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Chris Paul Brings Promise & Big-Picture Organizational Pressure To Phoenix

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Photo credit: Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Paul

Are the Phoenix Suns finally, finally ready to compete?

They had better be, because the ultimate test of your resolve is coming to town.

On Monday, the Suns traded for future-Hall-of-Fame point guard Chris Paul, sending Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round pick.

The move comes after the Suns went undefeated in the Orlando restart but fell just short of securing a spot in the play-in. Phoenix made serious strides under Monty Williams in his first season with a roster of veterans. They’re banking on the development of star Devin Booker and young big man Deandre Ayton along with what Paul brings.

And Paul brings a great deal.

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He was All-NBA last season, his ninth season earning the honor, this time at age 35, averaging 18-7 on 49-37-91 shooting, pulling a Thunder team thought to be rebuilding to the No. 4 seed in the West.

He is also likely the most competitive player in the NBA today and has been since Kobe Bryant retired. The top of the league is dominated by the most competitive players on the planet, but Paul is so singularly driven towards winning that it has often prompted conflict with teammates from Los Angeles to Houston.

Bear in mind, the Suns were the org that let Booker score 70 in a blowout win, with teammates fouling to get the ball back for Booker and the team taking timeouts to extend the game.

There won’t be any of that with Paul on board.

But it’s just as important to understand how different last season was for Paul. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander credited Paul for the support he gave. The entire Thunder organization was appreciative of Paul’s professionalism and support in his year there.

If the Suns buy-in, this can be great. Paul’s known for his passing, but he remains a real pain-in-the-ass defensively and a stellar shooter. Booker has made it clear he wants to win, and for his career perception, he needs to. His box score and skillset has all the makings of a star on the biggest stage but the Suns have been such a mess he never got to show it… until the bubble.

There’s real risk, here, however. Both Rubio and Oubre were good last season, key members of a team that showed flashes of a top-10 defense intermittently. Losing them to play the younger players like Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson is risky.

Paul’s 35 with a history of knee injuries and multiple surgeries. The wheels will come off at some point. If this move doesn’t work, it likely seals Booker’s exit in some sort of trade request.

The Suns’ pre-offseason win percentage over/under was for a 37-win pace in an 82-game season. When that number re-opens, expect it to be higher. If it re-opens at better than 41, it becomes a stay-away. If it stays below 40, the over has to be a play.

Don’t get too carried away with the Suns. There’s no telling how they’ll respond to the pressure of expectations, or the pressure that comes from playing next to the Point God.

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