Chris Paul is on the move again. For the fourth time in his career, he has gotten traded, the third time in the past three seasons. This trade sends the 35-year-old point guard from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Phoenix Suns. The trade package sends Paul, Abdel Nader the Suns for Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Leque, and a 2022 first-round pick.
Suns Decade Long Struggle
CP3 finds himself in a similar situation to last season. He's joining a young team with loads of potential. The Phoenix Suns are one of the league's youngest teams and have been in a rebuild for almost a decade. Their last playoff appearance came in 2010 when they were lead to the Western Conference finals by Steve Nash and coach Alvin Gentry. The last decade has been tough for the Suns, but with a 10-year rebuild you're going to hit on something, and that they did.
Through a series of trial errors in the draft, the Suns have gotten themselves to a promising stage as a franchise. The Suns have gone through all the stages of grief that most rebuilding teams have gone through. The first stage came in the draft, where they had their fair amount of busts. Players such as Kendal Marshall, Alex Len, Tyler Ennis, Dragan Bender, and Josh Jackson with high or mid-first round draft picks. On the other side of the misses came the hits like T.J. Warren, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton.
With Booker and Ayton the Suns have a formidable young duo. Devin Booker is entering his sixth season at the age of 24. Through five seasons Booker is averaging 22.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. He does all this while shooting 45% from the field and 35% from three on teams where he was the only playmaker on the court.
Deandre Ayton is entering his third season and is only 22 years old. Through his first two seasons, Ayton is averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 assists while shooting 57% from the field and 75% from free-throw. Behind the two of them, the Suns have been steadily improving, their play in the bubble showed that the future is bright for the Suns. Their 8-0 record in the bubble mixed with the energy they played with turned them into a playoff contender, an attractive landing spot for free agents and players forcing trades.
What CP3 Brings to the Suns
CP3 joining the Suns gives them a floor general and facilitator similar to what they had in Steve Nash back in the day. CP3's age comes with years of experience, and not to mention he is a Hall of Famer and a top 10 point guard all time. Last season he was an all-star as a 35-year-old and was on the NBA's All-Second Team led the Thunder to the playoffs where they forced the James Harden and Russell Westbrook led Rockets to seven games before losing in a close one.
What gets overlooked is Chris Paul's impact on players on and off the court. Last season, he took players such as Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroeder, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazely under his wing. Gilgeous- Alexander was among the most improved players in the league in just his second season. Dennis Schroeder was one of the best sixth men in the league and he had one of the best seasons of his career. Aside from that, he brings a winning by all means approach to each game. In the past, that rubbed some teammates the wrong way, but winners want to play with winners. If Devin Booker is truly focused on winning he should have no problem playing with CP3.
On the court CP3's ability to facilitate and create plays for others, will make scoring easier for Booker and Ayton. Flashback to Paul's time with the Clippers when he ran pick and roll with Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, or on the Rockets with Capela, or the Thunder with Steven Adams. Now imagine him running the pick and roll with Ayton. As a result, their efficiency can trend in a positive direction and their offensive possessions can become more fluid and rely on more than one person to play the role of playmaker. On the defensive end, CP3 is one of the best backcourt defenders in the league, and wherever he goes that defensive intensity follows. Can't speak for everybody else but CP3 will be playing defense. CP3 is a capable scorer and solid shooter from the midrange and three. Last season he shot 49% from the field and 36.5% from three while averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.6 steals.
CP3 has a history of getting injured but last season it seemed like things changed. With a changed diet and workout regimen, CP3 was out there hooping. With load management, the Suns can help him maintain the stretch of health and elite play. A calm exchange rewarding the Suns their first playoff berth since 2010.
CP3 has bounced from team to team. In most cases, you would call that a journeyman but CP3 is in a unique situation. He has joined a team that he can help build up and change the culture. The Suns decade long playoff drought can come to an end with CP3's help. He has two years left in his contract and that can be two years of building a winning culture. The real winner of this trade is Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. With CP3's help, they can break into the next stage of their careers.