In this blog, we will be comparing the two NBA players, Chris Paul and Isiah Thomas. Both players have had successful careers, but there are some key differences between them. Chris Paul is a point guard who is known for his excellent shooting and playmaking abilities. On the other hand, Isiah Thomas was a point guard who was known for his scoring and physicality.
Chris Paul vs Isiah Thomas
- Isiah Thomas: 2 (1989, 1990)
- Finals Record: 2-1
- Chris Paul: 0
- Finals record: 0-1
Most of his contemporaries and critics revere Isiah Thomas because he accomplished something that very few players have accomplished: winning three NBA championships with the same team. Thomas was not just a vocal leader on the court and a brilliant performer, but he was also a winner of the highest kind. The first time Thomas and the Detroit Pistons made the Finals was in 1988, when they faced Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The series did not finish in Thomas’ favor, as the Magic and Finals MVP James Worthy were able to sneak past a hungry Pistons squad in a thrilling Game 7. The game ended 108-105, with Worthy scoring 36 points in the final seconds. Thomas and the Pistons, as expected, were not going to go quietly.
He led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA Finals for the second time in 1989, averaging 21.3 points per game and 7.3 assists in a 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pistons were hungry, talented, and aggressive enough to take care of business against their Western Conference rivals. Joe Dumars was voted Finals MVP.
The second straight championship occurred in 1990, when Thomas had his best series, averaging 27.6 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, and 7.0 assists per game while directing the Detroit attack. The Pistons took care of business against the Portland Trail Blazers, who included Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey, thanks to a 5-game “gentleman’s sweep.” With back-to-back championships, the Pistons are also one of only two teams in NBA history to do so without an MVP award winner.
Chris Paul has yet to win an NBA championship despite being nearly 37 years old. He has a chance to win at least one award with the Phoenix Suns, who are loaded with youthful talents such as Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Deandre Ayton. Paul made the Finals for the first time when he was 36 years old, in 2021. Paul, the team’s leader, had a tremendous series, averaging 21.8 points per game and 8.2 assists per game.
However, the Phoenix Suns were outmatched in every way by a Milwaukee Bucks team headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Suns were defeated in six games by the Bucks’ excellent defense, Giannis’ dominance, and some dubious defensive techniques by head coach Monty Williams. While this was a heartbreaking loss for an older Chris Paul, he is confident that he will return to the NBA Finals.
However, Paul’s chances of matching Isiah Thomas’ career total of two NBA championships remain slim.
Advantage: Isiah Thomas
Finals MVP Awards
- Isiah Thomas: 1 (1990)
- Chris Paul: 0
It’s only natural for Isiah Thomas to have a Finals MVP trophy after winning two championships with the Detroit Pistons. His performances in the 1990 Finals series against the elite Portland Trail Blazers squad were obviously outstanding, as putting up 27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.4 BPG on 54.2% from the field are superstar figures.
Thomas deserves a lot of credit for pulling off a remarkable feat by winning his second straight championship. Interestingly, Thomas hit 11 of 16 three-point attempts throughout the series for a 68.8% success rate. Isiah also outscored Clyde Drexler, a guy considered an exceptional offensive player, and led all players in PPG during the series.
Chris Paul has never won an NBA championship, and he has yet to win the Finals MVP award. The point guard will hopefully have an opportunity to become the top player on the best team in the Western Conference, as the Suns appear to remain a force for at least a few more years. Given his current form, CP3 may be able to play a few more seasons at an elite level.
Phoenix has plenty of depth surrounding Chris Paul, so playing on an elite team might extend the legend’s career long enough for him to play in a few more NBA Finals and possibly win his first Finals MVP award.
Advantage: Isiah Thomas
NBA MVP Awards
- Isiah Thomas: 0
- Chris Paul: 0
Isiah Thomas never won an MVP award, which is one of the reasons why his Detroit Pistons team, which won two NBA championships, is one of the most lauded teams in NBA history. What is the reason? That team didn’t have an MVP because their finest player, Thomas, never won one. His best finish in an MVP race was fifth. Thus he was fairly far off throughout his famous career.
Similarly, Chris Paul never won an MVP award. It appears that point guards, especially little ones, can only do so much in terms of putting up monster numbers and winning the title for best player in the world. Paul is an outstanding two-way player, and his best performance was second place in 2008, behind legendary shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Even if Paul came the closest to winning an MVP award, he still does not have one.
- Isiah Thomas: 5 (3 First Team, 2 Second Team)
- Chris Paul: 10 (4 First Team, 5 Second Team, 1 Third Team)
All-NBA Team choices are one of the most crucial determinants of a player’s career since they demonstrate a star’s ability to impact the game at a high level for their respective teams. Only 15 players are chosen for All-NBA Teams at the end of the year, thereby separating the cream from the rest of the crop. Isiah Thomas has only made 5 All-NBA teams in his career.
