Grading Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns
Is This the Final Chapter for Chris Paul?
The final act of Chris Paul’s career might just become his most fascinating. The future Hall of Famer appeared to be on a steep downward trajectory after being traded to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that seemed to be at the beginning of a rebuild. Instead, Paul earned All-NBA honors and made his first All-Star team in 2016. Also, as a key piece of the 5th seed in the Western Conference. Paul will now join the Phoenix Suns in a trade that included Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre being sent to OKC among others.
The Suns finished the regular season as one of the big surprises of the NBA bubble, going undefeated in eight games but coming up just short of the final Western Conference playoff spot. After appearing dead in the water for the last few seasons, the Suns have supplemented their already talented young team with a star playmaker with a veteran experience unlike few others in the league.
Rating the Trade
The trade overall seems like a big win for both teams. For the Suns, they gave up two high-level role players in Rubio and Oubre, two young, end of the bench players in Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round draft pick for Paul and forward Abdel Nader. In any other situation, this would be a lot to give up for any other 34-year-old point guard, but Paul’s game will age very well and will complement Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
Paul is a playmaking talent that will fit right into the Sun’s current lineups with ease as well as a defensive threat that the team has lacked in past years. For the Thunder, they’ve capitalized on Chris Paul’s All-Star season and lucked into a package of players that they likely wouldn’t have gotten from any other team. But while the Thunder are looking at a rebuild following last season’s success, the Suns might’ve just become a real threat in the Western Conference.
New Offensive Possibilities With Chris Paul
Whereas Paul was a focal point of the Thunder’s offense, this current Suns team has a plethora of young players that could be serious offensive threats. It goes without saying that Devin Booker will be great, but he’ll be even better with a playmaker like Chris Paul sharing the backcourt with him. Booker has already become one of the league’s premier scorers at only 24 years old, but this was with the Suns leaning heavily on him as a playmaker as well as a scorer. Now Paul can serve as the primary ball-handler while Booker can focus on scoring.
Also, there’s center Deandre Ayton, the first overall pick of the 2018 draft. Ayton still has plenty of room for improvement at 21 years old but has already established himself as a legitimate second option on offense. Along with promising young players like Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and free-agent Dario Šarić, the Suns will have plenty of options on offense.
Suns Free Agency
With all the options of the current Suns roster, there will likely have to be some big decisions in free agency to fill some holes. For one, they may elect to throw some money at a new starting small forward. Kelly Oubre served as their starter for most of last season as the second-leading scorer on the team, and while Mikal Bridges could take Oubre’s spot, there are a few players on the market if the Suns want to go for an upgrade.
For one, Paul’s former teammate Danilo Gallinari could add more offensive firepower to a team that already looks formidable. Defensive-minded forwards could be picked up for cheap like Jerami Grant or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The team should also consider throwing at least some of their money at adding some veteran players. With Rubio heading to OKC, all but two players on the team are under the age of 25. If the Suns want to spend the money, Paul Millsap would be the perfect veteran player to add to the team. Millsap served as a solid starter for the Denver Nuggets last season his ability to stretch the floor, his solid defense, and his role as a veteran leader would be exactly what the team needs.
New Threat in the West
Before this trade, the Suns had real potential to right the ship and become a real force in the Western Conference. The addition of Chris Paul only speeds this process up. Instead of relying on players like Booker and Ayton to lead much of the offense workload, the Suns can look to Paul to improve the roster around him and take the pressure off of the team’s biggest stars. With or without any free agency additions, these next couple of seasons with Chris Paul will shape the identity of this young Suns team for years to come.