Since we’ve all now had a few weeks to come back to our senses about the meltdown Chris Paul and the Suns had at the hands of the Mavericks, I want to talk about the much-maligned career of Chris Paul. When Chris Paul is brought up, two things are typically associated with his name; point god and choker. The ladder has overshadowed Chris Paul’s outstanding career. He’s come up small in big moments, and his countless playoff failures have been the driving force behind people labeling him as a loser.
The trendy and surface-level thing to do is to agree with that and say, “well, Chris Paul hasn’t won anything and blown the most series leads for a player ever, so he has to be a loser.” But to me, this is a false narrative driven by the fact people only determine you a winner if you win championships. But I don’t see it that way, especially with Chris Paul’s career. I’ll go a step further and say Chris Paul is not a loser, but Chris Paul is a WINNER.
First and foremost, Chris Paul has maybe the worst injury luck of any star ever. Whether it’s him or a teammate, he’s never really been able to stay out of the way of them. And I think that’s the story of his career more than anything. Misfortune and the Golden State Warriors are probably why CP isn’t a champ. Now we can sit here and break down all of Chris Paul’s playoff misfortunes, and I can bore you with facts about how a lot of the blown series leads weren’t his fault, but that’s a whole separate argument. I want to talk about why Chris Paul is a winner in the NBA.
At the end of every NBA season, one team wins a championship. This doesn’t automatically make the other 29 teams losers when this happens. Different groups have different expectations for their season. For example, the Dallas Mavericks getting to the WCF and losing in 5 games is a win. They’ve overachieved and set themselves up nicely, heading into next season. Almost all CPs teams in the past ten years have been serious contenders, but the point still stands that winning comes at different levels. The ultimate goal is to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy, but winning doesn’t start there.
For Chris Paul, this relates to how he’s made his team significantly better at every stop he’s been at. You can’t say that about many guys. His teams have all won more games because of his presence and got deeper in the playoffs. At all 5 of CPs stops, New Orleans, LA, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix, they’ve won their franchise record of games with him on their team. Think about that because that’s pretty incredible. His team has won the most games in their franchise history in every place he’s played.
Four of Chris Paul’s five teams he’s played on all saw major win increases his first year there, and the one where he saw a decrease was when he was tasked to lead an OKC team supposed to be rebuilding in the supposed twilight stages of his career. And by the way, he still took the James Harden. Russell Westbrook leads the Rockets to 7 games. The Hornets got 20 games better, the Clippers got 18 games better, The Rockets got ten games better, and the Suns got 17 games better in his first season.
Now I’m not trying to excuse what CP did this year by saying he should be satisfied because the Suns have gotten astronomically better while there, but you have to look at the bigger picture for his career. He goes to a team, and they automatically become drastically better. I find it difficult to label him a loser because it’s so contradictory.
What Chris Paul has accomplished in the league is beyond impressive. His long list of accolades and his ability to raise a team’s ceiling is remarkable. Has Chris Paul underachieved? Has he probably come up short in many pivotal games in his career because he didn’t put in a good performance? Yea, he has to both of those things. But asking if Chris Paul is a winner is wrong because the answer is conspicuous; he undoubtedly is.