Chris Paul to the Suns: are They Contenders?

Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder passes the ball during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 02, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The NBA offseason opened with a bang on Nov 16th. At 12:08 PM, the first “Woj bomb” dropped; Chris Paul had been traded to the Suns. The Suns also acquired Abdel Nader�in return�for Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round pick. Chris Paul is the main piece of this deal, so how does he change the Sun’s chances in a tough western conference?

When superstars change teams, the first worry is how they will fit. Having great players does not guarantee a great team (see the 2019-20 LA Clippers). But this isn’t a worry with Chris Paul. He’s fit seamlessly into every team he’s been on throughout his career, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue. All of these teams have performed better with him than without. 

At the start of last season, it was assumed that Paul wouldn’t spend the whole season with the Thunder. In the end, he stayed the entire season and elevated a lottery team to a mid-level playoff team.

Last year, more than any other season, showed what makes Paul so invaluable to just about any team. He makes the players all around him o much better. Most important will be his dynamic with Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker this year.

Paul + Ayton

: Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder smiles during the game against the Houston Rockets during Round One Game Seven of the NBA Playoffs on September 2, 2020 at The AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns smiles before the game against the Golden State Warriors on February 29, 2020 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE – Barry Gossage/NBAE

Last season, Suns fans got treated to the Ayton/Rubio pick and roll, which was a good offense. With the addition of Chris Paul, the Suns could have the best pick and roll game in the league. Chris Paul was also in the 92nd percentile of pick & roll ball handlers on eight possessions a game. Ayton was in the 63rd  Percentile of centers but on only 3.3 possessions a game. With the addition of Chris Paul, both those numbers stand to increase.

Ayton can be expected to take a giant leap this year with Chris Paul on the team. He had a quietly good season last year and will turn a lot of heads in 2021. Expect to hear him mentioned in the elite center conversation once and a while next year

Paul + Booker

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns dribbles the ball up court on August 13, 2020 at AdventHealth Arena in Orlando, Florida.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE

Not only will Chris Paul improve Ayton’s game, but he’ll also give Devin Booker some much-needed support. The Suns relied heavily on Booker last season, and he did his absolute best. According to Basketball-Reference, he had the 15th highest usage rating in the league and posted the 16th highest win share total. This was the highest out of any player that didn’t make the playoffs.

Looking at only offensive win shares, Booker jumps up to 10th. The ten players above him are Lillard, Harden, Davis, Jokic, Gobert, Luka, Butler, Lebron, and Giannis. That is a very elite group to be a part of, and right behind him at 11th was Chris Paul. The Suns just didn’t have enough support for Devin Booker this season, he did his best to carry them, but one player can only do so much.

The Verdict

Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder runs up court against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 24, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Chris Paul will take a lot of that load off of Booker’s back. Paul is also a good player in isolation, ranking in the 75th percentile. 

Last season, the Sun’s offense was mostly Devin Booker. Not only did that wear on him, but it also made it a lot easier for teams to gameplan against the Suns.

Chris Paul improves the Suns greatly. The question is, does this make them a title contender? Unfortunately for Suns fans, the answer is no. The West is just too stacked for Phoenix to have real title aspirations. Even with Paul, the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, and arguably the Jazz are better than the Suns. But Phoenix will likely make the playoffs this year, and that’s the first step. Booker and Ayton are still young, and Chris Paul is the perfect player to help develop a winning culture in Phoenix. The Chris Paul trade is a big move in the right direction for a Suns franchise that has been nothing more than disappointing over recent years.

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