The Houston Rockets, with James Harden and Chris Paul, were one win away from taking down the Golden State Warriors during their prime, but Chris Paul injured his hamstring in a well-known pivotal Game 6. Following another loss to the unstoppable Warriors in the following season, the Rockets felt as though changes were needed and exchanged Paul for Russell Westbrook. Well, essentially an additional four future first-round picks (two of them are swaps) also went to OKC.
While Paul is certainly past his prime and is on an exorbitant contract ($85 million over the next two years), his remaining value was welcomed in Oklahoma City this season.
The skeptics of Paul were primarily fixated on health rather than performance, they were quieted. Chris Paul suited up in every game that the Thunder played this season without exception. He even suited up for one they didn’t play!
Paul largely credits his health to his commitment in June to go vegan, as spoke on for Men’s Health.
I think the biggest change for me is the aches and pains of the season.– Chris Paul in Men’s Health
A 34-year-old Chris Paul is averaging 31.8 minutes and is second on Oklahoma City in playtime behind the 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, per basketball-reference. SGA is fortunate to be given the opportunity to witness the Point God in all-star form firsthand.
If Chris Paul has a patented move it’s the mid-range pull-up jumper after snaking the pick and roll that seems to never go out of fashion. Per Synergy, only Yogi Ferrell takes a higher percentage of his field-goal attempts off of the dribble than Paul’s 57.8 percent. Of with players of min. 200 possessions, Paul trails only Lillard in adjusted field goal percentage.
Paul’s assist percentage is a career-low, and his usage rate hasn’t been this low anytime outside of New Orleans, per Cleaning the Glass. CP3 still rests in the 95th percentile as the pick-and-roll initiator, while also placed in the 92nd percentile of spot-up possessions, and 91st percentile in catch-and-shoot attempts. The offense is clicking in all formats, and Paul has compensated for losing a step from passing to off-ball play, allowing Shai or Dennis Schroder to initiate in the Thunder’s unique three-guard lineup.
To no surprise, Chris Paul still commands the rock throughout pivotal moments. In fact, Paul leads the NBA in total points scored in the clutch. His percentages are just as impressive at 53.5 from the field, 36 percent from deep, and 93.8 percent from the line in a league-leading 42 clutch moments.
A well-deserved all-star this season, Chris Paul had the Oklahoma City Thunder fighting for home-court advantage in the first round while most analysts, predicted them to be in the lottery prior to the season.
Teams may be dialing Sam Presti this offseason regarding Paul with a new opinion on the overwhelming contract attached to his name. To the benefit of Oklahoma City. Chris Paul has produced at a level that he was known to have been capable of, yet many felt he was not able to return to.
No matter the jersey that Chris Paul is wearing on any given night or season, he will continue to nail pull up jumpers in defender’s grills, disrupt passing lanes, and knock down the prominent shots to close it out.