Chris Paul unpacks his 11,075 assists: Can he name the 10 players he’s assisted most?

PHOENIX — Four minutes into the New Orleans Hornets’ 2005 season opener, Chris Paul dribbled left and pulled up for a jump shot. The rookie point guard had no chance. Sacramento forward Bonzi Wells read the play and contested the shot.

In the air, Paul improvised and dumped a bounce pass to P.J. Brown. The veteran forward turned and sank a 13-foot jumper. And just like that, Chris Paul had the first assist of his NBA career. At the time, no one knew he’d still be setting up teammates 17 years later.

Paul returned from a heel injury on Wednesday night, dishing out four assists in a forgettable Suns loss to the Boston Celtics. That gave the veteran point guard 11,075 career assists, which trails only John Stockton (15,806) and Jason Kidd (12,091) in NBA history.

With the help of NBA Stats, I recently charted each assist to tabulate which teammates Paul had assisted most. Before his return from injury, I met up with the future Hall of Famer before a home game and asked if he could name the top 10.

Here’s how our conversation outside the Phoenix locker room unfolded:

Paul: I got to name the top 10?

Haller: Yes, and if you could, share a little about your connection with each guy.

Paul: Let me try to name them first, and you can tell me if I get them right. No. 1 has probably got to be Blake Griffin.

Haller: That’s correct.

Paul: No. 2 is David West. No. 3 … JJ Redick. Or no?

Haller: There’s a huge drop-off from West to Redick, but, yes, Redick is third.

Paul: After that, I played with (DeAndre Jordan) for six years. He’s top 10, but he’s not fourth.

Haller: Actually, he is fourth. You got the Lob City guys out of the way.

Paul: No. 5 is … Tyson Chandler?

Haller: Chandler is tied for seventh.

Paul: But he’s in the top 10. Peja (Stojaković)?

Haller: He’s No. 5. This is where it gets difficult.

Paul: I only played two years in Houston, so there can’t be no teammates from Houston. It’s got to be all Clippers and New Orleans.

Haller: (Houston’s top assist recipient) Eric Gordon is 14th.

Paul: Yeah, I knew it would be EG and not James (Harden). How many we got so far?

Haller: Six.

Paul: Not Matt Barnes.

Haller: No, but he’s close. He’s 12th.

Paul: Rasual Butler?

Haller: Yep. He’s No. 6.

Paul: Rest in peace. (Butler died in a car crash in 2018.) Bobby Jackson’s not on there.

Haller: He is not.

Paul: Morris Peterson?

Haller: He’s 17th — not top 10.

Paul: Not Willie Green.

Phoenix assistant coach Jarrett Jack walks by. He played with Paul for one season in New Orleans.

Paul: I know J-Jack isn’t on there.

(Paul assisted Jack 19 times.)

Jack: What’s that?

Paul: The top 10 people I have assisted.

Jack guesses the usual suspects: Griffin, West and Chandler.

Jack: Is Emeka Okafor on there?

Haller: He is not in the top 10.

Paul: Oh, my God. This is bothering me.

Jack: Clint Capela?

Paul: No.

Haller: He’s No. 18.

Paul: Chauncey (Billups is) not on there.

Jack: Marco Belinelli?

Haller: No, but that’s a good guess.

Paul: Man, I usually know this stuff.

Haller: You’re missing three.

Paul: All guards?

Haller: One’s a big man.

Paul: Carl Landry? Hell, no.

Haller: One was one of the best sixth men in the NBA.

Paul: Jamal! Jamal Crawford! I’m trippin’!

Haller: He’s 10th.

Paul: Man, he’s 10 and he didn’t even play all those years with me.

Haller: The guy tied with Chandler for seventh plays the same position.

Paul: The same position as Tyson. I played with (Jordan). Emeka …

Suns coach Monty Williams walks by.

Paul: Coach, top 10 guys I assisted in my career.

Jack: We got like eight of them.

Paul and Jack go through the names.

Williams: Emeka?

Paul: No, he wasn’t on there!

Williams and Paul discuss Okafor for a few seconds. Williams disappears into the locker room.

Paul: Give me a hint.

Haller: These last two guys have climbed the list quickly.

