When Mikal Bridges intimated he may be Devin Booker’s running companion and before the Phoenix Suns traded Bridges for Kevin Durant to clarify the team’s top two offensive powers, all eyes were on Chris Paul.
He didn’t appear strong early this season. If he improved, might the Suns make a deep postseason run?
The Durant deal resolved that issue.
With two games left and five consecutive wins alongside Booker and Durant, the issue now is: What can Paul do as the third wheel to assist Booker and Durant?
With Durant returning, Paul is averaging 17.4 points and shooting 51.6% and 46.9% from three in the previous five games. The point guard averages 6.4 threes per game.
In Phoenix’s 119-115 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, the 36-year-old point guard established a career-high with seven made threes and 12 attempts.
Should have made more? Reported Paul. “Trying to take those shots and that’s why these games are crucial. New method. I’ve never played with doubled players.
“I believe it’s not: wait till the playoffs and get in a groove. It requires these games.”
After 14 games, Paul was shooting 29% on catch-and-shoot attempts, significantly below his career average (44%). He took many more.
The question was not whether those incredibly low percentages would improve once he got his legs under him following a slow start and a month-long heel ailment. Averages rose almost certainly. Well, they’ve improved.
Paul is hitting an astounding 53.8% on catch-and-shoot attempts, including 52.3% from three-point range, with two games left in the regular season.
James Harden double-teamed Paul in Houston from 2017-19. Booker draws frequently. Paul has never had two unreliable No. 1s.
Twenty-one of Paul’s 39 games (1,214 regular season games) with nine or more three-point attempts were with the Moreyball Rockets.
10 three-point attempts reduces the number of games to 14. Two came this season with the Suns, including Thursday against Denver.
Paul’s midrange attempt rate plummeted 14 games in. The point guard knew that increasing his three-point shot percentage would assist Phoenix’s space for Booker and Bridges back then.
His middle groove has helped him lately.
Paul’s outside three-point shooting might be a game-breaker.
His catch-and-shoot frequency is 13.9% this year, but 19.4% in the previous five Durant-Booker games.
Historically, Paul’s catch-and-shoot rate has never exceeded 11.9% (2014-15). (2013-14).
Phoenix’s lineup has affected Paul’s spacing, and his three-point attempt percentage will certainly climb. It will penalize teams that provide good weakside assistance to stop Booker and Durant, not to mention Paul’s midrange prowess in important playoff moments.
Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said, “I believe he’s in this mentality of having his feet and hands ready now instead of catching and laying it down and attacking. “He must score.”
“They keep telling me to shoot,” Paul said. I agreed.”