After a good run in the NBA Bubble in Florida, last year, the young Phoenix Suns were expected to put up good numbers this season. But Chris Paul’s arrival during the offseason improved an already qualified roster, and his expert playmaking combined with Devin Booker’s offensive prowess are leading the Suns to a playoff berth for the first time in 10 years.
CP3 made a huge impact in the team’s offense, and his leadership and work ethic have impressed the Suns’ young core. He is averaging 16 points, 4.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists, playing with a well-balanced, unselfish team that has been showing much dedication and off-court chemistry under coach Monty Williams, who coached Chris Paul during his last year with the New Orleans Hornets.
Paul’s arrival in the Suns has launched the team up the standings, as they now place second in the Western Conference with a 34-14 record, and he keeps defying doubts about his advancing age. He seems to be able to improve every team he’s played for, both on and off the court; following 6 years with the Hornets, he moved to Los Angeles and transformed the Clippers into perennial contenders, led the Rockets to the best record in franchise history alongside James Harden, and carried the Thunder to a surprising postseason run last year.
According to sports betting sites, making the playoffs is a sure thing for the Suns, as the team is at -4500 odds to make the postseason. However, they are still underdogs in the Pacific Division, with -112 odds to win it against -125 odds for the Clippers.
Last year, the Phoenix Suns won 34 games, and even after their incredible 8-0 Bubble run, they finished 10th in the West and failed to reach the playoffs. This year, the Suns already won 34 games, despite being only 48 games in the season, and currently hold the second best record in the Western Conference, behind the Jazz. They are only 3 wins away from clinching their first winning season since 2013-14, and are on their way to ending an eleven year postseason drought – their last playoff appearance was in 2010.
With Paul, Phoenix has broken into the top ten in offensive efficiency. Last year, with Ricky Rubio as the main playmaker, they finished 12th in offensive efficiency. Led by Rubio, the team’s offense was somewhat predictable, with most plays starting with a quick pick-and-roll or some weak-side action to free up Booker to shoot the ball or cut to the basket. Now, defenses also have to worry about Paul looking to score, as he easily gets comfortable for his signature mid-range jumper.
Additionally, Chris Paul is serving many more triples, because defenses didn’t consider Rubio a pull-up threat and focused more on the off-ball action. Since CP3’s arrival, less than 29 percent of their shots are layups or dunks, as the ball is much more likely to be passed to a jumper. Almost 34 percent of the Suns’ shots are from mid-range, and 38% from deep – both improved in comparison with last year.
Currently, Paul ranks 5th among the league leaders in assists, and, on March 21, he dished his 10,000th assist, becoming only the 6th player to do so, joining a select group that includes John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Magic Johnson and Mark Jackson.
The Suns play a steady and intelligent basketball, with Chris Paul orchestrating an offense that relies on a talented young core consisting of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, all of whom are under 25. Suns players and coaches have already been praising Paul for his leadership, savvy and ability to lead an offense, so these young players have much to gain from playing alongside a future Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats.
Devin Booker, a two-time All-Star shooting guard, who is averaging 25.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists, considered to be the future of the franchise, has already started to benefit from the new backcourt partnership. Thanks to the chemistry between their two star guards, the Suns improved in late-game situations – last year, they went 16-21 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. This year, they won 14 out of 25. Booker stated “I’m learning from him every day. He’s been in every situation that I want to get to. So I have the cheat code of being alongside him, his backcourt mate. From on the court to off the court, just everything he does, I’m a sponge to it.”
Chris Paul’s leadership and vision on the court also helped other young players like Bridges and Ayton to develop their roles, and his ability to read the opposition and communicate to teammates already improved their efficiency, both offensively and defensively.