It’s official now: Chris Paul is a member of the Phoenix Suns.
In the first big trade after the moratorium was lifted — a deal Paul helped orchestrate — CP3 has been traded from to the Phoenix Suns. In return, Oklahoma City gets Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a protected 2022 first-round pick.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver wants to see his team make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and adding a Hall of Fame point guard still playing at an All-NBA level helps tremendously with that. Oklahoma City is starting a rebuild, and this adds to their collection of young players and first-round draft picks. For the teams, this trade is pretty much win-win.
Who else are the winners and losers in this trade? Let’s break it down.
Winner: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton
Devin Booker longs to be recognized as one of the game’s elite. He has shown he can put up points, but doing so on losing Suns teams had some outside the Valley of the Sun calling them empty-calorie points — the kind that don’t earn post-season awards. Booker knew he needed to succeed on a bigger stage. His phenomenal play in the bubble — averaging 30.5 points, 6 assists, and 4.9 rebounds a game leading the Suns to an 8-0 record — helped with that, but ultimately the Suns have to win. Paul gets them much closer to that goal. CP3 is a good a floor general as the game has seen in a generation and he will put Booker in better positions to succeed.
When healthy, Ayton has put up numbers (18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds a game last season), but his game is about to be supercharged. Paul is going to get him the ball where he can dominate inside, and there is no better lob thrower in the game. If you’re an Ayton fan, you see a guy on the verge of a breakout season. CP3 can help with that, just ask DeAndre Jordan.
Losers: The Bucks, Clippers, and Knicks
Every team that was a Chris Paul suitor loses out. For the Clippers, this is a loss because bringing CP3 back — something Paul reportedly wanted with Doc Rivers gone — would have given them the playmaker they need at the point. That trade would have logistically been difficult to pull off, but Paul is the best floor general of a generation and would have made the Clippers better.
For the Bucks, this is not much of a loss after they picked up Jrue Holiday in a trade. Although some may argue it, Paul is still better.
For the Knicks, this is only a serious loss if they are going to spend their free agent money this offseason, rather than keeping their powder dry and building a foundation with younger players. To be clear, they should be building that foundation, but these are James Dolan’s Knicks, so we’ll see what direction they go over the coming weeks.
Winner: Thunder president Sam Presti
His reputation as a trade guru remains intact. One offseason after he sold high on Paul George and landed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plus a truckload of picks, he sells high on Chris Paul and lands a pick and some good young players (who could be part of the future or flipped for other players).
With this trade, the Thunder own 16 first-round picks over the next six years. Presti obviously will trade some of those, but it’s a strong foundation for a rebuild.
Loser: Every other team in the Pacific Division (especially Sacramento)
The Pacific Division is stacked: The defending champion Lakers, contenders in the Clippers and Warriors, now an improved Suns team, plus a Sacramento squad looking to right the ship and get back in the playoff race itself. If, as expected, the condensed NBA schedule is heavy on teams playing more within their own division, things just got harder on the left coast.
Winner: The Phoenix Suns
As noted above, owner Robert Sarver wants his team back in the playoffs. The Suns got their star player to go with Booker and Ayton, held on to the No. 10 pick in this draft (and keeping their pick in the deeper 2021 draft, instead giving up one in 2022, which may not be as deep as originally projected). This was a smart and bold move by the Suns front office, whether or not it ultimately pays off.