What a difference a year makes.
When Chris Paul was traded to the Phoenix Suns from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 16, 2020, no one could predict how transformative he would be for the franchise.
Highest AST/TO ratios for 10+ APG players, since 2000:
1) Chris Paul: 4.65 ('21)
2) Chris Paul: 4.60 ('08)
3) Chris Paul: 4.57 ('14)
4) Chris Paul: 4.41 ('15)
5) Chris Paul: 4.29 ('10)
6) Chris Paul: 3.72 ('09)
7) Andre Miller: 3.60 ('02)
8) Steve Nash: 3.51 ('05)
Point God. pic.twitter.com/qKRkPkrupd
— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) November 13, 2021
Killer Turnaround Game
Since losing Amar’e Stoudemire in 2010, the last year he would play with Steve Nash, the Suns hadn’t qualified for a post-season. Their last appearance yielded a 4-2 loss in the Western Conference Finals during the 2010-2011 season.
🧠 Chris Paul 😯
— BBO Basket (@BboBasket) November 16, 2021
However, they anticipated the franchise’s turnaround once they signed their youngest signee ever in 2015 when they drafted Kentucky’s Devin Booker. Still, through July 2019, the Suns were the worst team in the NBA after the Booker signing, accumulating a 113-280 record. Even the perpetually horrendous New York Knicks during that five years won 17 more games than the Suns.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul have put on a virtuoso performance together in the fourth quarter.
— Evan Sidery (@esidery) November 16, 2021
But it wouldn’t be until the Thunder traded Paul and Abdel Nader to the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 protected first-round pick that things indeed turned around.
Shining Like A Sun
Paul, nicknamed CP3, overtook Oscar Robertson on the all-time career assists list with six assists in a 128–97 win over the Memphis Grizzlies during that season. In addition, he put up a double-double with 22 points and 13 assists in the Suns’ 128–127 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, surpassing Magic Johnson for fifth place on the NBA all-time career assists list.
The chemistry between Paul, Booker and Deandre Ayton gelled perfectly, leading them past the Lakers in the first round, a 4-0 blowout of the Nuggets in the Conference Semifinals, and a 4-2 edge over the Clippers in the Western Finals.
Although they would eventually lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals 4-2, the popular consensus energy was equal for Paul to finally get his chip as it was for Giannis Antetokounmpo to get his.
Follow The Leader
It is the chemistry Paul has captured with his teammates that has inspired many to follow his lead.
“If you look at Phoenix, they don’t have a bunch of stars,” said Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard to Yahoo! Sports. “They got people who are really good at what they do and understand their roles. Chris Paul and Devin Booker are All-Stars, but Deandre Ayton is a quality center, Jae Crowder is an experienced, quality stretch 4-man that’s tough; you just look at how that team is put together, and they’re in the Finals coming out of the West. That’s what my vision is.”
During the 2021-2022 season, Paul and Booker are still the one-two punch needed for the team’s success. They have seven double-digit scorers so far this season, the most in the league.
At 36 years old, Paul is defying Father Time and proving that he is only getting better. It is in stark contrast to being an underrated veteran in the NBA.
A Veteran’s Veteran
Everyone looks to the Warriors, Nets and Lakers for the cues on where the league is or the Hornets, Grizzlies, and Pelicans for where it is going; the Suns are showing how consistency looks.
That is entirely because of CP. His veteran-level leadership, highlighted by his inherent position as the point guard, created a new culture of cohesion in Arizona.
The 11-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA, nine-time All-Defensive Team, and 2013 All-Star MVP was also listed on the NBA’s 75 greatest players of all-time list. Fans quickly forget that Paul was the 2005-06 Rookie of the Year, six-time steals champ and four-time assists champ.
The Future Is Now
UC Riverside senior forward JP Moorman II used some CP3 magic to will his team over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Nov 11.
Sinking a 70-foot shot at the buzzer to clinch a 66-65 victory, according to ESPN, Moorman II texted Paul, “This is because of you.” Paul came and spoke to his former All-Stars player and the rest of the UC Riverside team for 45 minutes before they upset the Sun Devils.
Chris Paul’s laid a foundation all his own in the NBA that inspires both the league and the future.