Chris Paul: The Quiet MVP

LeBron James has been bring him the hardware the last two season.

LeBron James has been bring him the hardware the last two season.

The last two seasons have seen LeBron James rack up historic numbers, collect four, well-deserved MVP awards (two in the regular season and two in the finals) and earn his first two champions.  In that time, however, there is another player who has also been establishing himself as one of the best player in the history of the game: Chris Paul. 

An injury to Blake Griffin cut the season short for the Clippers.

An injury to Blake Griffin cut the season short for the Clippers.

In his first season with the Clippers, Chris Paul led a team who had been in the lottery the previous season, to the highest winning percentage in franchise history.  The Clippers made it to the playoffs, earning homecourt advantage in the first round, and made a second round appearance: something that had been done only once in the history of the franchise.  And this was after the Clippers had given up one former All-Star (Chris Kaman) and a promising young starter (Eric Gordon) to bring Paul to the Clippers.  Last year, the Clippers’ success continued: they posted a franchise best 56 wins and earned a division title for the first time.  The season, however, ended in disappointment as Blake Griffin went down with an injury in the first round.  The Clippers soon followed.  Paul finish in the top 4 for MVP voting in each of these seasons (3rd in 2012 and 4th in 2013), but even rankings as high as these seem to underrate Paul’s impact.

chrispaul1This season, Paul set an NBA record that had been held by Magic Johnson for 22 season by starting the season with a string of 12-straight double-double performances where he recorded double digits in points and assists.  Paul is currently having the best season of his career, posting 12.53 assists per game (better than 3.5 assists more than the next highest average in the league). No player, since these records have been kept, has been able to achieve this, which demonstrates how rare a talent Paul truly is.  Given his scoring and assist average, some might be tempted to compare Paul to Isiah Thomas, but looking at Thomas’s steep decline in his late 20’s, and his subpar percentages across the board, it becomes clear that Paul has a very distinct edge over Thomas in that regard.  Offensively, both in terms of his shooting and play making, Paul has few who can match him.  When you consider his defensive presence (he has led the league in steal five times since coming into the league), it becomes clear that Paul is in a class on his own. 

chrispaulvbullsA true point guard is hard to find in the NBA. In a sport where ego dominates, it takes a special person who can handle the ball confidently and still have the humility to create plays for other players.  Most players with Paul’s level of talent are not willing to share the ball.  Even players with obviously less talent than Paul seem unwilling to pass.  The players that are willing are few and far between.  Magic Johnson was one, as was John Stockton and Steve Nash.  These are players who could score efficiently and still moved the ball (Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo are both excellent play makers, but neither could score as efficiently as Nash or Paul).  Of those players only Stockton and Magic could even consider themselves in the conversation with Paul defensively.  Paul gets more assists than Magic and Gary Payton, and points than Stockton while shooting at a higher percentage than Thomas.  He is a far better defender than Nash and a far better scorer than Kidd.  Some of these point guards may have been better scorers, or better rebounders, or in the case of Stockton, better player makers, but no point guard, with the exception of Oscar Robertson, was able to best Paul in every category, and that is only if you consider Robertson to be a point guard (his size would suggest he was, but he played several positions). 

The only point guard who exceed Chris Paul in ever respect of the game is also the only player to average a triple-double.

The only point guard who exceed Chris Paul in ever respect of the game is also the only player to average a triple-double.

It is unclear whether or not the Clippers have what it takes to win a championship.  There is championship potential on this roster: that is certain.  Perhaps Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will prove an effective offensive/defensive combo with strong rebounding and Paul can win with them.  Perhaps there will be limits that are exposed in the playoffs.  What is clear is that Paul, regardless of how well this team may or may not do, is playing, and has been playing, at a level exceeded by only one other point guard in the history of the game.  The performance Paul is putting on this year is historic and is a true treat for fans of the game.  When the MVP award is handed out at the end of the season, there will be no player more worthy of the award than Chris Paul.  There may be one (LeBron James) or two (Kevin Durant) who are equally deserving of the award, but nobody will be more deserving. 

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