Father Time is undefeated. The expression is as old as – well time itself. And as a barely 6’1’’ point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul is at increased risk of being hampered by age.
What works in Paul’s favor, however, is that he has never relied heavily on his underrated athleticism to generate his offense. A deft ball-handler and exceptional play-maker, Paul’s basketball talents do seem suited for playing deep into his 30s.
After being dealt from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder, CP3’s contract was widely viewed as one of the worst in the league as he entered his age 34 season. After performing well in OKC there has been some talk of Paul having a resurgent year. Statistically however this hardly holds water.
Truth is, in OKC, Paul’s assist numbers notably suffered while he had the second best shooting season of his career, posting a True Shooting Percentage of 61.0%. Rather than a clear cut decline or improvement in his game across the board, it may be more accurate to opine that Paul adapted his game in OKC.
Playing alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, he shared some of the play-making responsibilities. Additionally, rather than the isolation heavy style of play he excelled at with the Houston Rockets, he was called upon to run an offense more reliant on pick and rolls – something Paul also excels at.
Rather than being a system player – regardless of how you may feel about that term – Paul is an offensive system. This is precisely how he gained the moniker “Point God” to begin with. Sometimes, seen as an over-dribbler, Paul dictates the flow of the offense until he finds the right shot for either himself or a teammate.
After mostly embracing the way of Daryl Morey in Houston, Chris Paul reverted to his prolific mid-range shot with the Thunder. An ill-advised shot for an average player, but as one of the most accurate mid-range shooters of all-time, Paul is no average player.
While predicting the decline of an older NBA player is a somewhat predictable if not lazy exercise, all declines are not created equally. In Paul’s case, it is not entirely clear that he has declined yet at all. Yes, athletically he has clearly slowed a bit, and not able to get around defenders with the same snap he could in his younger years.
However, he seems to have mostly masked his physical decline by ramping up his already absurdly high basketball IQ. Much like LeBron James, who is essentially the game plan when on the floor, Paul will likely continue to play at a high level for several more seasons if he chooses to. This is not because he is immune to aging, but because he understands his limitations as they slowly expand with age.
Instead of resigning totally to his gradually diminishing physical capabilities, Paul combines a sharp tool-kit with a next level basketball IQ and ability to both anticipate team defenses and manipulate individual defenders.
This is not to totally dismiss his athletic abilities either. To be clear, Paul may not have the freakish quick twitch athleticism of someone like Russell Westbrook, but he is still quite the athlete. Paul, even at age 35, can accelerate and decelerate like an electric vehicle. His physical decline is largely relative to himself, as he can still hold his own against most guards in the league.
And though diminutive guards are typically known for their speed and quickness, Paul is deceptively strong for his size, often able to use his body as a shield against bigger defenders. So whether you call him CP3 or the Skate Instructor, just understand that Chris Paul is still first and foremost – the Point God.