Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns shocked the NBA world by sweeping Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2021 playoffs. A future Hall of Famer, Paul has advanced to the Western Conference Finals for only the second time during his legendary career.
Paul may not be as active as Kevin Durant is on social media, but he hears all of the stuff being said about him. That’s why he went off on his critics after leading the Suns to the Western Conference Finals.
Paul’s comments, though, surprisingly didn’t steal the show. It was what Nuggets head coach Michael Malone had to say about the Suns star that had people rolling their eyes since his quote could irritate Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
Chris Paul says pundits wrote him off too soon
Paul has been superb the last two years. He helped the Thunder make the playoffs in 2020 when everyone thought they would be a lottery team and has guided the Suns to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010. Not bad for a guy who many thought could no longer impact winning.
After the Suns won Game 4 against the Nuggets, Paul spoke to Chris Haynes of TNT about how people wrote him off too soon.
“I’m so grateful to my family, to my team,” Paul said. “Couple years ago, they was writing me off. ‘You can’t do this.’ This ain’t about me. It’s about us. We got a great team over there, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.”
Paul scored 37 points in Game 4 against the Nuggets while shooting 14-of-19 from the field. He averaged 25.5 points and 10.3 assists in the four-game sweep, and he looks like he’s on a mission to capture his first NBA title.
Malone was an assistant coach on the New Orleans Hornets when Paul was there, so they have a close relationship. After the Suns swept his Nuggets, Malone showered Paul with high praise, and it could irk Johnson.
Michael Malone says Chris Paul could arguably be the greatest point guard of all time
Malone told reporters that Paul “could arguably be the greatest point guard of all time” after the Suns eliminated the Nuggets. It was a bold quote since Johnson is universally recognized as the top floor general in NBA history.
In 906 games with the Lakers, Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists. He won five championships, three Finals MVPs, and three regular-season MVPs. The Hall of Famer is sixth all-time in assists and third in triple-doubles.
Paul has career averages of 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 9.4 assists. He’s an 11-time All-Star, four-time steals champion, and six-time assists champion. The veteran guard is fifth in NBA history in assists, but he’s never played in the Finals.
Until he wins a championship, Paul can’t be considered better than Johnson. Heck, he may not be ahead of Magic in the all-time rankings even if he does win a title since the Lakers icon won five championships and has multiple Finals MVPs and regular-season MVPs on his résumé.
We can appreciate Paul’s greatness without overrating him. While he is undoubtedly one of the best point guards ever to play, he’s not better than Johnson, who put up extraordinary stats and delivered championships, the latter of which Paul hasn’t done.
Extra rest will be beneficial for Suns
The Suns will face the winner of the Utah Jazz–Los Angeles Clippers series in the Western Conference Finals. That series is tied at 2-2, giving Paul and Co. extra time to rest and gear up for the conference finals.
Phoenix is the hottest team in the playoffs. After going down 2-1 to the Lakers in the first round, Monty Williams’ group has won seven games in a row.
With Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton leading the way, the Suns have a good chance of reaching the NBA Finals and winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. A title would do wonders for Paul’s legacy, so it will be fascinating to see if he can join Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Stephen Curry as legendary point guards with championships.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.