Chris Paul is the last of his kind. He proved on the Thunder just how valuable he is to his team, but there isn’t anyone quite like Paul in the league anymore.
There were once several kinds of these players like Jason Kidd on the Nets and Mavericks, or Danny Granger on the Pacers.
The player-coach era seems to be coming to an end.
There are a lot of solid leaders in the NBA. LeBron, Kawhi, and Giannis all lead their teams and elevate the play as a unit, but it’s not the same as Chris Paul.
Paul spent his season with the Thunder as the dad for a bunch of young players.
After the Thunder blew up their team, trading Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Thunder, their return was Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, young stud Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a lifetime’s supply of first-round draft picks.
Along with Shai, the Thunder had a truck-load of young players including Luguentz Dort, Hamidou Diallo, and Darius Bazley. Players like Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams also benefited from his leadership.
Proof of how Paul led this team into the playoffs in a pure team effort is in the stats. No player on the Thunder averaged 20 points, but four players averaged more than 17 and five averaged double-digits.
After Westbrook left Paul came, the culture among the Thunder immediately changed. Paul brought a culture of unity and teamwork as opposed to Westbrook’s and George’s play through star method.
This culture that Paul brought helped the Thunder exceed all expectations. Not only did they make the playoffs, they got the #5-seed and as of now, forced a game seven against James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Houston Rockets, a teams seen as a championship contender, and they have a great chance of making the second round.
While Paul may have replaced Kidd as the new player-coach, there doesn’t appear to be anyone replacing Paul. Chris may be the last of his breed, but he showed just how effective his role can be. Paul is the perfect send-off as the player-coach era comes to a close.