Is Chris Paul a loser? An underachiever? A meme pointing out his inability to take a team past the conference semifinals suggests that both claims are true. This will be another season CP3 tries to change his legacy and lead the Clippers somewhere they’ve never been before.
Paul is entering his 11th NBA season. He’s a nine-time NBA All-Star, 8-time on different All-NBA teams and 8 times on All-NBA defensive teams. He’s led the NBA in assists four times, and led the NBA in steals six times. He has the numbers to make it into the hall of fame, something that will happen five years after he retires. On Basketball-Reference similarity scores he’s likened to Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson and others. In short, Paul is a superstar, and one of the best point guards in the history of the NBA. But part of a legacy is showing you’ve been part of a great team. Not necessarily a championship team, but coming close to it at least.
For now, no. He made the conference semifinals with the Hornets (before New Orleans switched to Pelicans) and three times with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 2015 the Clippers stunned the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and had a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets in the semis. It’s not quite clear how they collapsed in that series and got knocked out, but it just added to the long list of almosts and shortcomings he has with the Clippers and his previous team.
Interesting fact, pointed out by the following meme: Since 2000, only two Western conference franchises have failed to make the conference finals. The Clippers, with Paul on the team since the 2011-2012 season, and the Pelicans, who have made the playoffs just once since he left. The Clippers have made the playoffs in all five of Paul’s seasons in Los Angeles, but got knocked out in the first round twice, and bounced three times in the conference semis. Paul losing control of the game and making unforgivable mistakes in crunch time goes along with these playoff failures, especially the 2014 series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Maybe winning or contending for a championship with Paul as the number one player, or getting paid like a max, just isn’t possible. We’ll find out this season, as it feels like all-or-nothing for both Paul, who’ll be 32 next May, and for the Clippers, as both Paul and Blake Griffin can get out of their contracts this summer.