Since his third season in the NBA through the 2015-16 campaign, point guard Chris Paul was named an All-Star for nine consecutive seasons.
After a pair of trades and a three-year hiatus, the Thunder leader learned Thursday night that league coaches had voted him in as a member of the Western Conference All-Star team. This marks is the 10th career selection for the man who ranks in the all-time top 10 in both assists and steals.
Paul is having a resurgent season in OKC, averaging 17.2 points on 48.3 percent shooting, the fifth-best of his career and his highest since the 2014-15 season when he was 29 years old. In addition to ranking second in the NBA in shooting percentage on jumpers (47.5 percent), he is also knocking down 36.4 percent of his 3-point attempts and 89.8 percent of his free throws this year while missing just one game and zero due to injury.
Per usual, Paul has also been a distributor for the Thunder this year, racking up 6.4 assists to lead the team while also snaring 1.6 steals per contest. The most significant aspect of Paul’s on-court All-Star case has come in the last five minutes of games. OKC has been fantastic in crunch-time over the past two months of the season and Paul has been a major reason why. He leads the league in scoring when the game is inside five minutes with the margin within five or fewer points.
“Chris keeps our team really composed,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “(He’s) keeping notes of what is going on, how are they guarding, what are they doing in certain situations. He’s always taking inventory of the game. When he puts his fingerprints on the game, he has a lot of information that he’s drawing upon to be able to make those decisions.”
As he has throughout his career, Paul has made a living in the pick and roll, attacking right around screens to get to his fadeaway jumper at the elbow. If the shot isn’t there, Paul finds big men like Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel for lobs or kicks out to Danilo Gallinari on the perimeter. On the defensive end, Paul hustles to get around screens and place himself squarely between his man and the rim. When on the helpside, Paul is constantly aware of opposing teams’ offensive actions and ready to sneak in for a steal or deflection on a pass into the middle of the floor.
“You’re not going to shoot it great every night,” he said. “That’s why it’s always nice when you play both ends, you can sometimes energize your team with your defense. It’s a lost art.”
Off the court, Paul has been instrumental to the team’s overall success. He’s got an arm around teammates, points out crucial information in huddles and encourages teammates to play confidently within their skill sets and roles. Despite undergoing such significant changes in the off-season and rolling out lineups with three point guards on the floor at the same time, Paul has helped keep the group in harmony.
“That’s the thing about our team. It’s not just one guy, and it’s fun seeing guys to get off like that,” he said. “That’s what’s fun about this team and why we do have the ability to be a lot better than what other people think.”
The result has been a 29-20 record, with the Thunder solidly in the seventh spot in the Western Conference and threatening a further rise in the standings.