Thomas was an All-Star who turned it up a notch in the playoffs despite not putting up eye-popping stats during the regular season. Isiah, at 6’1″ and 180 pounds, could only accomplish so much in terms of putting up outstanding all-around numbers. Thomas was a playoff competitor who was named to five All-NBA teams throughout his career (3 First Teams). Of course, playing in the same league with outstanding players like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan cost him a lot of votes.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul has been named to ten All-NBA teams throughout his career. By the time the 2021-2022 All-NBA Teams are announced, CP3 will have made his 11th selection. Few point guards in the NBA today can provide the type of leadership that Paul does, especially now that the paradigm shift toward point guards playing slightly more selfishly has taken hold. Chris Paul is without a doubt one of the most consistent regular-season players of his generation, having made four First Teams and five Second Teams.
Advantage: Chris Paul
- Isiah Tomas: 12 All-Star Appearances, 2 All-Star Game MVPs
- Chris Paul: 12 All-Star Appearances, 1 All-Star Game MVP
Isiah Thomas made an astounding 12 straight All-Star Teams with the Detroit Pistons to begin his career because he was one of the top point guards in the game as soon as he arrived in the league. Thomas, an excellent scorer and playmaker, demonstrated the ability to put palace Detroit on the map as a tough club to beat in the East. In 1984 and 1986, he was named MVP of the All-Star Game.
Chris Paul has also made 12 All-Star appearances, beginning with his third season and continuing with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2020. There is no doubting Paul is an All-Star point guard because very few players in the NBA have the same impact on winning as CP3. In the 2013 NBA season, he was named All-Star MVP.
In terms of All-Star selections, there is nothing that separates the two great point guards.
- Isiah Thomas: 0
- Chris Paul: 9 (7 First Team, 2 Second Team)
Obviously, Chris Paul is one of the best point guard defenders we’ve ever seen. Paul has been named to 9 All-Defensive Teams in his career, including 7 First Team selections. Paul has led the league in steals six times and has an unbelievable career average of 2.1 SPG.
Meanwhile, despite being a valuable contributor on the defensive end of the court, Thomas has never been named to an All-Defensive Team. Isiah has a very excellent career average of 1.9 SPG, with a career-high 2.5 SPG coming in his second and third NBA seasons. Paul set career highs of 2.8 SPG and 2.7 SPG in his third and fourth seasons, respectively.
Chris Paul was a superior defender to Isiah Thomas in terms of numbers and All-Defensive Team appearances.
Advantage: Chris Paul
Total Win Shares
- Isiah Thomas: 80.7
- Chris Paul: 198.9
Win Shares is a statistic that attempts to distribute a team’s wins to each player on the roster. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set a single-season record for Win Shares with 25.4 in 1971-72 while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 63 games.
Chris Paul is difficult to compare to in terms of contributing to a winning team and nearly singlehandedly altering a club upon arriving. The Point God has done it before, with the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and, most recently, the Phoenix Suns.
Paul has managed to make all of his team’s playoff contenders because he improves everyone around him. He also ranks ninth all-time in total win shares, an astounding amount for a 6’0″ point guard. Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas has a decent but unspectacular victory share number.
For whatever reason, this advanced statistic demonstrates that Thomas was not as responsible for his team’s triumphs as Chris Paul was. While that narrative might be contested depending on their teammates and overall talent in the league, Chris Paul blows Thomas out of the water in this area.
Advantage: Chris Paul
Career Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
- Isiah Thomas: 18.1
- Chris Paul: 24.6
Player Efficiency Evaluation, or PER, is a statistic developed by John Hollinger with the objective of providing a comprehensive rating to each NBA player. Hollinger’s PER metric is unique in that it considers both a player’s positive and negative contributions on the court.
Chris Paul ranks 12th all-time in PER, with a figure of 24.6. In reality, every other player above him is a forward or a center. Paul’s PER for a small point player is simply extraordinary and unparalleled to any other point guard in league history. Paul is an outstanding shooter, averaging 47.3% from the field and 9.5 APG on only 2.4 TOV.
Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas has the 153rd highest PER in NBA history, which is good but not as good as Chris Paul’s. Thomas shot 45.2% from the field while contributing 9.3 APG on 3.8 TOV. His turnover rate was obviously considerably higher than Paul’s, resulting in a lower PER.
Advantage: Chris Paul
Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul 2-4
In the end, Chris Paul wins the career comparison. The Point God has a natural propensity to be a good regular-season participant since he improves whatever squad he joins. It’s amazing how Paul has made the playoffs with each team he’s played for, even though he’s only played for five of them. Chris Paul’s leadership, playmaking, and superior marksmanship have made him a vital leader for any team wanting to progress and win the playoffs.
