Phoenix Suns: LA Clippers in Big Trouble When Chris Paul Returns

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

As if they needed a defensive task more challenging than Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, only a few more days now stand between the Los Angeles Clippers and their ultimate doom: Chris Paul. Although Paul returned a positive COVID-19 test this past weekend, he seems likely to return to his team sooner rather than later given his fully vaccinated state, and symptom-free quarantine thus far.

Despite missing Game 1 for this exact reason, Paul still managed to involve himself during the contest, FaceTiming Booker and other teammates just moments after they walked off the court. During the call, Paul reminded his fellow Suns, still gleefully celebrating their win, how much work still remained undone, relaxing everyone while inspiring focus. It’s been something he’s done all year.

But even while acknowledging his helpfulness from afar, Paul still impacts this team greatest when out on the hardwood. He certainly made that clear during the Western Conference Semifinals, averaging 25.5 points, 10.3 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game vs the Nuggets, fully putting his former shoulder injury to bed.

Against the Clippers, Paul poses and even greater threat though. Despite formerly playing for the Clippers, they seem to have long forgotten him and his play style, now appearing well-unequipped to defend against it.

Although the analytics movement seemingly killed off the mid-range shot, Paul continues to breathe live back into it this postseason. Considering its far distance from the rim, smaller numerical value, and limited foul-drawing capabilities, the mid-range shoot often comes as something frequently practiced by the NBA’s worst offenses and frowned upon by those deemed first-rate.

According to, the mid-range shot only averaged 0.82 points per possession during the 2016-17 season, compared to 1.22 points per possession for shots around the rim, 1.16 points per possession on corner 3-pointers, and 1.05 points per possession at the top of the key. For NBA teams as a whole, the mid-range shot remains undoubtedly impractical.

But Paul seems quite disinterested with all this, both as a top-10 player in mid-range field goal attempts (5.4 per game), and mid-range field goals made per game (2.9 per game). Collectively, Paul averages 1.07 points per mid-range possession, far higher than the 0.82 league average. Aside from his clear ability to score at will from the mid-range zone, these numbers reflect how different this strength makes him compared all other NBA players.

Although this rare skill carried by Paul might frighten any team, it should concern the Clippers before anyone else. During the regular season, Los Angeles surrendered the seventh highest opponent field goal percentage from the mid-range area. The Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers stand as the only other playoff teams with worse marks, both of whom saw their seasons end after just the first round.

This makes the Clippers incredibly vulnerable against Paul, who excels better than almost anyone from mid-range. Even against a solid defensive team like the Nuggets, who allow their opponents to shoot just 41.1 percent from the field, Paul burned them, shooting 64.7 percent. Just imagine the efficiency Paul could achieve once he begins playing against the Clippers, who actually struggle with their defense at this spot.

Additionally, Paul collects most of his mid-range attempts following screen-and-roll sets with Deandre Ayton, who absolutely bullied the Clippers even without Paul during Game 1. Even if Paul continues his mid-range excellence and draws out an extra defender, we can trust Ayton to roll correctly toward the basket and score for himself off a pass from Paul, given his success already against LA.

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Unless Paul forgets to leave the house without his game one morning, or the Monstars return and steal his talent, he should be able to dance all over the Clippers upon returning. From LA’s perspective, he remains the last person they would ever want to face. But from Paul’s, it looks like taking candy from a baby.