You have a 1-2 year window to win a championship and are one two-way guard away from a chip. You have two options: Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul.
Who are you taking?
This hypothetical is fun as hell as both players are franchise-altering in a variety of ways. One guy is 36, has a long history of being injured at all the wrong times but is also maybe the greatest natural leader in NBA history with a clutch gene that runs deeper than a lot of pundits give him credit for. The other is a 31-year-old, elite two-way on-ball defender, a relentless demon but isn’t exactly much of a talker.
When you break down their stats, they are really quite similar:
Chris Paul: 18/5/9 and 47/37/87 with 19/4/9 in the 2021 Playoffs
Jrue Holiday: 16/4/6 and 46/36/79 with 17/6/8 in the 2021 Playoffs
Both play elite defense but you can say at this stage in his career, Jrue is a much better on-ball defender for the full 48 minutes. Chris has mostly been a more reliable bucket getter.
And in this series, both players have struggled. Other than Game 3, Jrue is 15-55 from the field and 40% for the playoffs as a whole (30% from three).
Chris Paul was directly responsible for the Suns losing Game 4, where they led for 39 of the first 44 minutes. He’s had 15 turnovers in the past 5 games, something he has not come close to doing all year.
Fun hypothetical but also a reality for the Bucks, it turns out.
"One of Milwaukee’s best options to create a true championship-worthy troika, seemingly, was Chris Paul. … The Bucks indeed considered a trade run at Paul for many of the same reasons that the Phoenix Suns ultimately did. Milwaukee was perceived to be far closer to title contention than Phoenix after posting the league’s best regular-season record in back-to-back seasons, but the Bucks had a clear need for Paul’s veteran know-how after bitter postseason disappointment."
Turns out that the Bucks, though, liked another Western Conference guard even better than Paul. One source familiar with Milwaukee’s thinking insists that constructing a trade with New Orleans to acquire Jrue Holiday was their preferred scenario.
Or they liked Chris Paul a little better but realized they had the ability to get a younger, more eager dance partner for the long term.
After the effects of COVID, there was no way CP3 wanted to sacrifice being near his family for a championship even though it looked last summer like Milwaukee was WAY closer to a chip than Phoenix so Milwaukee went with the next best thing. Jrue.
So yeah, Mr. Right versus Mr. Right Now.
The Suns season and this series rests on Chris Paul’s shoulders. This is a legacy-defining game for him. Only five teams have ever lost the title, having gone up 2-0, but CP3 seems… unphased? Yesterday he said, “You have to have a short memory. You can’t dwell on it, win or lose. If you win by 20, if you lose by 20, you start back over 0-0. You go from there. That’s sort of always been the mindset.”
This to me is the matchup to watch. Chris Paul vs Jrue Holiday, and since the winner of Game 5 has won a chip 75% of the time? A lot is on the line.