Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Feb 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) sits alone on the bench just before their game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out that not even the NBA Finals can put a pause on the NBA rumor mill.

Especially when it relates to one of most notable players of this generation, with the future of Phoenix point guard Chris Paul absolutely up in the air with the Kevin Durant-infused Suns looking to maximize their current window with a championship.

Midway through a four-year, $130 million contract with the Suns, the 38-year-old Paul is staring down what almost certainly feels like a divorce from the team he’s spent the last three years trying to lead to a championship, with their greatest effort coming back in 2021 with an NBA Finals loss to the Bucks. And when it comes to the reported split between Paul and the Suns, there’s been talk of the Suns trading Paul, and there’s been talk of the Suns outright waiving Paul.

And, naturally, there’s been talk of Paul coming to the Celtics.

  • The talk of Paul seemed to gain some traction courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, who linked Boston to Paul given their potential need and want for more on-floor playmaking skills.

    One of the game’s all-time great passers, Paul remained a strong assist threat in 2022-23, as his 8.9 assists per game ranked fourth among all players during the regular season. Paul is also fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists per game leaderboard, with his 9.47 dimes per game trailing only Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, and Magic Johnson.

    And in addition to his 8.9 assists per game in 2022-23, Paul also remained a relatively effective scoring threat as a primarily pass-first talent, with 13.9 points per game on 44 percent shooting (37.5 percent from beyond the arc).

  • Dec 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) against the Boston Celtics in the first half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) against the Boston Celtics in the first half at Footprint Center. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

  • A move that sees Paul come to the Celtics would immediately make him the Green’s top playmaking threat at the No. 1, and for a Celtics team that already averaged the seventh-most assists per game during the regular season.

    That is with absolutely no disrespect to the Celtics’ current options at that spot — namely Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon — but there’s no denying that their presences are as more of shooting threats than pass-first threats.

    Paul would also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to a Celtics team that has always felt like it’s needed more, as Paul’s 1,214 games of NBA experience rank as the third-most among active players, and 42nd all time.

  • Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the second half at Footprint Center. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

  • But with that experience comes pain and concern.

    For one, Paul’s injury woes are well documented at this point.

    In fact, Paul has had a nasty habit of getting injured in the playoffs and went through that once again in 2023 with a groin injury that sidelined him for the final four games of the Suns’ second-round series loss to the Nuggets. Paul’s most infamous playoff injury had to come back in 2018 when a hamstring injury forced him to miss Games 6 and 7 of Houston’s third-round showdown with the Warriors. The Rockets would go on to lose both of those games.

    But Paul is also one of the most accomplished players in league history to have never won a championship.

    When it comes to postseason experience without a championship, Paul is one of the game’s all-time greats. His 149 games of postseason experience are actually the sixth-most among players who have never won a title. The names ahead of him on that list? Karl Malone (193), John Stockton (182), Al Horford (167), Sam Perkins (167), and James Harden (160). While it’s unfair to put the lack of championships on one player, there’s also a legitimate case to be made for the Celtics not being the team to take that chance when it comes to Paul. If anything, they need someone who has been through the wars and won, not another guy who’s simply done what they’ve already done.

  • Feb 7, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Boston Celtics guard Jeff Teague (55) during the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 7, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Boston Celtics guard Jeff Teague (55) during the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

  • There’s also the cost element and what the Celtics could and would offer Paul.

    If Paul hits the free agent market, the Celtics would seemingly find themselves in a bidding war with the likes of the Lakers, Clippers, Heat, and more. Paul has ties to Los Angeles, and after the Heat thumped the Celtics in this year’s postseason, it’s entirely possible that Paul looks at them as a better option for his path to a championship. The Celtics could also simply not have the money to entice Paul to join ’em, too, with Jaylen Brown officially eligible for a super-max contract and Grant Williams headlining the team’s list of restricted free agents.

    And if the Suns and Celtics were to make a trade involving Paul, not only would the Celtics be adding Paul’s gigantic contract, but they would be doing it surely at the expense of a Smart, Brogdon, and/or Derrick White plus more. At 38, and with Paul’s injury history, that might be a downright terrible idea for the C’s.

    But for now, the rumor mill will keep on churning out the hits, and with Paul and the Celtics seemingly like a potential option until proven otherwise.

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