Phoenix Suns: How expectations will change with Chris Paul

OKC Thunder guard Chris Paul (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder guard Chris Paul (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Acquring Chris Paul changes the perception of the Phoenix Suns

The NBA’s 2020 offseason period has gotten off to a hot start. To begin this offseason’s festivities, 10-time all-star and future hall of famer Chris Paul was traded to the Phoenix Suns in a deal that netted the Oklahoma City Thunder Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a first-round pick.

Paul turned a lot of heads last season due to his performance with the Thunder, who he lead to the fifth seed despite ESPN projecting them to have an 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. After years of nagging injuries and drama with teammates, the 2020 season proved that the old man still had some spark left in him.

For a team that had just marked off its 10th consecutive year missing out on the postseason festivities, this move was a sigh of relief. Although the duo of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton posed as promising, the two seemed destined to drive the Suns into mediocrity. In the highly-competitive Western Conference, the core that Phoenix had simply wasn’t going to cut it.

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With this move, the Suns dodged a generation of middle-of-the-pack play – potentially the worst position a team can be in. However, a new set of challenges will also arise out of this. For the first time in as long as most newer NBA fans can remember, the Suns actually have expectations coming into this season.

For years, we could chalk up Phoenix’s struggles to bad management dooming the franchise, and as we continued to watch the team whiff out on lottery pick after lottery pick, all we could do was sympathize with Devin Booker over the rocky start to his career. He didn’t deserve to play with Alex Len as his starting center.

But Alex Len is gone now. He was replaced with all-star caliber big man Deandre Ayton a year ago. With Chris Paul joining the party now as well, there are no excuses. This year will be the one that we learn if Devin Booker was all that we thought he could be. How will he compare to the rest of the elite No. 1 options in the league? Can he lead a team to wins? How reliable is a guy like Booker in the playoffs? We will have answers to all of these questions 365 days from now.

Above all else, this team just sounds fun. A pick-and-roll duo of CP and Ayton will be deadly, and Booker running the show as the team’s leader will feel so satisfying after years of waiting for him to be given a shot at playing games of actual significance.

However, there’s also a good chance of this all crumbling to the ground. Many have forgotten about Chris Paul’s injury woes, but you can rest assured that they are going to pop back up again as he nears the end of his career. One healthy season doesn’t eradicate the ten injury-plagued ones that came before it.

Ayton also has his own set of struggles. His off-court legal troubles are something that he, unlike Paul, is indeed in control of. The question is if he will make the right choice. Handing that kind of responsibility to someone who is just barely an adult and already a millionaire makes things very uncertain in his case, so we’ll just have to wait and see if he’s willing to do what he has to do for the betterment of the team.

As for Devin Booker, we can at least know that he will be available for most games. However, we still don’t know how he’ll do in his new role with the Suns, and, as stated before, there are simply a lot of unanswered questions with him regarding his talent, leadership ability, and general readiness to be a star player on a legitimately competitive team.

At the end of the day, this is going to be one of those teams that we won’t be able to guess a lot about until we see the actual product out there on the court. At best, this could be the most exciting teams in the league that can snatch a fourth or fifth seed in the West. At worse, the iffy health of Paul, troubling past of Ayton, lack of depth to fill out the roster, and their reliance on an aging vet to carry them defensively could all turn out to be more glaring of issues then they might have originally thought.

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Regardless, one thing will be for sure: The Phoenix Suns sure will be interesting in this upcoming season.