Chris Paul is one of the most talented point guards of all time, having been named to 10 All-NBA teams, 12 All-Star teams, and 9 All-Defensive Teams. That is why, despite some background, he has managed to unseat Isiah Thomas in the career comparison.
Even if Isiah’s individual accomplishments (regular season achievements) pale in comparison to Paul’s, he may feel assured of having the last laugh because of his two NBA championships and one Finals MVP trophy. Few point guards have ever been able to do what Thomas did in terms of leading a team to back-to-back titles, and winning a Finals MVP trophy as a 6’1″ point guard is even more unusual.
Based on the data, it is safe to state that Chris Paul is a more talented point guard with a diverse skill set that includes deep-range scoring and some of the best defense we have seen from a player in his position. But Thomas is a player who comes up big in big games because he has an edge in aggression and competitiveness that few have ever had. Although Paul wins the individual battle, Thomas’ NBA championships may give him the edge in many top-5 point guard rankings.
When you think of Thomas in the playoffs, you think of one of the most famous postseason efforts in NBA history. Despite having a seriously damaged right ankle, Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter of Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals.
The final of his 43 points on the night gave the Pistons a 102-101 lead against the Showtime Lakers and would have delivered the first of three straight championships if it hadn’t been for Laimbeer’s infamous phantom foul on Abdul-Jabbar.
As it turned out, Thomas won the next two NBA championships, cementing his legacy as an all-time great who improved his game in the postseason. Thomas scored 20 points (43.7 FG%, 35 3P%, 77.7 FT%), 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals in 37.5 minutes per game over a five-year run in which the Pistons reached the conference finals each season, including 10 series against Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, and Jordan’s Bulls. In his three Finals appearances, he was much better.
Paul’s first-round series-winning shot against the Spurs in 2015 is perhaps his most satisfying playoff moment, but the one that sticks with him is his two mistakes in the final 17 seconds of a crucial Game 5 loss to OKC in the 2014 conference semifinals.
This, too, was tainted by missed calls, but Paul’s playoff record is replete with them. There was also his team’s Game 6 collapse against Houston in the 2015 conference semifinals, as well as a slew of untimely injuries that limited his chances for postseason heroics, most notably the hamstring strain he suffered against Houston, which cost him the final two games of the 2018 conference finals against Golden State.
Paul deserves much too much of the blame for his team’s postseason failures. Consider that Game 6 versus the Rockets. He ended with 31 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds, while the rest of the squad shot 30.8 percent on 52 field-goal attempts. He also played 12 of the final 14 minutes as the Clippers squandered a 19-point lead to Harden-less Houston.
Paul answered with a 26-5-10 performance with four steals in a series-ending loss in which his team’s role players shot even worse. His career is littered with memorable Game 7 performances, all while averaging 20.6 points (47.8 FG%, 39.4 3P%, 87.7 FT%), 8.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 steals throughout a five-year span when the Clippers were a legitimate title contender. They were likewise eliminated in the second round.
So, how much of their legacies are purely narrative — Thomas the hero, Paul the goat, both of which could have swung if their comrades had risen or fallen a little more in the moment? Probably quite a bit, but the fact remains that one produced two Larry O’Brien trophies, while the other is still looking for his first.
NBA Regular Season Stats
Stats Per Game
|Points Per Game
|Rebounds Per Game
|Assists Per Game
|Steals Per Game
|Blocks Per Game
Why did Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson fall out?
The feud between the two basketball stars was ignited after they once shared a close bond, yet Thomas supposedly spread rumors and inquired about Johnson’s sexuality. Magic says in the book that his agent, Lou Rosen, told him in 1991 that Isiah was spreading these rumors.
Was Isiah Thomas, a good defensive player?
Thomas was the leader of one of the greatest teams in NBA history, the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons. On top of being a great offensive player, Thomas was also a great defender. He had to be because the Pistons were one of the best defensive teams. Thomas has played against some of the greatest players ever
Can Chris Paul break Stockton’s record?
Even with Paul’s tremendous talent, any shot of Paul breaking Stockton’s record will require a combination of a vastly improved ability to stay healthy and the acquisition of one or more significant scoring options. This would free up Paul to focus on using his dazzling distribution ability and piling up the assists.
The matchup between Chris Paul and Isiah Thomas was a classic point guard battle. Paul was able to use his speed and quickness to keep Thomas from getting into the lane, and he also did a good job of finishing at the rim. Thomas was able to use his size and strength to body up Paul, but he was not able to contain him on the perimeter. In the end, Paul was able to come out on top and get the win.