The Phoenix Suns are sitting pretty, with a 34-14 record. That’s good enough for the West’s second seed at the moment. Sure, Devin Booker and the rest of the squad are a big reason for that but we’re going to zero in on one guy here: Chris Paul.
Paul’s arrival in the Valley has launched the team up the standings and it only supports the fact that the future Hall of Fame point guard has significantly improved every team from the instant he’s arrived.
Despite his age, the 35-year-old continues to meet milestones, earn All-Star selections and defy doubts as this Suns team has indeed risen like a Phoenix.
When you look at the numbers, it’s simply fascinating what the veteran has done. He might as well have the Midas touch because everything he touches basically turns to gold.
Let’s take a look at his instant illumination throughout his career.
New Orleans Hornets
In the 2004-05 season, the Hornets won a whopping total of 18 games, last (5th) in their division. Their answer was to draft a small (6-foot) point guard out of a small school (Wake Forest). Well, it resulted in a big leap as he helped the team to a big boost in the win column (+20 wins) as they won 38 games in 2005-06. By his third season, New Orleans was at 56 wins and leading their division.
The Clippers only won 32 games in 2010-11, ranking 4th in their division. Then Chris Paul came and in his first season in L.A. they won 40 games (a +8 win improvement). By his second season there, they were at 56 wins and leading their division. CP3 transformed the Clips into perennial contenders.
Yes, the Rockets won 55 games in 2016-17 before he got there. However, they won 65 (best record in franchise history) in his first year with the team (a +10 win jump). They went from 3rd in the West to leading the Western Conference. Houston also went from losing in the semifinals to coming just one win from being in the NBA Finals.
It wasn’t about their record or wins here. This campaign was Paul turning the Thunder into the season’s biggest overachiever. Oklahoma City entered the year with a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs. Well, they made it and ended their run just one win short of making the second round as well.
Last year, the Suns won 34 games. However, before their magical 8-0 Bubble run, they were sitting at 26 wins and many criticized them even being invited. Phoenix finished 10th in the West.
This year, the Suns are already at 34 wins despite being only 48 games in and they currently have the 2nd best record in the West.
In addition, they’ve learned to close out games, which is something they really struggled with last year. They were 16-21 in games that were within 5 points in the last 5 minutes. This year, they’re 14-11 in those games.
They’re 3 wins away from clinching their first winning season since 2013-14 and are closing in on their first playoff appearance since 2010.
TNT commentator and former Sun Charles Barkley has thrown Paul’s name in the MVP race as a dark-horse.
I do agree with Chuck that his name deserves to be mentioned. Unfortunately, I highly doubt he will win it with the other competition across the league for the award.
It’s almost a shame that he hasn’t won it, yet. His track record speaks for itself.
The Chris Paul effect, though, is very real. Let’s hope for us Suns fans that this is the year his touch indeed turns everything to gold.