Phoenix Suns: Grading the Chris Paul Trade One Year Later

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images) /

With nothing other than his sheer will and smooth jump shot, Chris Paul once again lifted the Phoenix Suns to a victory last night, making it nine straight wins for the Valley Boys.

Playing the Minnesota Timberwolves to complete the second half of a back-to-back, while on the road, and on Karl Anthony Towns’s birthday—all kinds of odds stacked up against Paul during this contest. But nonetheless, the Point God blessed his subjects with yet another clutch performance, dropping 19 points in the game’s final period.

By this point, Phoenix fans might feel accustomed to game-saving performances like this from Paul. He looks like someone born to wear Suns threads, and it feels like he has done so for several years now, rather than just one.

But when flipping the calendar back to this exact day one year ago, Paul woke up still as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, the Suns found themselves coming off another failed season, having missed the playoffs yet again.

The Suns still carried the league’s youngest roster coming off that year. With that youth considered, and all the talent they just displayed during their “bubble” run, all eyes turned toward the 2020-21 season, where many foresaw Phoenix’s prospects coming into their own and wreaking havoc in the West.

Later that day though, they found out that Paul would soon be joining them to help with that task.

Without much warning, the Suns traded for the future Hall of Famer just after 10 a.m. on November 16, 2020. The exchange sent shockwaves around the league, giving way to mixed reactions. Some saw it as an ideal next step for Phoenix to take, but others laughed at it, specifically referencing Paul’s age and contract situation.

As we all know by now, those who spoke negatively on this transaction were beyond foolish. After all, Paul helped the Suns not only earn their first postseason appearance in over a decade, but also reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. Phoenix also re-signed Paul this summer, agreeing with him on a four-year, $120 million contract.

With those results considered, any grade for this deal should be valedictorian-worthy. CP3 essentially turned this franchise around, making it arguably one of the best moves in team history.

But to assess it from top to bottom, its other components need some attention as well.

We already know how much Paul benefitted the team, but the Suns also added Abdel Nader to the squad during this trade. With the Suns, Nader averages 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the field. Although somewhat underwhelming, he remains an above average bench warmer, and in no way hurts this trade’s value from Phoenix’s perspective.

However, the Suns also lost Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and their 2022 first round selection.

First examining that draft pick, Phoenix currently owns the league’s second best record. Although we know not how far the Suns might go this year, it feels fair to say that their first rounder will not carry much weight, making it well worth parting ways with to secure Paul.

The same goes for Lecque and Jerome. At just 21-years old, Lecque might develop into something, but right now, he only plays garbage time minutes for the Indiana Pacers. As for Jerome, he carries a bit more value as a 3-point specialist, having shot 42.3 percent from deep last year. But so far this season, he finds himself shooting an ugly 26.5 percent from range. Since his departure, at no point has anyone on the Suns said, “man, I wish we still had Ty Jerome.”

But with Oubre Jr. and Rubio, things become a bit more complicated.

As a show-stopping dunker and microwave scorer, Oubre Jr. represents a perfect flex starter or sixth man for any team. He never ended up playing for the Thunder, and now runs with the Charlotte Hornets, averaging 13.9 points while shooting a career-high 38.8 percent from three.

The Suns might miss Oubre Jr. at times, however, they do not exactly need him. With Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Johnson aboard, they already own a surplus at the forward position. Avoiding a log-jam by trading Oubre Jr. away, this deal made sense for both him and the Suns.

Averaging 14.7 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, Rubio also resembles a player which the Suns did not exactly want to part ways with. He significantly influenced Bridges, Ayton, and especially Devin Booker during his lone year with the Suns, which often goes underrated.

But everything which Rubio did for the team both on and off the court, Paul does as well—even better. CP3 currently averages 14.7 points per game, and leads the league with 10.2 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Phoenix’s players also raved about Paul’s ability to elevate their play almost all season last year. It even reached the point where many considered him as an MVP candidate, largely due to how much he helped Phoenix’s young players grow.

All these pieces which the Suns gave away to Oklahoma City either have just one or two things that the Suns miss, or nothing at all. Whereas with Paul, they love and appreciate everything  that he brings to the table. At no point have the Suns not wanted Paul as their point guard since he arrived.

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Only out of respect for the talents of Rubio and Oubre Jr., this trade does not earn a perfect grade, but instead the next closest thing.

Grade: A