There is little doubt that the Phoenix Suns made the right move this summer in acquiring Bradley Beal. In doing so, he became the best third option in the entire league, and a natural fit next to Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
The fact we have yet to see all three play together in the regular season is frustrating, and was always going to be the biggest concern in the organization going so top heavy with their talent. Combine the three and they’re offensively unstoppable, but the sizeable catch is they actually have to be on the court to make that happen.
The player who the Suns traded for Beal meanwhile – Chris Paul – recently settled into a new role with the Golden State Warriors, and is excelling.
Not that we should be surprised by this. Everywhere the “Point God” has gone throughout his career, he has been a success. Paul took that to extremes during a brief stint with the young and rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder back in the NBA’s Bubble, helping them to a 44-28 record and a spot in the playoffs.
Paul’s greatest challenge was always going to be learning to play with his sworn enemies in the Warriors, but as always he has figured out a way to make it work. The experiment of starting next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson was short-lived, and Paul now finds himself coming off the bench and leading the second unit after two starts this season.
Paul’s stats aren’t even important at this point in his career, because anybody who has watched this future Suns’ Ring of Honor member play will know he is about so much more than that. Quite possibly the smartest player in the league today, it was the arrival of Paul to the Suns that helped Booker and that squad go all the way to the NBA Finals.
He had recently departed former first overall pick Deandre Ayton playing the best basketball of his career in that 2020-21 season, and was even able to make limited bigs like this one look fantastic on any given night. The time was right to move on from the 38-year-old for the Suns, but his seamless transition to life in The Bay could become a worry.
The Warriors are looking every inch the legitimate contenders they would have always felt they could be this season, with Curry as incredible as ever. The Suns didn’t gift an amazing point guard to a direct rival – this isn’t quite as bad as the Milwaukee Bucks ditching Jrue Holiday for Damian Lillard – only to see Holiday reappear with the Boston Celtics.
But the Suns are now without a recognizable floor general themselves, with Booker, the masked Jordan Goodwin and Saben Lee the three lead ball-handlers of the group. Beal can do some of that as well and Durant can do everything well, but it is telling that the one area this team is really lacking, was a position of real strength before they let Paul go to the Washington Wizards.
They likely couldn’t have foreseen Paul get to the Warriors so quickly, but it is also true that he had an unfortunate habit of breaking down when really needed come the playoffs, and the Suns couldn’t have given him the luxury of coming off the bench this season. With no Beal, Paul would have been tasked with setting up Booker, Durant and everybody else.
Instead he’s running a second unit with the Warriors at his own pace, and in completely different way to the run-and-gun “splash brothers”. To be doing so as harmoniously as Paul is this early in the season should not come as a shock, but it is both no less impressive given his age and who he is playing for, and no less of a concern for a Suns team that won’t want Paul to haunt them.