The Phoenix Suns have really good scorers on the roster.
Devin Booker and Kevin Durant both give you 28+ points per game as two of the most lethal scorers on the planet. Deandre Ayton averages 18 points per game in his sleep, and can top 30 when properly motivated/fed.
But what happens when some of those guys can’t play due to injury? Who else can score for this Suns team?
Beyond those top three, only three players on the Suns have a career scoring average over 10 points per game, with two of those in danger of losing minutes come playoff time because they can’t play defense: T.J. Warren (14.7) and Terrence Ross (11.0).
In fact, on Wednesday night, Warren (20 minutes) and Ross (12 minutes) got some significant run in the same game because both Ayton and Durant were out, leaving Booker as the only real scorer in the rotation.
Hey, what about that one guy?
There is one guy, beyond the top three, who can fill it up and play enough defense to get significant minutes. And I don’t mean Landry Shamet.
That guy’s name is Chris Paul.
Chris Paul, nicknamed the Point God, is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, named as one of the Top 75 players ever to play in the NBA, averages 18 points per game over his 18-year career and has scored 20+ in almost 40% of his 1,206 career games played. He’s the only player in NBA history to amass 20,000 points and 11,000 assists, and the only one to amass 20/10 along with 2,500 steals.
And yet, he’s 37 years old now and does not have the juice to put up 20 points consistently anymore. In fact, he’s averaging a career-low 13.6 points per game this season, down from a previously career-low 14.7 last year.
Paul is currently on a career-long streak of 21 straight games without scoring 20 or more points — including last night against the Lakers — and has done it just 8 times in 51 chances this year.
The eight 20-point games is a career low for a season, but a natural regression for someone who’s avoiding Father Time better than just about any NBA player ever. Dude is old, and Father Time might drag his feet on some guys, but he always shows up. Always.
Still, Paul is trying to keep it going. He may have only topped 20 points eight times this year, but only 28 players in league history have more 20-point games at age 37 or older, per basketball-reference.com Stathead filter.
These days, Paul’s scoring isn’t his biggest contribution to basketball. He’s still racking up assists (5th in the NBA at 9.1 per game) and steals (10th in the NBA at 1.6 per game).
Only three players in league history (John Stockton/113, Steve Nash/75 and Jason Kidd/38) have more 10+ assist games after turning 37 than Paul’s 23 this season, and only 19 players had more games with 3+ steals after turning 37 than Paul’s eight.
This kind of history gives you hope that Paul can keep playing at a high level for years to come. He’s not the Chris Paul of old, but he’s still a really good complementary player.
Playing a few more years wouldn’t be unique to Paul. A whopping 34 players in league history started more games after turning 37 than Paul’s 51 so far this season, including 20 players who started more than 100 games after that birthday.
But were those high leverage starts? The Suns need Paul to start 20-some playoff games this year alone.
Let’s talk playoffs. In league history, 41 players have started at least one game after turning 37, including Paul (5) and P.J. Tucker (11) last year. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started 111 playoff games after turning 37 and seven other players started at least the 21 it will take Paul to win a championship this season (5 last year + minimum 16 this year).
No doubt Chris Paul sees himself among those guys.
Let’s hope he can keep it going. Not as an All-Star anymore, but as a really good point guard who start on a deep playoff team.
That’s why the Suns got Kevin Durant. They can get scoring from other places, including Booker, Durant, Ayton and even Landry Shamet, T.J. Warren and the like.
Paul can be the maestro behind the scenes, hitting daggers on the catch like Jason Kidd did late in his own career. Kidd started 31 games after turning 37 years old, including the 2010-11 season where his Mavericks won the NBA title. That was Kidd’s first of three non-All-Star level years to round out a career where his only championship came at an older age than Chris Paul is today. In 2010-11, Kidd averaged only 7.9 points, 8.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 80 starts, plus 9.3 points and 7.3 assists in 21 playoff starts.
Get Durant back. Keep them all healthy. And let Chris Paul be late-career Jason Kidd to win his first title. Just don’t make him be your No. 2 scorer anymore.