Chris Paul’s adventure in Oklahoma City has come to an end. On Monday, the Thunder traded their superstar point guard and Abdel Nader to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick, the Suns confirmed the deal while extending a warm welcome to their new players.
“We are excited to welcome Chris Paul and Abdel Nader to Phoenix,” Suns general manager James Jones said in a statement. “Chris’ leadership and competitive approach to the game will have an immeasurable impact on our team. Abdel possesses all the traits on and off the court that will complement our culture.”
Paul was traded to the Thunder last offseason in a blockbuster deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Despite initial expectations that the Thunder would quickly trade him elsewhere in exchange for picks and prospects, Paul spent the entire season in OKC. He excelled, making his first All-Star Game since 2016 while leading the Thunder to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. Though they eventually lost to the Rockets in seven games in the first round of the playoffs, it was an impressive statement from Paul that he was still one of the best point guards in the game.
“He is the kind of guy that changes organizations,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said in January, before the Suns-Thunder game. “Everywhere he has gone, he has made everybody better. That is just who Chris is.”
Yet while it was clear the Thunder could have remained a playoff team with Paul in town, they were intent on transitioning into a full rebuild this offseason. Head coach Billy Donovan left, Dennis Schroder was reportedly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and veteran forward Danilo Gallinari is unlikely to return. Now, Paul is gone too, and the Thunder have added a number of young players to their roster, and another future first-round pick. In Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley and now Oubre, the Thunder have some interesting young talent to go along with their massive cache of picks. The next few years might be a bit of a struggle, but they’re well positioned for the future.
As for the Suns, they’re focused on the present. Paul’s arrival puts them in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, back when Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire were still running pick-and-rolls together on the court, instead of designing them on the sidelines. According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh, the Suns’ chances of making the playoffs jumped from 36.8 percent to 73.8 percent with this deal.
The Suns are coming off an eye-opening performance in the bubble, where they went 8-0 to nearly make a miraculous jump into the playoffs. Though they ultimately fell short, they showed that there was something to build on there with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton forming a strong young foundation. While Paul’s arrival doesn’t suddenly make them a contender, it does make them a team everyone else has to worry about. After all, we just saw what Paul did with a Thunder team that arguably had less talent than this Suns bunch.