Paul: No way, Book. Book is in the top 10?

Haller: Devin Booker is ninth.

Jack: I didn’t know he counted.

Paul: And DA?

Haller: Deandre Ayton is tied for seventh.

Paul: I’ve played with them for just (a little more than) two years!

Jack: Let me tell you something they told me when I played at Golden State. They told me in one year I had more assists to Steph (Curry) than Monta (Ellis) and Steph had in the time they played combined.

It’s less than an hour before the Suns tip off against the Chicago Bulls, and Paul, who isn’t playing because of the heel injury, is needed inside the locker room.

Paul: When we finish the team meeting, I’ll come back out.

That allows for some time to recap Paul’s career.

The New Orleans Hornets selected him with the fourth pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. They knew from the point guard’s pre-draft workout they had something special.

“His basketball IQ was off the chart,” then-New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “Everything we threw at him, it didn’t take him long to process it and put it into play. He shot the ball much better than we expected. Then, (with) one of our coaches, we played every guy that came in two-on-two, and he was the only guy that beat us all three times.”

“When he came in, he was quiet,” former New Orleans teammate Speedy Claxton said. “I don’t think he wanted to step on anybody’s toes. But once he got on the court, that’s when he became outspoken and loud, and you just knew right from Day 1 that he was going to be a very special player.”

Chris Paul has even more climbing to do on the NBA’s all-time assists list. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)

After six seasons with New Orleans, Paul was traded to the Clippers, where he teamed with Griffin and Jordan. This was the dawn of “Lob City,” but Paul also dished to shooters like Redick and Randy Foye.

“You know what I loved?” said Foye, who played with Paul in Los Angeles for one season. “When Blake would set like an angle pick-and-roll or a side pick-and-roll, Blake did that and he would dive to the basket. Chris was coming off (the screen). JJ Redick lived off of it. I got contracts off it. But it was like pick your poison. Either my man was going to tag, or he was going to leave me open for a 3. And a lot of times people didn’t want to be dunked on by Blake Griffin, so they tagged him and Chris kicked out to me and I made a lot of 3s.”

“There’s angles and holes,” former Clippers assistant coach Armond Hill said. “Even if it’s just a pocket pass. For a split second, there’s a hole that you got to get that ball through. Not only did Chris see it, but he was able to throw it. A lot of guys can’t see it and are afraid to throw it.”

In 2017, Paul was traded to Houston, where he played for two seasons. In 2019, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. A year later, he was sent to Phoenix, where he has helped turn the Suns into a championship contender. Paul will turn 38 in May, but those close to him don’t see him retiring anytime soon.

“At the end of the season, he seems to have little unfortunate incidents that happen to him — hamstrings and so forth,” said former NBA point guard Muggsy Bogues, a fellow Wake Forest alum who has known Paul since Paul was in high school. “But those things are uncontrollable. He’s always in good shape. He does a good job of having his body ready. Hopefully, this year some of those unfortunates don’t happen at the end of the season, but I think he can play this game for as long as he wants.”

The team meeting is over, and Paul returns from the locker room. We start discussing the top 10 in greater detail.

Haller: Let’s start at the top. For a point guard, it had to be fun playing with Blake Griffin.

Paul: This always happens in life, but I think I appreciated Blake so much more after the fact. I’ll be on Instagram or YouTube and be looking at clips of when we played together. I don’t think anybody has been as explosive. There was one, and I think it was on a fast break, I like threw it ahead and there’s this picture of him dunking it and I’m walking the other way. It was so fun. I think we played in Utah one year, and we started out like the first 12 or 14 points of the game were off dunks.

(Paul isn’t far off. On Feb. 1, 2012, Paul assisted the Clippers’ first five field goals, all dunks, in a win over the Jazz.)

Haller: And then it seems like David West was your Karl Malone.

Paul: No question. D-West was the best 17-foot shooter I’ve ever seen. And the funny part is, I used to get mad at him for not shooting 3s. He’d say, “Peezy, that’s fool’s gold.” But he shot it so effortless. And I don’t know if you know this, but we played for the same college coach. He went to Xavier, and we both played for Skip Prosser. I was in college one day, and I walked into the coach’s office and D-West was sitting there. (I had no idea) that one day I would go on and he would become one of my favorite teammates.

