Where Does Chris Paul Sit Within The Pantheon Of NBA Greatness?

Last season, Chris Paul led an Oklahoma City team that had just blown up their superstar core of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and improbably dragged the Thunder to within a game of the second round of the playoffs. 

This season, 'CP3' has taken on a new challenge, taking his talents to the desert, and teaming up with Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns.

Ever since he signed a 5-year deal with the Houston Rockets back in 2017, Paul has had to contend with continued speculation regarding his imminent demise, and to a certain degree, that conversation was warranted. 

When a player gets $40 million a year, the media and fans expect superstar-calibre production on a night-to-night basis. And while a young CP3 was arguably an all-time top-5 point guard, the 33-year-old version of Paul was a far less attractive asset, with a litany of injuries getting in the way of his consistent excellence. 

So when the Rockets failed to achieve their ultimate goal of a championship, due in part to an untimely Paul injury in Game 5 of the 2018 conference championships against the Warriors, the sceptics were out in full force once again, ready to brand the 'Point God' a washed-up has-been, and one consigned to the pages of NBA history. 

Unfortunately for them, the 2005 #4 overall pick has never been a fan of doing what other people wanted him to do.

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Coming off his first all-star campaign since 2016 back when he was a Clipper, CP3 has a new home in Phoenix thanks to an off-season trade which netted the Thunder yet another first-round pick.

In short time, Paul has already helped transform Phoenix from a league basket case that hadn’t sniffed the playoffs in 10 years, to one of the Western Conference's best, and most rounded teams. 

Their offensive rating has grown by 1.2 points per 100 possessions on the previous year, allowing them to maintain their 12th place ranking in that stat from the previous season. 

Paul has been a huge factor in the maintenance of this quality offence, despite the losses of 19 ppg scorer last season Kelly Oubre, as well as their Spanish floor general, Ricky Rubio

However, Paul's most dramatic impact in the desert has been felt defensively where he's helped catapult the Suns from being in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency, to one of the 5 best teams in the NBA at preventing their opponent from scoring. 

While CP3 is by no means the same player physically as he was during his days in New Orleans and Los Angeles, his basketball IQ remains second to none. 

His ability to read an opponent’s offence the way an English professor would read a children’s book is a joy to watch, and is precisely what helped him to lead the league in steals no less than six times throughout his decorated career.

And that defensive pedigree seems to be rubbing off on his teammates, exemplified in their significant improvement as a team on that side of the ball. Devin Booker has the equal best defensive rating (112) of his career, while we've also seen the likes of Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder positively shine on the perimeter, with the Suns keeping opponents to just 11.2 made threes per game, which is a number bettered only by the Utah Jazz (11.1). 

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It’s time to once again re-evaluate just where Chris Paul sits within the pantheon of NBA greatness, with him once again showing his doubters the influence he can still yield on a basketball court, some 16 seasons into his phenomenal career.

While many have been reluctant to anoint him as a true great owing to his lack of championship success, Paul's surely put together a solid enough resume to be considered one of the standout players of the millennium.

While he might never get his hands on an elusive Larry O'Brien Trophy, Paul's knack for completely transforming horrendously run organisations such as New Orleans, the Clippers and now Phoenix, and turning then into playoff teams, will be remembered as one of his many crowning achievements well into his retirement. 

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Mitchell Turner

Sports are an all-year-round affair for Mitch as his basketball coaching takes up a weekly slot on a Saturday. Yet it's the Australian summer which most floats his boat, what with the tip-off to the NBA, test cricket and NFL playoffs all taking centre stage.

In between watching sports, Mitch is about to commence his 3rd year Bachelor of Arts at Monash University (majoring in Journalism and International Relations) and is currently undertaking an internship at Stats Insider.

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