Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers saw some of Chris Paul’s Hall of Fame basketball, point guard, and Point God play, all on display.
Let’s hope the Phoenix Suns point guard doesn’t miss much time with the strained hip he suffered in the first half of Friday’s game.
Over this six-game road trip that was much less than fruitful for the Suns, Chris Paul’s feel for playmaking was building toward where his all-time great bar is set.
He was making those unscripted plays (the play outside of the play) and doing so with the smooth flair and chess-like method of manipulating, displaying the playmaking dominance viewers should be accustomed to in his now 18th season.
Over this stretch of games on the road, sans Devin Booker as well as Cam Payne, he led the league in assist percentage, at 43.9%.
The team has been even more dependent than normal for his table setting, and they’ve mostly eaten well from it of late.
I say mostly as, in this window where he’s averaging 8.3 assists per game, .he ranks first in this window for potential assists, at 19.8.
Potential assists are passes that led directly to an event (shot or a foul), which means, if the recipient had made the attempt, Chris would have been credited with an assist.
This compilation is more-so two plays exemplary of his elite vision and ability to deliver in read and react, rather than a set, nonetheless, let’s dive into the film.
This is standard help defense from the Cleveland Cavaliers, essentially blending man-to-man defense with some hybrid zone principles, as Osman pre-rotates in anticipation of the baseline drive, while Mitchell (who was supposed to split the difference between Bridges and Shamet) is responsible for the first pass out of this scenario, should the ball be kicked to the weak side.
The patience on display was impressive from Paul, as it allowed for the defense to tip their hand, for him to gather information, and allowed for Shamet to manipulate the space presented.
Shamet’s dynamic is just as special on this one because these hybrid-style defenses, constructed to neutralize or eliminate advantages attempting to be created from the offense, are optimized when offenses are at a standstill in terms of player movement.
The advantage, in Osman pre-rotating in anticipation of Paul, is given from the Cavaliers if manipulated adequately, via a 2v1 on the weak side.
Just like in American football, or soccer, when the spacing is appropriate, one player should never be able to guard two. Especially off-ball in basketball.
This was flawless execution between both Paul and Shamet to execute in tight quarters and find an advantage in tandem read-and-react.
Next, will be the same scenario presented, and manipulated, in a slightly different manner.
The ability to make this pass, in a condensed court, with a look-off, and split defenders with the bounce, was absolutely wizardry.
Chris has spoken over the course of his career about thinking the game through, inversely. He’s said that he studies the game intensely and loves to intentionally take advantage of what he knows to be a defender’s principles, to then generate advantages in a multitude of scenarios.
Going to his left-hand no-less, that is precisely what he did here in picking apart the Cavaliers defense in the half court.
Next Up: The Suns host this same Cavaliers team on Sunday at Footprint Center, though Paul might miss the game due to a strained hip.