Chis Paul is the NBA’s Copernicus. He needs to be the offensive axis, and his arrival placed the Suns near the center of the NBA galaxy. The Western Conference’s heliocentric age began, and we didn’t even know it because everyone has been so eager to babble about the Lakers, Nets, Sixers, and Warriors.
But it’s Phoenix who owns the best record in the league at 46-10.
CP3 has always been the most independent member of the Banana Boat crew. As Carmelo, LeBron, and Wade linked up at various points in their career, CP3 has gone solo. CP3 is a control freak, which may be why he’s never sought out a super team like his peers. He may be self-aware enough to know that his ornery autocratic style could have created a rift like the one formed between James Harden and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn? Whatever the excuse, that solo career has turned out for the better at the tail end of his career. In his second season with the Phoenix Suns, CP3’s never appeared more content.
It’s abnormal to see a top-75 player discover his Goldilocks Zone after a series of stints in solid but not quite ideal habitats so late into his twilight, and before it’s too late for him to access his Hall of Fame repertoire. Stumbling into a backcourt with Devin Booker was supposed to be a bittersweet pairing because of their mismatching career timelines.
A 2-guard with Devin Booker’s qualifications should be more celebrated, but the discussions about him this season have been hush. Nobody questions whether he’s an All-Star, but if you were starting a team from scratch, he might not be in most fans’ top 10. Part of it may have to do with the reality that his athletic limitations make him more Paul Pierce than Kobe Bryant. In homage to Kobe and Pierce, Booker is draining more mid-range jumpers than all but two players.
Mikal Bridges is a steady 3-and-D-and-D-3 (dribbles and drives forward) wing whose impact equates to what Andrew Wiggins is bringing to Golden State. Not only is he a possible First Team All-Defense wing, but he’s nearly posting 50/40/90 averages in his fifth season.
CP3’s winding career has taken him from New Orleans to the Lakers, Clippers, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix, where he’s been the skeleton key unlocking a latent Western Conference superpower. In his 18th season, Paul is averaging more assists per game than he has since 2014. He’s shooting 48 percent from the field ad serving as the foundational pillar of a team that ranks first in assist-to-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage, and can score efficiently anywhere on the court.
As other contenders undergo facelifts and total reconstructions, the Suns have remained stuck in amber from the unit that rolled through the West into the NBA Finals. Their Finals failure a year ago left them with the scar tissue of a resilient championship frontrunner. They retained a top-five defense anchored by DeAndre Ayton, then added Javale McGee. Injuries haven’t been enough to slow down the Suns, either. Ayton missed seven games, and Phoenix signed Bismack Biyombo to a 10-day contract that morphed into a rest-of-season contract and won seven games.
Phoenix is hitting the stratosphere while the Nets crawl from the crater of their 11-game losing streak. They defeated the Magic, Bulls, 76ers and shellacked the Bucks by 24 points. Yet, all anyone wants to gossip about is how Simmons’ fractured jump shot will play in Brooklyn or, for Harden and Daryl Morey, how proving their successes can translate to postseason prosperity.
It’s time to show love to the Suns squad that’s been in a steady relationship with the No. 1 seed in the West since Opening Night and hasn’t looked back since.