When the Phoenix Suns traded for Chris Paul this offseason, it was a move universally praised around the league. Although it’s still early in the season, it is safe to say the move has been a success. The Suns are currently 8-5, and playing some of the basketball they’ve played in years. I feel like I should acknowledge the 8-0 run they went on in the bubble, but I’m talking about regular, non-bubble basketball.
Chris Paul’s Impact
The Suns are currently the 4 seed in the West and barring a major injury to a key player, I think they’ll make the playoffs. A lot of credit has to be given to Chris Paul for this team’s success. He’s been really fun to watch in a Suns uniform this season.
We’re all aware of how good Paul was on the Thunder last season. No one thought they were going to make the playoffs, but they did, and Paul was the main reason for that. Now with this Suns team, he’s surrounded with more talent and doesn’t have to do as much. In fact, his USG% is down 2.7% this season compared to last season. Despite that, Paul is still making a major impact on this team, and it’s been showing up in the win column.
If you were to just look at Paul’s raw numbers of 13.5 PPG, 8.2 APG, and 44.4% shooting from the field, you would probably say, I’m overrating Paul’s impact. Although, that couldn’t be more un-true. Paul is doing so much more for this Suns team that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. One of them being, the pace of the offense.
The Suns are currently ranked 28th in the league in terms of pace, at 98.02. Last season the Suns ranked 9th in the league. So they have significantly slowed down their offense this season. I believe Paul is the main reason for that. No, the pace isn’t based on just one player, but you can tell when watching the games that Paul is the main guy slowing down the offense.
Now you may be wondering, why is that a good thing? Well, the answer is simple. This season compared to last, the Suns have improved their field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, offensive rating and have committed fewer turnovers per game. So clearly, slowing down the offense has been a good thing. I also want to add the eight bubble games are not included in the stats.
Paul has also done a great job getting others involved. Mikal Bridges is having a great season, and Paul has to be given a lot of credit for that. Of course Bridges has improved his game this season, but it’s clear having a playmaker like Paul has been huge for him. Bridges does such a great job cutting, and Paul does a great job at hitting him when he does cut. A similar thing can be said about Cameron Johnson, who’s having a good season.
When it comes to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, I understand why you may think Paul hasn’t been good for them. Although, I would have to disagree with you. Yes, both of their PPG averages are down, but I wouldn’t put that on Paul. Paul has created plenty of good looks for both of them, they just haven’t been getting the best out of them. Especially in Booker’s case. I expect both of them to start playing better as the season goes on. They’re both too good to play like how they are right now for the rest of the season. And neither of them are playing bad, but you expect more out of them.
I have to talk about his defense as well. He may not be what he once was on that end, but he’s still a well-above-average defender. He currently has 0.6 defensive box plus/minus, which is a career-low for him but still isn’t bad. He chooses when he wants to really lockdown and defends his man. And when he does, he usually gets the stop. You can’t forget that he’s 35. Most 35-year-olds aren’t playing high-level NBA defense. So I’m not surprised to see Paul regressing a bit on that end.
Chris Paul’s impact has been tremendous this season. Don’t let the box score fool you. He makes winning plays, and probably will until the day he retires. It’s been great being able to watch Paul on the Suns this season. Now let’s hope we fans can see him and the Suns in the playoffs this. If we do, I believe we could see some special things from this team.