As it currently stands, the Phoenix Suns are second in the Western Conference. Through 36 games, the Suns trail only the Utah Jazz for first in the west. Last season, the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble, and still didn’t make the play-in game due to how poor their regular-season performance was. Fast-forward a couple of months, and they currently have a better record than the Nuggets, the Clippers, and the reigning NBA champion Lakers. The turn-around is shocking, and it’s all thanks to Chris Paul.
Chris Paul has now effectively shown that he is one of the all-time great winners. Before this season, the Suns had won 121 out of a possible 410 games over the last five years. At a 30% win rate, they were among the worst teams in the NBA over that time-span. But with the acquisition of Chris Paul (and Jae Crowder to a lesser extent), the Sun’s culture has seemingly done a 180. It’s no surprise that with CP3’s arrival, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are both having career years.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek headline, Chris Paul is a strong MVP candidate this season. While some will point to his numbers as average, the award is for the most “valuable” player. Outside of LeBron James, who’s been more valuable to team success than Chris Paul in recent memory?
CP3’s Winning History
I’ve already detailed how horrible the Phoenix Suns were before Chris Paul’s arrival, but let’s look at how other teams faired when they had and didn’t have the future Hall of Famer.
The Pelicans averaged 43 wins a season with three playoff appearances with Chris Paul over six seasons. After his departure, they averaged only 32 wins with one playoff appearance over the next six seasons. Even with players like Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday on the team, they never stayed consistent.
In CP3’s six years with the Clippers, they averaged 51 wins a season (including the strike-shortened year). Since trading Chris Paul, they’ve averaged just 46 wins a year. While they never made it to the conference finals with CP3, they did make the playoffs all six seasons.
Before CP3 joined Houston, critics questioned James Harden’s ability to lead the Rockets to a title. Newsflash, the doubters were right. But after an embarrassing game six performance against the Sanantonio Spurs in 2016, the Rockets knew they had to make a move. They traded for Chris Paul, and if not for a classic inopportune CP3 injury up 3-2 against the Golden State Warriors, they probably would’ve gone to the finals year one. In year two, they met Golden State in the semifinals and promptly lost 4-2.
This was the closest the Rockets had been to finals. Given the current shape of the team, they won’t be back any time soon.
When OKC traded for CP3, the season was viewed as a rebuilding year. They had moved on from Russell Westbrook and Paul George and didn’t seem to get anything valuable outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Not only were the Thunder a decent team, but they were also in a three-way tie for the fourth-best record in the west. Though they lost in the first round, Chris Paul showed everyone he’s one of the most valuable players in the league. And once again this season, he’s doing the same.
So Will Chris Paul Win an MVP?
Given his averages compared to players like LeBron, Embiid, or Harden, No. Now in his 16th season, it’s fair to assume he’ll probably never get an MVP attached to his resume. The MVP trophy is an award based on (as far as I’m concerned) three things; individual success, team success, and the narrative surrounding your season. Even though wherever Chris Paul has gone winning followed, his numbers never stand-out enough. The term “valuable” clearly doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.
Even though CP3 won’t be awarded the MVP, not many players are more deserving then he. I don’t know how much longer Chris Paul intends on playing, but when he chooses to leave, the game will have lost one of the all-time greats. He might not be the easiest guy to play with, but he’s a winner, and will surely be missed.