How Much Help Does Chris Paul Need?
Before I start, I want to say that outside of those in his immediate family, I believe I am the biggest Chris Paul fan in the world- both on and off the court. I have played basketball at relatively high levels since I was six years old and I have never seen a combination of basketball IQ, skills, and desire that I see in Chris Paul. Jordan had the desire and skills, but didn’t have the IQ of Paul until his 30’s. That’s how highly I think of CP3.
That being said, I am a little bit upset with his implications that he doesn’t have enough around him to succeed. Can he win a title with this roster and a few minor tweeks? No. But can he be competative and maybe catch a few breaks? Of course. To illustrate the point, I want to look at a couple of teams that have had sucess with what I think is similar talent.
Cleveland- When I rank my top 5 players, LBJ is 2 and CP3 is 4 when 100 percent healthy. People often say that if you take LeBron off Cleveland that they would be a 20 win team. To me, that is an exaggeration, but I think 30 is pretty realistic. Meanwhile, we pretty much know what the Hornets would have been without CP3 last year- a 30-32 win team. That tells me that CP3’s supporting cast isn’t much better than LeBron’s, and yet James has averaged 63.5 wins per year the last two years. James has one quasi All-Star, CP3 has one quasi All-Star. James has streaky shooters, so does Paul. James has big men who are limited offensively, so does Paul. And on and on.
Phoenix- CP3 is better than Nash, but even if we say they are equal, was Phoenix’s roster that superior to the Hornets or did Nash make those guys better than they were? Is Channing Frye that good on any team in the league? How about Dudley or Amundson? How many teams wanted Grant Hill three years ago or Jason Richardson when he was on the block for relatively nothing? And yet that team caught a few breaks, believed in a system, and made it to the WCF.
Utah- Every year they have a ton of injuries like us and they plug in some unknown guy and still get 50 plus wins. Like CP3, D Will is in the prime of his career and wants to win titles- and like CP3, Deron Williams’ supporting cast is severely limited. If we call Boozer/Okur vs. West/Okafor a wash, the only clear advantage Utah has is Milsap, but they don’t have pieces similar to Collison and MT5- so I would argue those rosters are pretty even. And if Utah loses Boozer and Matthews this offseason, only to replace them with Hayward and a cheap FA, couldn’t you argue CP3 has a better supporting unit?
Miami- a basketball player’s peak is supposed to occur in their late 20’s. D Wade has spent two of those years with attrocious rosters around him and has still managed to make the playoffs as a #5 seed both years. Yes, the East is weaker and 45 wins would have left the Heat 5 games out of the 8th spot out West last season, but still- look at his supporting players!
Point is that CP3 has a right to want to win, but it is possible for him to win 50 games and a playoff series with this unit plus one or two small additions. What this team has to do is play like the 2009-2010 Bucks every night this year. They have to outwork their opponents, believe in their coach and his system, and push each other to be the best versions of themselves.
Only one team is gonna win the title next year, and CP3 won’t be on that team, and neither will LBJ or Wade or Durant or Dwight Howard, etc. (most likely). But he certainly has the opportunity to “win next year” and start to build a foundation and a culture the way the Lakers did Pre-Gasol. Then, you take advantage of a move like the Lakers did, like the Celtics did in getting KG, etc. But you don’t rush it.
The opportunity is there to win CP3, even if you don’t have $120 million dollar guys surrounding you. Others have done more with less, or at least the same- and you can too.