Is this the end of the road for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul?

Phoenix Suns Chris Paul (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns Chris Paul (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /

It may be the end of the road for Chris Paul. 

Chris Paul is a floor general to the fullest and is in the conversation for the greatest point guard ever. While that may be true, his shortcomings and availability may hold him back from being No. 1 on the point guard list.

Paul’s basketball awareness and acumen are unquestioned. Being able to lead a team of grown men repeatedly to the playoffs year after year says a lot about one’s fortitude. He is considered the “point god” for a reason. His playmaking and ball control are amazing! His only drawback is that he is “short”. Coming in at 6-foot flat, which is average for the rest of the world but for athletes is short. Having a rounded-up height, Chris Paul is 6 feet. The NBA is notorious for adding inches. With all these “positionless” giants coming in every year, a 6-foot guard could find it difficult to be effective.

Not only is he a leader on the court but serving as the president of the player’s association, he is maximizing his communication skills. Being considered the “point god” is a heavy title and Paul deserves every ounce of respect that comes with it but is being the best and serving as president of the players association too much? He communicates on the court as well as off the court. That is a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a star player.

After attending Wake Forest, Paul was drafted by the then, New Orleans Hornets. At their peak, they had a team of David West, peak Tyson Chandler, and a revolutionary marksman Peja Stojakovic. If it wasn’t for those consistent San Antonio Spurs teams, they could have done something. After David Stern, the “owner” of the Hornets vetoed a trade of Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, Paul was routed to Clippers. The moniker of “Lob City” was born. Paul, combined with the athletic bigs of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan gave the league regular season freight, but come the postseason, the chemistry was lacking.

Yes, they made it to six straight playoff appearances and reached the conference finals three times with Paul at the helm but was anyone scared of them? The Rockets were an oddball fit with Harden and Paul being both ball-dominant players but when everyone else was selling, when Kevin Durant went to Golden State, that franchise bought in and was the only team that didn’t wait for Durant to move before competing.

If Paul didn’t get hurt the Rockets could have dethroned the Warriors. That could have changed a bunch of legacies: Paul, Harden, coach D’Antoni, and the list goes on. Viewed as a washed-up player, Paul in OKC was used for salary matching for a Westbrook trade. Not only did Paul revitalize his trade value, but he was also the mentor Shai Gilegous-Alexander needed to continue to grow into the player he is now. After one season he was shipped to Phoenix.

Having Devin Booker, the No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton and the acquisition of Kevin Durant the Suns looked like a title contender… that was until Paul’s injury. While making the NBA Finals in the 2020-21 season, they served as a crowning for Giannis rather than a crown for themselves. This year was no different. While on paper, 2 elite shot makers, a floor general, and a “transcendent” talent in the middle sounds like a contender. How about if the floor general is out and the transcendent talent is missing in action? With no bench, it’s the two shot-makers and role players.

Chris Paul’s injury history

Over the past five years, Paul missed a lot of time, but let’s start from the professional beginning. His first big injury occurred way back in 2006 when he missed a month due to a sprained ankle. Paul was drafted in 2005! He next got hurt in 2010, missing thirty straight games as the result of a deep knee bruise. He missed nine games in 2013, while a separated shoulder put him out for 18 the following year. In 2016 in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, Paul fractured his right hand and had to undergo surgery. He was forced to miss the rest of the playoffs. The biggest injury of his career came during the 2018 Conference Finals.

With the Rockets in control of the series, Paul missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. 2021 First round against the Los Angeles Lakers, Paul suffered a shoulder contusion that caused him to miss the first game of the series. Disregarding the ticky-tac injuries, the big ones add up.

What’s next for Chris Paul?

Given his injury history, it may serve Paul best to embrace a 6th man role. He can save what’s left of his legs from tireless miles. He can still have the same on-court effect and serve as an assistant coach for the team’s head coach. He is known as a basketball genius and his position, whether starting or coming off the bench, shouldn’t have an impact on his acumen. If his playing time decreased to a generous 28 minutes a game instead of anywhere near the 30-minute mark could hypothetically add 2-3 more years to Paul’s career.

He could be in for the clutch time minutes as the coach’s voice for his team. But Chris Paul is a bulldog in every sense of the word, and I don’t know if he would willingly accept that demotion.

Is Chris Paul a HOF lock? According to basketball-reference’s probability simulator Paul is at 100% and statically speaking he is up there in every statistical category for a point guard, but having no rings can and should have an impact on his HOF prospects. Listing your best point guards, where does Chris Paul rank? Top 5? Top 10? The skill is there but the clutch performances are missing. Not that his team hasn’t been in clutch situations, but Paul was unavailable. He gets you to the restaurant but doesn’t eat. He can’t even get in! What a hard way to go out.

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Chris Paul, for all his skill and basketball intelligence, is not good at staying healthy. That’s no fault of his own, but it’s a big reason why he hasn’t had the same success as other guards.