Despite all the injuries this NBA season has been pretty fun. A lot of players have emerged as MVP candidates. You already know the names but one name is usually left out because he’s not putting up monster numbers and he’s not on the best team in the league. Chris Paul is the name and he’s still the NBA’s best point guard.
Chris Paul is a pass first point guard who can take over a game. Most point guards nowadays are shooters first but can make the right passes. Compared to Steph Curry launching three pointers from anywhere and Russell Westbrook flying up and down the court, Chris Paul is boring. He still has the handle, he throws great lobs but he doesn’t do anything flashy.
Just think about watching point guards now. Westbrook gets it going, he gets a triple-double and he’s flying through the sky attacking the basket with so much energy. Curry gets hot and he’s just letting it fly on the break from way beyond the three point line. Kyrie Irving is a mixture of both, able to finish among the trees with all types of layups but can light it up from downtown.
When Paul gets it going there are a lot of pick & rolls and pull-up jumpers. He can take over a game and make it look easy. He won’t have a powerful dunk, he won’t make some crazy contested three pointer, and I think people overlook him now.
Has Chris Paul fell off? I don’t think so, he’s having a quiet yet great season and nobody is talking about him. Throughout his career Chris Paul has been a consistent pass first point guard.
Before his injury during the 2009-10 season Paul averaged 20+ points, 11 assists and 2 steals per game in back-to-back seasons. When he got hurt he was averaging 18, 10 and 2 steals per game. In what turned out to be his last season in New Orleans Paul only averaged 15, 9 and 2 steals. He played in a career high 80 games but he was coming off a knee injury and he had to change his game around.
So Paul arrives in L.A. during the lockout season, plays 60 games and averages 19.8 ppg, 9.1 apg and leads the league with 2.5 spg. He finishes 3rd in MVP voting while leading the Clippers to the second round of the playoffs before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs. The following season he plays in 70 games and his scoring drops to 16 but he still averages 9 assists and leads the league in steals per game. The Clippers would lose to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
Last season Paul sprained his shoulder and was limited to 62 games. His scoring went back up to 19 and he led the league in both assists (10.7) and steals (2.5). In the playoffs Paul led the Clippers to the second round once again and averaged the same numbers; 19, 10 and 2 while increasing his three point shooting.
Paul has been banged up the last couple of years. This season he wanted to play in every game for the Clippers. With just three games left in the season Paul is on track to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career.
With the added games one would think his scoring would dip a little. Well Paul is averaging 19 and again leads the league in both assists (10.2) and steals (2.5). He has raised his shooting numbers across the board. He leads the league in total assists and more importantly he leads in the league in assist/turnover ratio.
Paul has the ball in his hands a lot and only averages 2.4 turnovers a game. Guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James average 4.0 turnovers a game. According to NBA.Com’s player tracking Paul is second in the league in passes per game at 70.3. John Wall is first at 71.2.
Despite all the passing Paul is on track to finish with less than 200 turnovers this season. He’s had over 200 turnovers in a season just twice. This will be the first season since 2009 where Paul will finish with more turnovers than steals.
John Wall has finished with over 200 turnovers in four of his five seasons. Westbrook has done it in six of his seven seasons. Curry has done it in five of his six seasons. The only time these guys didn’t have over 200 turnovers was due to limited games because of injury.
The knock on Paul is that he hasn’t been to the Western Conference Finals yet. That is not all on him though. For his career his per 36 numbers in the regular season are 18.6 ppg, 9.9 apg, 2.3 spg while shooting 47/36/86. In the playoffs his per 36 numbers are 19.1 ppg, 9.0 apg, 2.2 spg while shooting 47/38/81. Those are similar numbers throughout his career in both the regular season and playoffs.
The Clippers are down from the 57 wins they had last year but Griffin has missed games. Paul will most likely play in every game and they have 53 wins. He shouldn’t be looked at as some afterthought because Curry and Westbrook are having great seasons. Chris Paul is still the best point guard and should finish in the top five in MVP voting once again.