Chris Paul is rolling right now, quieting early fears that Father Time had already struck. (The notion that Paul was washed up following a string of poor performances was an odd one – he hadn’t shown the sort of gradual indicators consistent with age.) But the 33-year-old will eventually regress as everyone does. It’s inevitable. After acquiring him via trade from the Clippers, when questions regarding the Rockets’ impending decision over his free agency were a hot discussion point, I had been arguing that I expected Paul to age gracefully like his basketball forebears in John Stockton and Steve Nash. Like those two diminutive, unathletic, but supremely cerebral point guards, I thought Paul’s overall shooting, passing, and IQ would allow him to remain highly effective even into his late 30’s. I still hold that opinion.
But Mike D’Antoni’s current offense revolves around the need for James Harden and Paul to be able to capitalize on mismatches (after switches) in isolation opportunities. As Paul’s quickness diminishes with age, he’ll lose effectiveness in isolation. His midrange pull-up won’t be as much of a threat because defenders won’t be as fearful of him driving past them to the basket.
At some point, in the next few years, D’Antoni will need to change Paul’s role. If he doesn’t want to change his system, Daryl Morey will need to acquire another star. That’s why Jimmy Butler had made so much sense. Most of the focus was upon what he could do on the defensive end. But with Butler as an All-Star caliber offensive option, the team could have reduced Paul’s load and eventually transitioned out entirely to Butler. Butler was the rare player that would have fit almost perfectly on both ends. He’s of course now off the table.