Phoenix Suns’ sizzling Chris Paul proves to be a torch to follow

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns have perhaps the best guard tandem in the NBA, and the Chris Paul-Devin Booker show will be playing to increasingly larger audiences as spring moves toward summer.

As the NBA community outside of Phoenix begins to “discover” how good these Suns are playing, a common narrative is how Paul and Booker have found a way to play off each other’s strengths en route to breaking the team’s long playoff drought.

A few key NBA statistics help illustrate how Paul has become a primary weapon for the Suns.

Phoenix Suns fans who didn’t know the full Chris Paul certainly know him — and the way he’s lifted this team — by now.

Paul, whose $40 million-plus sticker price raised eyebrows when the trade was executed, has been worth every dollar, and Suns fans would likely put very few players ahead of him as Phoenix prepares for another important week in search of victories.

For today, Chris Paul has a vested interest in pushing the Suns; he’s never been past the conference finals in his distinguished career. To that end, Paul is providing big contributions in every way he can.

The Basketball Reference Win Shares metric puts only these guys ahead of Paul, and most are so good they’re recognizable with only one name:

  • Jokic
  • Gobert
  • Kawhi
  • Dame
  • Giannis
  • Zion
  • Beard
  • And then Jimmy Butler, who will be in Phoenix on Tuesday night.

Paul sits ninth on the list, a pretty accurate measure of a player’s importance to his team.

And what about all-time? The career Win Shares/48 minutes metric puts Paul at No. 5 in NBA history, just ahead of LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Harden, Magic Johnson and Kawhi Leonard.

That’ll work.

His midrange game has carried — and rescued — the Suns several times this season and leads the NBA in percentage of shots taken from 10 feet to the 3-point line.

The Phoenix Suns will rely heavily on Chris Paul and Devin Booker down the stretch, seeking to secure a top-two seed in the Western Conference.

Booker is ramping up his aggressiveness, showing that he has no peer in attacking opposing defenses. His third-quarter onslaught against the Washington Wizards — 17 of his 27 points — underscored his elite play recently.

Over his past six games, Booker has put up 31.2 points per game on 52.3 percent (69-of-132) shooting.

Paul, meanwhile, recorded his 16th double-double of the season, the fourth in the past six games. His quick hands have also served to trigger fast breaks and Paul now stands one steal from Scottie Pippen for No. 6 in NBA history. He’ll move into the top five with another five steals this season, passing Maurice Cheeks.

That’s history. As for the present:.

The Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul enters Monday’s game against Houston as the league’s leader in midrange shots made.

And — more impressive — with that volume, he trailed only Kyrie Irving in’s midrange field-goal percentage (min. 100 attempts) entering Monday’s games.

Irving was at 55.6, Paul at 52.6, Kevin Durant at 51.8 — and Devin Booker wasn’t far behind that.

The Suns’ two-time All-Star followed only LaMarcus Aldridge, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Jaylen Brown and Luka Doncic, with a midrange field-goal percentage of 49.4.

That’s some high-quality, MVP-level guard play for one backcourt.

Paul has been finding new ways to succeed throughout his 16-year, Hall-of-Fame career but needs his teammates to apply every lesson he teaches.

Straight A’s the rest of the season could find the Suns superstar in his first NBA Finals.

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