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Point God Problem: The agony and ecstasy of being Chris Paul

Chris Paul in action for the Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul in action for the Phoenix Suns
Akshay Manwani

After playing for 15 seasons in the league, The Point-God aka Chris Paul finally managed to make it to his first NBA Finals in his 16th NBA season in 2020-21. Unfortunately, though, for CP3, the Phoenix Suns, the team Paul joined last season, lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the 2021 Finals. The loss prevented Paul from getting his first taste of championship success.

It is the one thing missing from Paul’s glittering career resume, something he is surely aware of. He obviously enjoyed the Finals experience so much that he made a recent statement saying, “Now that I’ve got a taste of what that experience is like, I’m sort of addicted.”

The obvious question that follows from this statement is, can Chris Paul repeat the 2021 Finals experience with the Suns? What are his chances of finishing on the winning side? A championship ring would be the perfect send-off for someone like him, who has been a solid point guard over his 16 seasons in the NBA.

The agony of being Chris Paul

Chris Paul is 36 years old, which means he is closer to the end of his career than ever before. He has also been severely injury-prone in the postseason. In the 2021 NBA Playoffs itself, he injured his right shoulder in Game 1 of the Suns’ first-round series versus the LA Lakers. He reinjured the shoulder in Game 5 but managed to remain available for all the games in the series, which the Suns won in six.

Chris Paul writhes in pain after injuring his shoulder
Chris Paul writhes in pain after injuring his shoulder

He then missed the Suns’ first two games of their Western Conference Finals series against the LA Clippers because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19. The fear on each of those occasions was that Paul’s unusually high bad luck would rule him out of the playoffs for the Suns. But Paul survived and went on to play the last 10 games of Phoenix’s 2021 postseason.

There is also the matter of Chris Paul’s teams being unable to close out opponents they should be winning against in the playoffs. What this essentially means is that Paul has often lost to teams despite his team having homecourt advantage. Paul has six playoff losses to teams that did not have homecourt advantage.

The most memorable of these losses is when Paul’s Clippers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games in the first round of the 2013 Western Conference Playoffs. Then the same Clippers lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2017 playoffs despite Game 7 being played at Staples Center.

More recently, Chris Paul’s Phoenix Suns also lost to the Milwaukee Bucks despite having homecourt advantage in the 2021 NBA Finals and being up 2-0 in the series. Paul himself had a fairly disappointing series after averaging 27.5 points and 8.5 assists over the first two games of the Finals.

It was all downhill from there on, as Paul averaged only 19 points over the last four games of the series. Additionally, he turned the ball over a whopping 21 times versus Milwaukee, a stat that doesn’t hold well against his Point God status.

The ecstasy of being Chris Paul

But Chris Paul is a quality point guard. He does make teams better. There is no denying that. His addition to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 offseason gave the Thunder a playoff spot when most thought the team wouldn’t make the postseason. And while the Suns did go 8-0 in the 2020 Orlando bubble, Paul’s addition to Phoenix catapulted them from a 34-39 season to a 51-21 team in 2020-21. They improved by 17 more wins with Paul as their floor general.

Chris Paul is an 11-time All-Star. He's a six-time steals champ and four-time league assists leader. He ranks fifth all-time on the NBA’s assists and steals leaderboard and is only the third player to rank in the top five in both categories. He is a seven-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member. When the Suns recently agreed to give him a new four-year contract, reportedly worth $120 million, it was a reward for this body of work.

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It must also be understood that young teams just don’t win an NBA championship in their first attempt. The 2021 postseason was the first playoff experience for three of Phoenix’s starters, namely Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton. Young stars such as Booker just don’t win an NBA championship before stumbling at the final hurdle a few times. This has been the case with the very best of names including LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Also Read: How much is Chris Paul’s Net Worth in 2021?

This is where Chris Paul’s experience and veteran leadership must really come into play. He must make this young Phoenix team believe in themselves so that they can emulate their 2021 postseason run for the better in 2022. At the same time, he must hope to be injury free and not break down in the postseason. His career is not yet done. Whether he adds a ring to it or not will ultimately determine his place on the NBA’s all-time great point guards list.


Also read: What is Chris Paul’s expected NBA 2K22 rating?


Edited by Raunak J

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