a Finals loss doesn’t take him out of the Hall of Fame, it just places him behind the truly elite point guards who played his position.