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Chris Paul is the NBA’s great superstar journeyman

Chris Paul has bounced from team to team as one of the greatest point guards in league history.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the many benefits of being a superstar player in the NBA is that it usually comes with a level of job security. Very rarely are you switching teams unless you are the one who asks out. And even then, you still usually don’t play for more than two to three teams for the entirety of your career.

Chris Paul hasn’t really had that luxury. Some of that is on him (he’s requested trades before). But some of it has been out of his control — like this most recent sequence of transactions. In any event, Paul is the ultra-rare superstar journeyman. And to commemorate his designation, we took a trip down memory lane to recap his odyssey.

It all started in 2005 when he was drafted with the fourth overall pick (right after one Deron Williams) by the then-New Orleans Hornets. He went on to become a franchise icon, leading the team to their best season in franchise history (coming one win away from the Western Conference Finals in 2008).

Then, in December of 2011, Paul was part of a three-team deal with the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers that would pair him up with the legendary Kobe Bryant. Oh, wait, that trade never happened, as it was vetoed by the league’s front office.

But never fear. Paul was still going to Los Angeles before the calendar flipped to 2012. The only catch is he was doing so as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. From there, Paul led the Clippers to their most prosperous stretch as a franchise up to that time, leading them to, you guessed it, being one win away from the Western Conference Finals in 2015.

After six seasons with the Clippers (the same amount of time he spent in New Orleans), Paul was traded in the summer of 2017 to the other team in the vetoed three-team trade we mentioned: the Rockets. Paul spent two years there, and while he didn’t lead them to their best run as a franchise ever (that was Hakeem Olajuwon), he did one-up his success at his last two spots – leading them one win away from the NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, Paul and James Harden weren’t exactly bro-ing it out together in Houston. And since Harden was younger (and better at the time), the Rockets parted ways with The Point God – sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019.

Despite joining a team that was supposed to be starting a long rebuild, Paul greatly enjoyed his one-year sabbatical in Oklahoma City. However, he spoiled the front office’s tanking plans, propelling a team that was projected to win 39.6 percent of their games to a 61.1 percent winning percentage during the abbreviated 2019-20 regular season. And while it wasn’t as glamorous as the conference finals or NBA Finals, his Thunder were one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals.

Since he was too good at his job, the Thunder traded him during the 2020 off-season to the Phoenix Suns. Paul would spend the next three years of his career with the Suns, being a part of five playoff series victories in the process. Oh, and Paul finally made the NBA Finals there, too, falling two wins shy of being an NBA Champion (man, it would have been so much more poetic had it been one win away again).

To reward him for his services, the Suns sent Paul to basketball paradise (not really) by shipping him off to the newly-tanking Washington Wizards as a salary-matcher for Bradley Beal. Fortunately, he never officially became a member of the Wizards, as they were able to find a third team to join the trade and take on Paul. That team is his sixth (and final?) team: the Golden State Warriors.

To recap, Paul has now been a member of the Hornets, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Suns, and Warriors. And he’s almost been on the Lakers and Wizards (he was also almost traded to the Brooklyn Nets, but that’s a different story for a different day).

Some people may see all this movement as an indictment on Paul as a basketball player. But everywhere he’s played, he’s managed to push his team to a brand new level (aka The Chris Paul effect), even if he does always seem to come up short (no pun intended).

In any event, let’s hope this is Paul’s last time joining a new team because as we all know, moving stinks.