Phoenix Suns: Is Chris Paul a bad teammate?

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Is new Phoenix Suns star a bad teammate or ultimate competitor?

The newest Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul has had a phenomenal career, but a mystifying last few years. The question that begs to be answered is how do you go from being called a “Point God” while playing for the LA Clippers to being traded to the Houston Rockets, OKC Thunder, and finally the Phoenix Suns in a four-year span?

Well, the Thunder departure is understandable, but the Clippers and Rockets both had tumultuous relationships with Paul as he all but forced the trades in each situation because of his incompatibility with Doc Rivers according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, as well as issues with players from those teams.

Former teammates like Kenyon Martin, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and others went on record in calling Paul out as a bad teammate. DeAndre Jordan the other half of “Lob City” even pushed the eject button by verbally agreeing to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 with Paul being cited as part of the reason why, but ultimately Jordan spurned the Mavericks and return the Clippers.

Is CP3 a bad teammate? Well, compared to players that invariably show up at the top of every bad teammate list like Stephon Marbury and Latrell Sprewell, it’s not even close. But the one thing Paul has in common with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James is that all of them could be considered bad teammates.

Other commonalities within a lot of the greatest players is that they are demanding, strong-willed, ultimate competitors, and will do anything to push their teammates harder to win at all costs, though someone really needs to explain to me how Michael Jordan punching the ultimate nice guy Steve Kerr in the face made the Bulls better.

America’s favorite teammate, J.J. Redick, is and has been one of Chris Paul’s closest friends since their Clippers days, which demonstrates that the “bad” teammate tag might be a bit overblown. Redick surmised on his recent podcast that he and Paul have tremendous respect for the game and how they approach it, “we didn’t have to be told what to do by our coaches to get better, we just did it.”  You can bet that is the same mindset that Jordan, Bryant, and James all have had as well.

It’s that intensity that has made CP3 one of the 10 best point guards of all time. He’s a 10-time All-Star, a nine-time All-Defensive team member, and at 6-0, 175 lbs Paul will always be one of the toughest players on the court.

Paul probably has the most complete game over any other Suns player in the history of the franchise.

  • Analytics: CP3 is third on the all-time BPM list behind a couple of guys named Jordan and James. Last season Paul also landed at the number one spot on ESPN’s Win Shares for point guards and 5th overall last season while taking the Thunder from a team that had a .02 chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN’s power rankings to the 5th seed in the Western Conference!
  • Clutch Player: Speaking of winning, in the last 5 minutes of a game the most clutch player in the NBA isn’t LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, or Damian Lillard, it’s CP3. Paul led the NBA in clutch points last season (150) while hitting 52.2 percent from the field and hitting the open man when it mattered most.
  • Mid-range shot: The 3-point shot is the darling of most every NBA fan, and Paul can hit the three at almost a 37 percent clip. But Paul like Booker has the ability to shoot from anywhere on the court which will allow him to play a strong two-man game with Deandre Ayton, pull up, or dish it out to Booker or any of the other Suns upgraded shooters. The Suns are now in a lot of ways like the 2017 Golden State Warriors where NBA teams can no longer focus on just Devin Booker, because Booker’s new teammate is a lethal weapon.

Andy Bailey from Forbes magazine made his case for CP3 as one of the best mid-range shooters of all time;

"“CP3 is going to go down as one of the greatest mid-range shooters in NBA history. He shot a career-high 52.3% from this range in 2019-20, but he’s been over 45% in 13 of his 15 seasons.”"

But the biggest gift that Chris Paul brings to the Phoenix is his ability to manipulate the opposing team which his extraordinary talent. A few months ago Portland Trail Blazers guard, Damian Lillard spoke with J.J. Redick on Redick’s podcast where they talked about smart players in the NBA and Chris Paul became the topic of conversation to which Lillard responded with praise for CP3;

"“Now it makes more sense to me how Chris Paul has been so good for so long because all he does is manipulate everything to take advantage of something he saw. And he called his play because he knows this team is going to react like this…”"

Whether Paul’s “bad teammate” reputation was true or not one thing is certain, his former Thunder teammates were maybe the first ones to see a more mature Chris Paul this year and they loved their time with CP3 as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander answers his question about Paul at the Thunder media day;

"“He was a great help to me in my second year, I got a brother for life … I’m thankful for being his teammate. He’s taught me so many things that I’ll definitely take forward the rest of my career,”"

The Phoenix Suns could be very special this season not just because they have two All-Stars for the first time in a decade, but because Booker and CP3 could be the most dynamic tandem the Suns have ever had as a franchise.

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