Haller: You were in Los Angeles two years before JJ Redick joined the Clippers. How did he change things?

Paul: Man, me and JJ started crazy because we hated each other in college. (The whole Wake Forest-Duke thing.) I remember exactly where I was when (then-Clippers coach) Doc (Rivers) called me and told me we had a chance to get JJ. I was like, “Get him.” And JJ is so detail-oriented, which is why we get along. We are both crazy when it comes to details. Back then, I played the entire first quarter. All those years I played with JJ he was the No. 1 first-quarter scorer in the league. He would have like 12-14 points in the first quarter every night. He just had a motor.

Haller: Doc was calling up those plays he used for Ray Allen in Boston.

Paul: Exactly. Doc is very heavy in drawing up plays for shooters.

Haller: For DeAndre Jordan, was it as easy as just throwing a lob to the rim?

Paul: Everybody thinks that DJ was just about dunking, but it’s actually the angles of the screen. We spent time together after practices working on the footwork and going for lobs and showing him the angles of how to get me open. Once everybody thought I was open, now he’s on the rim. And nobody could jump as high as he could at his height.

Haller: What was it like playing with Peja?

Paul: He’s got a son that’s nice! (Andrej Stojaković, a top small forward in the 2023 high school recruiting class, recently committed to Stanford.) I remember his son being in the locker room. I’d always try to speak to him and he wouldn’t say anything, and now he’s a crazy hooper. But Peja, I didn’t realize how tall he is. He’s 6-10. And he doesn’t shoot the ball conventionally. It’s like a side stroke. The most effortless shooter I’ve seen. One game in L.A., he hit 10 3s against the Lakers. I had 21 assists. Tyson Chandler, who was our big man, told me if I ever got 20 assists, he’d give me whatever I wanted. He ended up giving me a necklace.

(Paul’s memory is correct. On Nov. 6, 2007, Stojaković hit 10 of 13 from deep in an 118-104 win over the Lakers.)

Haller: I don’t remember much about Rasual Butler.

Paul: Rasual played with me from my rookie year. He played the wing. He was a shooter. Before he died, we had worked out a few times together in L.A. But Rasual, David West, they were like my longest-tenured teammates.

Haller: “Lob City” actually started with Tyson Chandler, right?

Paul: You know “the snake” off the ball screen? I literally invented that my second year in the league with Tyson. Teams used to try and go under the ball screen because when I was younger I didn’t shoot it that well. So Tyson would set it there, I would go this way (Paul demonstrates this in the hallway outside the locker room), the guy would be trailing me and Tyson would come out of the pick-and-roll and that’s how the lob started.

Haller: And then Deandre Ayton is a totally different big.

Paul: Tyson, nine times out of 10 it was a lob or drop-off. DA’s different because you can hit him in the pocket. He’s got a nice floater. He can get lobs. He can get all these different things.

Haller: When you got to Phoenix, did you know Devin Booker was as good as he was?

Paul: I knew how good he was. I think for me, when I thought about coming here, I felt like I could make him even better. Just to make it easier on him.

Haller: Why did Jamal Crawford making the top 10 surprise you?

Paul: Because he’s a ballhandler like me. But he’s a basketball savant, a junkie. Me and him still talk all the time.

Paul’s teammates emerge from the locker room, ready to take the court. They start clapping.

Haller: Well, (Suns teammate) Mikal Bridges is only seven behind him, so Crawford won’t be in the top 10 very long.

Paul: Oh, wow. That’s crazy.

CP assisted (source: NBA stats)

Name Team Assisted FGs

Blake Griffin



David West



JJ Redick



DeAndre Jordan



Peja Stojakovic



Rasual Butler



Deandre Ayton



Tyson Chandler



Devin Booker



Jamal Crawford



Mikal Bridges



Matt Barnes



Caron Butler



Eric Gordon



Trevor Ariza



Emeka Okafor



Morris Peterson



Clint Capela



Jae Crowder



Willie Green



(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos of Chris Paul: Brian Sivald, Ned Dishman, Tim Warner, Layne Murdoch and Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)


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