Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul’s impact and a process accelerated

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns are off to a terrific start and Chris Paul is to thank

The Phoenix Suns are soaring, has general manager James Jones built a contender?

The offseason acquisition of Chris Paul has kick-started the Suns’ rebuild, accelerated it to a point where may just be players in the Western Conference. After coming off of arguably the best effort of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, could this team be in for a deeper run?

No one expected the Thunder to sneak into the postseason, but under the guidance of Paul, they almost gave his former team a first round scare. CP3 played a huge role in the development of OKC guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and he’s already doing the same for a few of his new Suns’ teammates.

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When Paul was brought in, we knew he’d naturally affect Devin Booker‘s game. We saw his relationships in OKC thrive, but before that stint, he’s had a rocky history with teammates. He’s been called very “demanding” and “expecting” by former teammates, but those days might be behind him.

Booker’s off to somewhat of a slow start and his play this season may appear underwhelming to some, but the game is coming to him a lot easier. His scoring is down, but he’s been much more effective and efficient. He’s been asked to do less, as a load has been lifted off of him by the addition of CP3. Booker is a threat to light up the scoreboard any night, so you know the scoring outburst is coming. This tandem can stick with anyone in the Western Conference.

The decision to select Deandre Ayton over Luka Doncic will stick with the organization for the next decade, but the big man is beginning to turn a corner. The combination of him and Chris Paul playing together should excite Suns fans. CP3 has had a long history of getting the best out of his bigs. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, and Clint Capela all took that next step and had career years with Paul at the helm.

We should expect no different from Ayton, whose skill set trumps the aforementioned. He may never cement being picked over Doncic, but he could become one of the premier centers in the league. He was huge in the win over the Denver Nuggets, posting an efficient double-double while outplaying fellow big man Nikola Jokic. He’s well on his way.

The young wings in Phoenix have been thriving early this season. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson have been pleasant surprises for coach Monty Williams, as both of the Suns’ last two first-round picks have improved across the board. Scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounding numbers are all up, while both wings are tapping into their strengths.

Bridges were touted as a 3-and-D guy coming out of Villanova and he’s slowly becoming one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He’ll guard the opposing team’s best player on most nights and it appears the Suns drafted the right Bridges. Johnson is a sniper who was huge off of the bench in a win over the Sacramento Kings. His name will be in the Sixth Man of the Year race if he keeps this pace up. They’re both shooting close to 50 percent and enjoying the looks created by the Suns’ backcourt.

The addition of Paul generated most of the headlines, but the sneaky pickup of Jae Crowder may be the signing of the offseason. The former Marquette forward took another team-friendly deal after helping the underdog Miami Heat sneak into the NBA Finals. He’s grown into one of the best glue guys in the league, and his toughness and veteran presence tie into what the Suns are building. He’s been given more of a green light to shoot in Phoenix’s offense, and he’s responded well, even leading the team in scoring in a win over the Pelicans.

Crowder and Bridges have also been key to the Suns giving up the least amount of points in the league. Adding former first-round pick Dario Saric was also a good pickup, as he should compliment Deandre Ayton well.

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Despite the loss to the LA Clippers, they’d create an interesting matchup for the team Paul made famous. The Phoenix Suns have a healthy balance of size, shooting, leadership, and star power. Chris Paul was the perfect addition for a team on the bridge of competing. It’s not even about numbers with him, it’s his presence. They match up well with any team in the Western Conference. The Lakers may be the favorites but it’s wide open beyond that. An extended postseason run would not be surprising for Monty Williams’ team as it looks like the Phoenix Suns are back.