April 25, 2013
Despite the incredible year that LeBron James has had for the Miami Heat this season, there is one player in the National Basketball Association that deserves the Most Valuable Award more then he does. That man is Chris Paul. And, Chris Paul’s heroics at the end of Game 2 of opening round of the playoffs are just a small reminder of his value to his team and to the NBA. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the stingiest defensive teams in the NBA, and with Tony Allen guarding him, the best on-ball defender in the NBA (And one of three top three players in defensive rating in the NBA who also happen to be on the Grizzlies roster), Paul fought to the rim and made a leaning, one-handed bank shot over two defenders that were 4″ and 10″ taller than him. This play by itself does not make Paul the MVP, but it is representative of his talent level and importance to both the Clippers and the league. Paul represents what the NBA has promoted for the last five years, guard-oriented play and superstar play making ability.
Though LeBron James has finally established himself as the best basketball player on Earth, he does not embody the type of play that brought the NBA back to its current level of popularity. The NBA has rode attractive guard play instead of brutish inside activity to higher ratings. Though he entered the league as a perimeter player, LeBron became the player that he is today by learning to score in the post. He studied footwork, positioning, and counter moves with Hakeem Olajuwon during the off season to hone his scoring prowess in the paint and became more efficient offensively. The overabundance of post play that slows down the pace of games is what the NBA is successfully trying to extinguish. Chris Paul represents the kind if basketball that excites the casual fan. He excels in the open court where flashy plays are made, he gets his teammates involved through assists, and he penetrates and attacks from the top of the key in the half court. Chris Paul’s style of play fits the characteristics that the league promotes.
Chris Paul’s impact on the 2012-2013 season is evident in the statistics. His numbers may not seem spectacular when put next to some of the regular season leaders in MVP voting like Kevin Durant or the aforementioned LeBron James, however with closer inspection, Paul’s stats bear a strong case for his consideration. Granted, Durant achieved one of the most difficult feats in NBA history by becoming a member of the 50/40/90 club (50% FG, 40% 3PT, and 90% FT) with a 28.0 points per game average. And, LeBron has had possibly the best season of his career averaging 27.1 ppg. on 56.5% from the field and 40.6% from the three point line. But, Paul’s 16.5 points per game is still more impressive than any of their accomplishments. Of the 48 players that average 15 ppg. or more in the NBA, only Dwight Howard takes less shots per game than Chris Paul(Paul averages only 11.2 shots per game). And, Chris Paul was first in the league in steals, first in assists (since Rajon Rondo’s season ended because of injury), first in assist to turnover ratio, and sixth in free throw shooting percentage. He assists on 47% of his teammates field goals whenever he is on the court, and his career assist rate of 46.3 is second in the history of the game behind only Hall of Fame player, John Stockton. His statistical affect belies his importance to the NBA and more importantly, to his team.
But, the impact of Chris Paul does not end at his efficiency or his assists. Paul is also possibly the most clutch basketball player in the league. Though a player’s ability to make clutch baskets is difficult to define, what a player does in the closing moments of games does define that player. And, Chris Paul is tied for the NBA lead in points in the last two minutes of ball games with Kevin Durant at 79 points. However, whereas Durant shoots the basketball from the three point line regularly and only makes 34% of his field goals in the last two minutes of games, Paul gets deeper into the heart of defenses and makes 46.2% of his shots at the end of games. And, even these stats do not fully relay the importance of the way that CP3 plays the game. Deeper penetration off the dribble forces other defenders to commit to the ball handler which in turn opens up lanes for passing and rebounding. These plays give the Los Angeles Clippers longer possessions and more ultimately more shots. Even when Paul misses shots or does not take the shots, he makes opportunities for his teammates, and that gives the Clippers organization more chances to win basketball games.
It is no anomaly that the New Orleans Hornets won 46 games in the regular season in 2010-11, his last season there, and only 21 games the next year. It is no accident that the Clippers won 32 games before Paul arrived in LA, 40 games in his first year (despite injuries and a lockout shortened season), and 56 games this season. Chris Paul is a winner, and his style of play, statistics, and ability to make plays have made him a better candidate for the Most Valuable Player award than his peers. He should be the MVP of the 2012-2013 season.