Reader Grade: A (99% of votes)
Can you imagine telling a Thunder fan, say, 14 months ago, that the OKC fanbase was in virtually unanimous agreement (99%!) that Chris Paul deserved an “A” grade for a season on the horizon? Said fan would likely be surprised, but deduce that Oklahoma City would have traded for the wily arch nemesis to convert him to a fan favorite. But if you told them the Thunder faithful felt that way for Paul after trading Russell Westbrook for him?
Only a season as objectively excellent as Paul’s could turn the tide so decidedly from hate to love. As the new figurehead for the Thunder, the future hall of famer transformed their preseason “playoffs if we’re lucky” hopes to a legitimate chase for home court advantage down the stretch. So much for the Thunder shouldn’t have worked, but did, in 2019-20. Paul gets the lion’s share of credit, and the grade to match. As I wrote in my look at Paul’s MVP chances, Paul combined rejuvenated on-court play with steady off-court leadership:
“Pound for pound, Chris Paul is still one of the best players in the game. While still running most of the Thunder’s action, he’s adapted nobly to the team’s three-point-guard lineups with an uptick in scoring (20 points per-36, his career best) and a decrease in his assist rate (33.4%, by far a career low). He’s nearly matched his career high in True Shooting Percentage, with his 61% mark putting him among the top-10 for guards in the category—a remarkable feat considering his heavy diet of midrange jumpers, typically the least efficient shot in the NBA.
And like Westbrook before him, his late-game heroics have been inspiring. He leads the league in clutch scoring, and has iced so many of the Thunder’s league-leading comeback victories. There has been some poetry in this for Paul, who’s had some reputation-skewing moments of embarrassment against the Thunder in the playoffs. Hopefully no one will again selectively forget Paul is as win-hungry and clutch-ready as they come.
Is Chris Paul the best player in the league? No. But in the way that ‘most valuable‘ transcended the on-court brilliance of Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 MVP campaign, Paul has meant more to OKC than the numbers and wins he’s orchestrated.”