Chris Paul is overpaid. Chris Paul is an injury risk. Chris Paul is too demanding and rubs teammates the wrong way. Chris Paul is over the hill, he doesn’t fit our Timeline (lol). We’ve all heard the criticisms and negatives to bringing Chris Paul onboard.
Frankly, they’re not without some merit. However the positives outweigh the negatives. In Chris Paul’s career they always have. He has elevated teammates everywhere he has been. He has elevated franchises at every single stop he has had.
New Orleans drafted him after finishing dead last in the Western Conference. The very next year they finished with 20 more wins despite playing essentially 82 road games. That year Hurricane Katrina dislocated the franchise from New Orleans to Oklahoma City. Drafted to a last place team in a city in turmoil there was every reason to mail in the season. Every excuse already built in for poor performance. Not only did Chris Paul not accept those excuses, by his 3rd season the Chris Paul led Hornets were the 2nd seed in the Western Conference!
Surely, he had great teammates in order to lift the franchise so quickly. Well, not exactly.. His supporting cast was David West, a solid Power Forward and fringe All Star. He did make two All Star games after the Hornets success, but never made one after Paul left the franchise. Peja Stojakovic was a three time All Star but was five years removed from them by the time he teamed up with Paul. He was also on the downward slide of his career as injuries would soon get the best of him.
Finally, and most intriguing to me, he had Tyson Chandler who by that time was considered a legitimate bust after being drafted #2 by the Bulls. Chandler went on to have much more success in his career but there’s no doubt Paul was the catalyst to his rise. In fact, I’d argue this duo began to change the Center position entirely. In the early 2000s many teams would roster big bodies for the position whose primary job was to try and body up Shaq. Tyson Chandler became a legitimate Rim Running big with Paul’s vision. Something we hadn’t seen to this extent before. His mobility allowed him to be a rim protector while covering for David West’s & Stojakovic lack of mobility on the perimeter.
The last point I’ll make on Chris Paul’s time with the Hornets is this. The year after he left, the franchise went right back to last in the West.
After legitimizing his talent with the Hornets Chris Paul finally caught his break. He was traded to the Lakers to team up with Kobe & Pau who had won 2 of the past 3 championships. Wait... Scratch that. Apparently the only thing David Stern hates more than the Suns franchise is Chris Paul personally. Turns out Paul would be going to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers had made the playoffs only four times since moving to Los Angeles in 1985.
Honestly, if a player ever had an excuse to sulk it was now. But how did Chris Paul respond? Only by going to six consecutive playoff appearances. In other words, Chris Paul has been to has many playoff appearances with the Clippers as the Los Angeles Clippers have been to without Paul. (I’m leaving out playoff appearance by the San Diego Clippers & Buffalo Braves. It’s my article so I can do what I want).
In LA, Chris Paul had a legitimate sidekick in #1 overall pick and athletic phenom Blake Griffin. But again, how many Suns fans are clamoring for Blake Griffin to this team now? Chris Paul turned a young Blake & 2nd round draft pick DeAndre Jordan into a franchise altering team. Deemed Lob City, Paul seemed to be a miracle worker for young bigs after elevating the likes of Chandler and Jordan who are obviously limited in talent aside from being uber athletic.
When he went to Houston many questioned if Harden and Paul could coexist. Harden essentially played PG if you look at his usage and had finished runner up in MVP voting two years in a row. How did Paul respond? By yet again elevating his teammate, this time a back court member, to winning his 1st ever MVP. Interestingly most thought Paul’s presence would have a negative impact to Harden’s individual accolades.
As for the team success, the Rockets likely would have beaten defending champion Warriors at full strength had he not been forced to sit games 6 & 7 after being up 3-2. It took a Paul injury AND the worst three point shooting stretch in NBA history for the superteam to come back.
Even after being traded to Oklahoma City where the team was expected to tank, Chris Paul refused to fold and led an odd combination of roster pieces to a solid 5th seed. Three Point Guards that could legitimately be a starter but they found a way to make it work. Check out this quote when asked about his time there:
"One thing I learned was to write your own story.... No disrespect to y’all, but we didn’t care what y’alls predictions were. You’re not in this locker room with us. We’re the ones that got to do the work."
That’s not the quote of someone that is entitled. Interesting to me he used the word work. He doesn’t feel he’s better than everyone. He believes if he and his team puts in the work they can succeed.
Now Chris Paul finds himself on a Suns team that just might be the most talented roster he has been a part of. Legitimate young scorer and current All Star Devin Booker & #1 overall draft pick DeAndre Ayton.
Chris Paul may be overpaid, on the back end of his career, and need some "workload management" days off during the season. But if there’s anything he’s proven it’s that he wins EVERYWHERE he goes.
Leadership isn’t just telling others what to do. Leadership is by example. Chris Paul may be demanding, but it’s because he wants to win. It’s because he knows he can win. Most importantly he knows leadership means putting in the work. We’ll see how high Phoenix will rise with Paul on this roster, but for my two cents... I wouldn’t want to bet against him while he’s flanked by Ayton and Booker.