Is This Chris Paul’s Last Chance at a Ring?

Somehow, superstar point guard, Chris Paul hasn’t won an NBA Championship yet. Paul hasn’t even made a finals appearance yet. Paul’s teams have always had misfortune whether it’s injuries, poor performances, or running into more talented teams. Take 2018 for example as Paul and the Rockets were just one win away from upsetting the Warriors in the conference finals. Then, Paul’s hamstring gave out and the Rockets threw away a 3-2 lead.

Even before that, Paul’s “Lob City” Clippers couldn’t get it done, despite consistently being one of the Western Conference’s best teams. When he was a member of the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans), Paul led them to their first ever second round appearance. He is often brought up in debates for one of the top five point guards of all time – but he is just missing that elusive ring to solidify himself.

Enter the Phoenix Suns of the 2020-21 season. A team that has everything Paul has ever needed – floor spacing, a pick and roll rim-runner, and a star teammate that can take over games. Sure, he had those things in Houston – but this Suns team is also much deeper. With key role players such as Cameron Johnson, Dario Šarić, and Cameron Payne leading the bench unit, the Suns have a rotation that Paul never had in Houston.

This Suns team was ninth in the league in defensive rating (111.3) and fifth in offensive rating (117.2), which was good for third (+5.9) in net rating. Only the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers have a higher net rating. In the playoffs, the Suns have the third highest net rating and are second in defensive rating. Being second ranked is the highest defensive rating for any of Paul’s teams. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have a better defensive rating in the playoffs.

As for why this season specifically is Paul’s last chance. Look at the bracket. There is no more LeBron James – Phoenix already took him out. The Suns are in the Western Conference Finals. The two teams battling for the other Western Conference Finals spot from the other side of the bracket are the Jazz and Clippers. The Suns went 3-0 against the Jazz this season and 1-2 against the Clippers. The Clippers are the larger challenge for the Suns – the record reflects that. The Suns had a hard time stopping Paul George in the regular season, as he averaged 32.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in their three meetings. Another important factor is that the Suns haven’t made any additions to the roster that could slow down George. Jae Crowder is their only hope for stopping him, and we’ve seen that matchup go in George’s favor.

Currently, the Jazz are tied 2-2 with the Clippers. The Suns present an overwhelming challenge to the Jazz, as each of the strong suits for the Jazz are matched or surpassed by the Suns. The Suns’ largest issue is on the other side of the bracket, in the Eastern Conference. If the Brooklyn Nets find their way into the Finals, the Suns, and Paul’s, hopes for a championship diminish drastically. However, the Nets currently only held a 3-2 series lead to the Milwaukee Bucks, with injuries also playing a factor. The Suns went a combined 5-1 against the other three teams left in the East during the regular season.

Chris Paul has battled long and hard for a championship in his career. He’s been close on many occasions, yet so far at the same time. This may be the season that he and his team finally reach the promised land.