Color me a little shocked by this.
The Phoenix Suns have agreed in principle on a deal to acquire Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Chris Paul earlier this afternoon. The deal sends Paul and Abdel Nader to the Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick.
This deal means two things. First, the Thunder have jumpstarted the rebuild process in earnest.
They reached their ceiling the last two years with short, albeit competitive, stays in the playoffs. Sam Presti is one of the best general managers in the NBA, and he knows he has two things working against him: a small OKC market where funds are limited and a rather undesirable OKC market that doesn’t attract many top free agents. Given all of that, Presti’s track record indicates that he will eventually get the ship righted in OKC.
Second, the Suns are REALLY thinking playoffs.
The Suns have been moribund at best the last five or so years, but their talent was really starting to show last season. Check out how they performed in the bubble — they were undefeated in seeding play. They missed out on the play-in game for the 8th seed by THIS much.
So now the Suns got a taste of some high-intensity playoff basketball, they want to savor more of it. Enter Chris Paul.
I think Paul would be a great help to superstar Devin Booker, who is a 2-guard who has been masquerading as a point guard the last few seasons. Moving Booker off the ball would be great for his game, and having a point guard who can shoot the ball like Paul would take a lot of pressure off of Booker.
The knock on Paul is that he is notoriously hard on his teammates. See Blake Griffin and especially James Harden. But one thing you can’t accuse Paul of is not being a winner.
He had success in New Orleans, LA with the Clippers, in Houston and recently in OKC. Paul’s high basketball IQ will help Booker and Deondre Ayton tremendously.
And yes, this team will compete for a high playoff spot next season. Quite a few of last year’s playoff teams in the Western Conference will take some steps back this coming season.
The Houston Rockets will figure to be down if Harden and Russell Westbrook get dealt out of town. The New Orleans Pelicans are still not ready, and OKC will be rebuilding. We also don’t know what to expect from the Portland Trailblazers — have they REALLY improved from it’s 8th seeding last season? And last I checked, the Utah Jazz still haven’t resolved their chemistry issues between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
At this moment, the Suns are better than all those teams. That would make the Suns a projected 4th seed — they are still not as good as the defending champion Lakers, Nuggets, and those choking dog Clippers. Phoenix may/may not be better than the Dallas Mavericks.
Still, I get the Suns for swinging for the fences on the Chris Paul trade. Sure the risks are there, but the pros by far outweigh the cons here.