The NBA is a star-driven league, and one of the most coveted players in the world is Chris Paul. Even though Paul has been playing great this year, he’s unlikely to be considered one of the top players in league history. However, Booker, as you may have noticed, is having a career year. The Suns point guard is averaging 27.2 points and 6.2 assists per game on the season, and his performance has left a major impression on his MVP rival. In fact, Paul knows that Booker reminds him of himself when he was a young player.
It’s a simple point, but it needs to be said: Chris Paul isn’t a bad basketball player. He’s just a bad basketball player who has forgotten what’s important. That is, basketball. Paul, the 37-year-old Paul, has been going through a tough stretch, as he’s struggling to get his team over the line in the All-Star Game, and his 24 points, seven rebounds, seven steals, and seven assist night didn’t do much to change the fact that the Clippers still find themselves four losses away from the playoffs.At 35, the rest of Phoenix’s 25 Suns average shouldn’t be lectured by Chris Paul, a guard who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. But young stars like Devin Booker can remind their veteran leader of some of the things they did during an incredible run that put the Suns within reach of an NBA championship.
Chris Paul of Phoenix Suns tries to get the ball against Jrue Holiday of Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the NBA Championship Series. | Ralph Freso/Getty Images
With a record of 26-39, the Suns were nothing special at the end of the 2019-20 NBA season. On the bell, however, they were a completely different team. By winning all eight regular season games at Disneyland, Phoenix did not make the playoffs, but it gave them hope for the future.
That future is already here. After failing to make the postseason 10 years in a row, the Suns reached the finals against the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 51-21.
Contracting Miami Heat forward Jay Crowder as a free agent helped, but the biggest move was Phoenix sending Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio to Oklahoma City in exchange for Paul. She’s in her 16th year now. Seasonally, Paul is not a journeyman as one might assume after playing for four teams in five seasons.
Paul averaged 16.4 points and 8.9 assists in the regular season, his best shooting percentage since 2008, and traded quantity for high-quality three-point attempts. Consistent with its history, there was no drop in playoff results.
With two more wins, the $41.3 million the Suns are paying Paul this year will go down in history as one of the best investments in club history.
We have a really nice team…. I think it helps us stay focused and remember that it’s a game.
CP3 talks about what he learned from his Suns teammates pic.twitter.com/QGHuNbWaT
– NBA TV (@NBATV) July 10, 2021
Booker and Deandre Ayton, 24 and 22 respectively, are the future of the franchise. Ayton, the first pick in the 2018 draft, has yet to live up to his potential, but has averaged triple doubles in his three pro seasons. There is no reason to doubt that he can make his way to level 20 and 10.
Booker, who is in his sixth season, regularly scores 25 points per game. Sometimes he needs to keep his eyes on the ball better, but Suns fans will drool at the thought of seeing him on the floor for another decade. Booker, among others, is the one who holds Phoenix in high regard.
One thing about Beech is that he stays in kill mode throughout the game no matter what, Paul said. If you think you need to keep the ball with 40 seconds left and maybe be ahead by four or five points, Buc is going to shoot. He’ll leave it at that. It’s just his mentality that needs to be appreciated.
Mikal Bridges was promoted to full-time starter this season, so the Suns now have three players at least 24 years old on their roster. Some might see this as a vulnerability to the inexperience and immaturity of the team.
Paul looks and sees a core of guys who are young enough to remember playing to reach the next level, but also for the love of the game.
We have a really nice team, he said. You know, guys who try not to take themselves too seriously, and I think that’s really good about our team. One of the things we say before we go into the field: You can be so serious and everything. We say: Have fun, have fun.
And I think that helps us stay focused and remember that this is a game. We should go out and have fun.
It works, and the Suns are two wins away from the most fun summer in their history.
All statistics are from Basketball Reference.
COMPARED TO: Chris Paul makes historic NBA Finals debut as Michael Jordan
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