NBA

How Much Does Thunder Point Guard Chris Paul Have Left in the Tank?

Chris Paul’s tenure with the Houston Rockets ended badly, with the star point guard being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason for Russell Westbrook. Now, Paul finds himself in a position he hasn’t been in for a long time — the sole star on a young, rebuilding team. Some evidence points to this being an opportunity for a rebirth, but other evidence points to it being the beginning of the end for CP3. 

So how much does Thunder point guard Chris Paul have left in the tank? 

Recent footage of Chris Paul in the gym

According to a recent Bleacher Report piece, footage of Paul in the gym playing with Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal was posted to Twitter. In the video, Paul looked like he had solid command offensively, executing a few moves in one-on-one defensive coverage that ended in buckets. 

In a vacuum, the footage looks rather convincing. Paul may still have life left in his legs for a renaissance as one of the league’s elite point guards. However, it’s one thing to look good in a low-pressure summer workout. Doing it during a rigorous NBA regular season is something else.

Impressive career accomplishments

It’s also hard to count out Paul when looking at his career overall. He’s amassed an impressive resume over his 14-year career, including: 

  • 19 points per game
  • 9.9 assists per game 
  • 2.3 steals per game
  • .469 field goal percentage
  • Nine-time All-Star
  • Six-time league leader in steals
  • Four-time league leader in assists
  • 2005-2006 Rookie of the Year
  • Nine-time All-Defensive team selection
  • 2012-2013 All-Star Game MVP

Paul’s career began in Oklahoma City, where the displaced New Orleans Hornets were playing at the time. After briefly being traded to the L.A. Lakers, the league rescinded the deal and Paul went to the Clippers instead, where he paired with Blake Griffin for six seasons. Despite some impressive playoff runs, the team never quite got over the hump. He’s spent the last two seasons in Houston, where things soured between him and fellow star guard James Harden this season. 

Chris Paul’s 2019 numbers

Will Chris Paul find new life with the Oklahoma City Thunder, or are his playing days starting to end?
Will Chris Paul find new life in Oklahoma City, or are his playing days starting to end? | Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Paul had one of his worst pro seasons in 2019. Bleacher Report pointed out that Paul had a year most would like to forget: 

“Paul was a shell of himself last season. He averaged career lows in points per game (15.6), field-goal percentage (41.9), and PER (19.7). His true shooting percentage (56.0) was 4.4 percentage points lower than his mark during 2017-18. More concerning, Paul missed 24 games for the second consecutive season.”

Paul also had some well-documented issues with Harden. The two were not on the same page stylistically or personally, and reportedly Harden wanted Paul out of town even before Westbrook became available. The situation was clearly unsalvageable. 

How much does Chris Paul have left in the tank?

Paul is 34 years old, an age that generally is not kind to any basketball player, much less guards who rely on their quickness and athleticism to get by. One study found that basketball players at that age can see their performance dip by as much as 146%

Paul has been an elite player for years, and getting him away from a toxic situation with Harden may allow him to flourish more than he had last year. However, as the top offensive option on a team, he’s probably not likely to be very effective. From a sheer numbers standpoint, there’s little chance Paul is going to get much better.

If Paul can settle into a role as a veteran mentor for a young team, he can probably excel. Anything past that and the Thunder may be asking too much. If the Thunder want to build a contender with Paul, they shouldn’t look to build around him. They should look to move some of their first-round picks for another star or proceed on rebuilding with Paul in place.