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  • Writer's pictureScott Hatter

Hate it or love it, the Point god's on top

This may seem like interesting timing given the Suns just went up 2-0 vs. the Clippers without Chris Paul, but stay with me. Is it possible that the most under rated, unheralded player in these playoffs is a 36-year old "journeyman" point guard who has been traded 3 times in the last 4 seasons? I say under rated because clearly, outside of Phoenix, his past three stops have not valued Paul as the possible Franchise savior that he actually is. Ready for some goes. Outside of his 1st 2 seasons in the league, CP3 has lead his team to the playoffs in every season, with the lone exception being the one season he missed significant time due to injury in 09-10 with the Hornets (13 out of 16 seasons). That means he took the Hornets to the post season 3 times, and the most he ever had was a David West/Emeka Okafor combo. He then took the Clippers to the playoffs 6 straight seasons and turned that once joke of a franchise into a contender. Without Paul, there is no Lob City. Heck, there is probably no Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan "prime." Without Lob City, Ballmer doesn't buy that team and the current version of the Clippers never exists...the under-achieving, over-paid bunch that they are. Look at DJ and Griffin's careers post's a collective disappearing act. No other team/point guard got them even close to the players they were in LA.

When LA decided Paul was the problem and not the constant, they blew it up and moved him to Houston. You already know my thoughts there, but just to refrain, that's the closest the Rockets have gotten to a title since Olajuwon, and the best defensive team (no coincidence) they had in the Harden era. Harden didn't like CP3, not because he wasn't good, but because he actually challenged Harden to get better and work, something we have seen lacking in Brooklyn (shocker). It's simply unbelievable that Harden didn't understand that his personal success (MVP) and his team success (the furthest he has made it into the playoffs as a starter) was directly correlated to Paul. Outside of all the bad shots and personal grooming habits, the worst decision he has ever made was forcing CP3 out of Houston.

So Houston dumps CP3 for Westbrook, and what happens, Houston gets worse (and harder to watch), and Paul goes to Oklahoma City, who is actively trying to tank, and wills them to the playoffs in his lone season with the a 5 seed. No play-in needed, no bubble magic, just full season leadership. Seemingly, because he was in the way of their blow-it-up-and-star-over plan, OKC decided to dump Paul as well.

This past offseason, the Suns were vocal that they saw their 8-0 bubble run from last year as a spring board but knew they were missing pieces and went after Paul (and Jae Crowder - the Alley-Ayton master himself). He has not only rewarded them with leadership, but also shot 50% from the field, 40% from 3, and is leading the league in free-throw % at 93% (Ben Simmons, eat your heart out). All of this while hitting his career averages for rebounds and assists and a near career low in turnovers. Phoenix goes from being the 10th best team a season ago, to the 2nd best team in the West this year and on the doorstep of the first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. And while Devin Booker is a beast (he is not the next Kobe...stop it Stephen A.), he hasn't done anything different this year. He is basically dead on his career averages for points, rebounds, assists, etc. And it's not like Book hasn't had time to pull the Suns to greatness. This is his 6th season. CP3 took a lesser talent Hornets to the playoffs in his 3rd year. This isn't about Booker. This is about everyone else. Look at the freedom Ayton can play with (averaging 16 and 10, shooting 73%!!! from the floor). Look at Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder. Look at their involvement. Watch the back cuts and the movement and the activity. Look at the defense - up to 7th in the league this year from 20th a year ago (remember you don't win titles without a top 10 defense). These guys are IN.

That requires leadership. That requires heart. That requires State Farm commercials, Celebrity Bowling Leagues, Million-Dollar smiles, and the ability to put 'em on skates. That requires the point god himself...Chris Emmanuel Paul. Watch the man play. Watch him work (ignore the theatrics) and realize this is the guy who makes everyone else better and this is who we should be looking for "next."

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