How do you define greatness in the NBA?
Sure, there are tons of "good" players. There are even several soon to be "great" players. But how many currently in the league hold that distinct honour as of right now?
There's LeBron James, check.
Former Finals MVPs Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, check.
Now throw out the guys that need numbers and qualified stats to back up their relevance. Who among the remaining players is someone that brings team success (emphasis on team) with them everywhere they go?
That man is Chris Paul.
And while he may not be a consensus top-five player anymore, his career is worth noting as he continues to play at the highest of levels.
After being within one game of leading the Oklahoma City Thunder into the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Paul finds himself leading a new group of young talented stars. Phoenix is Paul's fifth NBA franchise and if he leads them to the postseason, he will join the likes of Shaquille O'Neal as individuals who were able to take five different teams to the playoffs.
Of course, Shaq was a role player when he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics later in his career, whereas Paul is the primary ball-handler for the Suns this season.
The only other player who is still active from CP3's draft class is Lou Williams. A closer look at the preceding and subsequent draft classes affirm Paul's position as one of the best to ever lace them up, especially for that era.
Phoenix is coming off an impressive 8-0 showing in last fall's NBA Bubble in Orlando and the addition of Paul should only help build on that momentum.
The Wake Forest alum has endured quite a series of devastating roadblocks; all involving heartbreaking Game 7s.
First, he led the then-New Orleans Hornets through the second round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. That team had homecourt advantage against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and even went up 2-0 in the series. After pulling within three points in the final two minutes of Game 7, the Spurs went on to close out the series.
Paul and the Hornets seemed to have a promising future at that point but that was short-lived, as Paul was traded to LA Clippers a few seasons later.
Paul and Blake Griffin led a high-flying "Lob City" squad in 2015 to a 3-1 series lead against James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. After a fourth-quarter collapse in Game 6 due to an unexpected Josh Smith-led 3-point barrage, the Clippers were deflated and sent packing shortly thereafter.
Nonetheless, Paul was moved again, this time to the very Houston team that eliminated him.
Flash forward to the 2018 NBA Western Conference Finals where Paul led the Rockets to an emotional Game 5 victory over the Golden State Warriors and a 3-2 series lead, meaning one win from the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, Paul suffered an injury late in Game 5 and the Rockets couldn't muster enough in either of the final two games to advance. He was unable to even suit up for the final game of the series.
The Rockets, like Paul's other teams, decided to move the 2013 All-Star MVP; this time in favour of triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, a trade that was second-guessed by some who saw just how close Houston was to dethroning the Warriors. Last season, CP3 maximized the talent around him and almost eliminated the Rockets with a bunch that many expected to be a lottery contender.
Now Paul is gearing up for yet another push. And while many may wonder how much he has left in the tank, the 10-time All-Star has no plans to slow down.
As the season was set to tip-off, Paul made it clear he intended to do more than simply assist Phoenix's young players in developing their games.
"I'm not James Naismith by no means," Paul said with a smile. "It's fun for me. First things first, I'm not just coming here to teach everybody. I'm (Booker's) teammate. We're here to hoop, we're here to compete and that's the way I approach this."
Paul has the Suns competing for homecourt advantage in this year's playoffs. Without the team's other All-Star in Devin Booker, who has missed time lately with a hamstring injury, the point guard sparked the team to two wins, including a huge road victory in Dallas.
Paul scored or assisted on 30 of the team's 34 fourth-quarter points as the Suns outscored Mavericks by 11 in the final period.
☀️ @CP3 lifts the @Suns! ☀️- NBA (@NBA) January 31, 2021
☀️ 29 PTS | 12 AST | 4 STL ☀️ pic.twitter.com/V41QmSBAV7
Regardless of how he finishes his career, the North Carolina native is a walking Hall of Famer. The former Rookie of the Year currently ranks in the top 10 in both assists and steals, demonstrating he contributes at a high level on both ends of the floor.
Paul's career shouldn't be looked as one with a bunch of "what-ifs," rather his presence should be viewed as "what is," and that "is" is greatness.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.