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Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder reach deal for Chris Paul

Thunder trade Chris Paul to Suns

On Nov. 16, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to trade All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns. Abdel Nadar joined Paul on his way to the desert while the Suns sent Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, and a 2022 first-round pick to OKC. The deal comes as the Suns look to build on a strong finish to the 2019-20 season.

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For the first time in his career, Devin Booker has an All-Star teammate. The 24-year-old shooting guard averaged over 22 points per game in each of his last four seasons, but Booker never lifted the Suns to the playoffs. Phoenix hasn’t made the postseason since the 2009-10 season, when an aging Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire led their team to the Western Conference Finals.

Acquiring Paul gives the Suns a future first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard with plenty of playoff experience. The 35-year-old point guard hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2009-10 season with the New Orleans Hornets. However, Paul hasn’t won a Conference Finals series yet. The Suns hope pairing Paul with Deandre Ayton and Booker while reuniting him with head coach Monty Williams will break that streak.

In an official statement, Suns general manager James Jones said, “We are excited to welcome Chris Paul and Abdel Nader to Phoenix. 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.”

Williams, who briefly coached Paul in New Orleans, spoke glowingly about the transcendent guard last season, “He is the kind of guy that changes organizations,” Williams said. “Everywhere he has gone, he has made everybody better. That is just who Chris is.”

After battling injuries and declining play during his two seasons with the Houston Rockets, Paul experienced a revival with the Thunder. He played 70 of the team’s 72 games and led the team to a 44-28 record, tying the Rockets and Utah Jazz in wins. Before the season, analysts believed the Thunder wouldn’t even make the playoffs. Instead, they claimed the fifth seed and went seven games with Houston in the first-round of the playoffs.

After three years without an All-Star or All-NBA selection, Paul made his tenth All-Star appearance and earned an All-NBA 2nd-Team selection. The Point God even finished seventh in the MVP voting, only trailing younger players and perennial superstars.

In his resurgent performance, Paul posted the best clutch-time scoring numbers in the NBA. He was unstoppable in close games. Despite recording the fewest assists (6.7) and steals (1.6) per game in his career, Paul found other ways to make an impact. He fit perfectly alongside fellow guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder. The veteran point guard also posted the second-highest effective field goal percentage (55.2) and highest two-point field goal percentage (55.4) of his career.

Two years and over $80 million remain on Paul’s contract. The contract’s massive size led the Thunder to look for a trade partner as Oklahoma City begins thinking about its long-term future. Paul has a $44 million player option for the 2021-22 season.

As for what the Thunder got in return for Paul, Oubre and Rubio stand out as immediate-impact players. With Oklahoma City already agreeing to send Schröder to the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 28 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and Danny Green, the Thunder needed a guard with Rubio’s passing skills. Oubre offers a lot of upside as a pure scorer. The 24-year-old averaged 18.7 points per game last season.

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The Thunder are committed to rebuilding around Gilgeous-Alexander. The 22-year-old spent his rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers before joining the Thunder as part of the deal that paired Paul George with Kawhi Leonard. As Oklahoma City continues working to clear cap space, the team could trade away center Steven Adams or work out a sign-and-trade with free agent power forward Danilo Gallinari.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has put the Thunder in a position to succeed for the next decade. Through wielding and dealing over the past two seasons, he’s set the team up with as many as 17 first-round picks from now through 2026. Trading Paul now and George last season were smaller parts of a larger plan focused on turning the Thunder into a perennial contender in the 2020s.

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