It seems like a great matchup for the Mavericks in their season-opener on Wednesday.
After all, they’re playing a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010, right?
Then you start factoring in a few other details, and you realize this is going to be no bargain.
For instance, the Suns finished last season 8-0 in the NBA restart, with two of those wins coming against the Mavericks.
And in those eight games, they had better than a 13-point average margin of victory in the bubble.
And all they did in the offseason was add a point guard who has made the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons, despite playing for four different franchises in that span.
Chris Paul wins everywhere he goes. No matter the circumstances.
Now, he is waiting for the Mavericks as they open the 2020-21 season in Phoenix against a Suns team that is desperate for a playoff-bound season.
“I think Phoenix made a really smart move to acquire him,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said Monday. “What he brings is a competitive constant. He has a level of efficiency where turnovers are always very low or non-existent. The shooting percentage is always super-high. There was a stat last year where he was the most productive/influential player in the fourth quarter of the entire season, which is an amazing accomplishment.
“He was one of the really big reasons that Oklahoma (City) had a lot better year than people expected last year. They were a five or six seed and after trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, a lot of people felt like they were going to be on the outside looking in. But they were terrific and he was a big part of that.”
Now Paul is in Phoenix where he is expected to help forge a new culture among the Suns’ young, high-quality players like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The Suns also acquired former Maverick Jae Crowder in the offseason to bolster their toughness.
Remember, this was a team that didn’t lose in bubble and narrowly missed the playoffs.
To add Paul to that momentum seems like a perfect fit.
“I know CP a little bit, I know the type of guy he is,” said Josh Richardson, who likely will find himself guarding Paul at times during Wednesday’s 9:30 p.m. meeting. “And I know he’s very intense and he’s a no-B.S. kind of guy.
“I understand how some people might not appreciate that, how it might not mesh with everybody. But for those who are intense and aggressive like he is, it can be a match made in heaven. And I know those guys in Phoenix are hungry.”
Paul was playing at an MVP level last season when he led the Thunder to the playoffs. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 36.5 percent from 3-point range. That’s just a tick below his career 37 percent average from beyond the arc.
That season came after helping the Rockets, Clippers and Hornets to the playoffs over the course of the last decade.
When he’s not being one of the best point guards in the league (even at age 36), Paul also finds time to work as president of the NBA players association.
“He’s a great player,” Carlisle said. “And he’s a winner. In my opinion, he’s a great leader. I look at what he’s done as president of the players association and what he continues to do on the floor for whichever team he’s on – his teams always have had success.”
Richardson will have his hands full, for sure. When he’s not guarding Paul, he’ll be trying to contain Booker, who averaged 26.6 points and 6.5 assists last season when he earned his first all-star berth and was named to the all-seeding-games first team.
“A guy like Book, nobody’s going to stop him, shut him down,” Richardson said. “He’s going to get to his spots and do what he does. We came in the same draft class, so I’ve played against him since we got in the league. I know how talented he is. And he’s very aggressive. Honestly, I’m just going to try to slow him down and play solid for our team.”