Yes, Chris Paul failed miserably. But here's why the Phoenix Suns guard deserves better

Greg Moore
Arizona Republic

Chris Paul deserves better.

He might have failed — miserably — in Game 7 on Sunday night. He might have some other high-profile fizzles on his resume. And he might be an easy target for criticism because he’s so gosh-darn perfect.

But he doesn’t deserve to have to deal with an army of social media soldiers questioning his place among the game’s greats.

Paul is a 12-time All-Star, and at 6-feet tall, he’s the shortest player with a dozen selections or more.

He’s been All-NBA 10 times, a number that should rise when this year’s selections are announced, and again, every player ahead of him on the list is taller, according to statistics on Basketball-Reference.com.

Paul has led the league in assists five times, including this season at 36 years old.  

He’s third on the all-time assists list, behind only Jason Kidd and John Stockton.

And four times, he’s led a team to its best season in franchise history, including this year’s 64-win Suns.

None of that erases the frustration fans feel after watching Paul fade in the second half of the Dallas series. Paul averaged 23.5 points per game with 11 assists and one turnover in the first two games of the series. He averaged 9.4 points with 29 assists and 18 turnovers over the last five games. And Game 7's 10-point performance allows for a special type of annoyance. 

Read more: Phoenix Suns slammed for apology letter to fans after Game 7 loss

May 15, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz. U.S.; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals at Footprint Center.

It doesn’t erase the compound chagrin that stems from the stumbles in the 2021 NBA Finals when Paul wasn’t able to lift the Suns past a hard-charging Bucks squad.  

It certainly doesn’t erase the reality that five times Paul has been the leader of teams that have lost in the playoffs after taking 2-0 series leads, including the last two seasons with the Suns.  

All of that goes together when discussing Paul’s legacy.

CP3: Suns point guard Chris Paul has tough ending to great season

Paul becomes a bigger target when you consider the popularity of his run as a squeaky-clean insurance salesman in a string of commercials over the last decade.

Paul, a detail-oriented basketball junkie, also served as head of the NBA Players Association for eight years.

To sum it up, Paul has done everything right in his career, even if he’s struggled in some big moments.

Paul has excelled in big moments, too.

Who could forget last season’s run as Close-Out Chris? He had 12 assists without a turnover in eliminating LeBron and the Lakers. He went for 37 to get rid of the Nuggets. (Suns in four!) And he frustrated Patrick Beverly into a meltdown, scoring 41 points with eight assists to get rid of the Clippers. 

Paul looked incredible in this year’s playoffs, too. Over the first eight games of the postseason, Paul was averaging 22.6 points and 9.9 assists.

Anyone trying to run Paul out of Phoenix or the NBA by calling for unreasonable trades or Paul’s retirement, might consider going back to 2017, 2018 and 2019 and look at what the Suns were in those days.

I’d also ask them to look at the step up that the Suns took after Paul arrived ahead of the 2021 season.

Again, Game 7 against Dallas will stain Paul’s legacy. There’s no getting around that.

It creates an opportunity for Paul to reinvent himself.

Read more: Did Suns' trash talk come back to haunt them?

May 15, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) reacts against the Dallas Mavericks during game seven of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center.

Perhaps that means he learns to be more free in launching long jumpers, as seems to be the trend with smaller guards?

Perhaps Paul, already a willing facilitator, becomes even more of a distributor and coach on the floor, saving himself as a scorer solely for the postseason?

Maybe he gets back in the gym and comes back the same as always, and the Suns win it all because all of the lucky bounces that have gone against him start to rebound his way?

Time will tell.

But he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.

Just as he earned the trust of coach Monty Williams to play through his struggles against Dallas.

Maybe that’s the difference? Maybe if Paul had some sort of injury that he kept from fans and the media, he should have pulled himself from the lineup, knowing that he wasn’t able to play up to his standard?

But Chris Paul deserves better.

He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

He shouldn’t have to deal with an army of social media soldiers questioning that.

From 64 wins to this: 5 takeaways from Suns' lopsided loss to Mavs: Big 3 no show

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.