Making the Case for Chris Paul
The other day someone asked me, “What’s up with the Hornets this year?” Well, three things, I suppose. Last year, they were riddled with injuries. And you also have to remember that Byron Scott did take the New Jersey Nets to two NBA Finals. Then there’s Chris Paul.
Paul is on pace for the first 20-10 season since Tim Hardaway did it in the 1992-1993 season (he did it the year before, too, in the 1991-1992 season). Kevin Johnson had done it the three years before Hardaway. The NBA saw five years with 20-10 performers and has been enduring a 15-year drought. However, Paul, who is currently averaging 20.6 and 10.5, could change that.
After yesterday’s performance in L.A., NBA gurus and pundits have declared that LeBron James is pulling away from Kobe Bryant in the MVP voting, mainly due to Kobe’s 1-7 fourth quarter (including 1-6 when James marked him) and James’ fourth-quarter heroics while being guarded by Kobe. With the Celtics recent “downturn” (the still don’t have 10 losses, though, and one was without KG), perhaps Kevin Garnett is going to be overlooked. He’s also won one before (which counts against him) and he’s below his career average in points, assists, free-throw percentage, blocks and rebounds. (By the way, his shooting percentage is way up, which is easy enough to figure out.)
LBJ was pre-ordained the MVP at the start of this season, but Paul may give him a run for his money. Here is a short examination of both.
With the game on the line, who do you want handling the ball?
If the other team is behind, you want someone who can hit those free throws in the clutch. If you’re ahead, you want someone who can drive to the hole, potentially getting fouled, or hit the big shot. On the free-throw front, Paul wins. For the year, Paul is at 88.4% (career, as short as it may be, percentage is at 84.4%) and James is at 70.8 % (with a career average of 73%).
As far as jump-shooting goes, Paul hits 48.4% and 34.7% from three-point range while James is at 48.2% and 29.1%. That’s pretty close, but if you need a three, Paul might have a slight edge, but that’s largely irrelevant as these two can also create plays to get their teammates assists. Too bad LBJ doesn’t have the spot-up snipers that the Hornets have. Here’s the thing on assists: If James had anyone who could reliably finish on this team, he’d probably be above the 7.3 assists he’s currently averaging and be on pace for a 30-15 season.
The last knock on James’ MVP run has also disappeared. It is that it usually goes to someone from a winning team. Cleveland has climbed back into the top four in the East, even though New Orleans is sitting atop the West. It will be fun for Paul and Scott to be at the All-Star Game in New Orleans (even if the Hornets should have been moved to Oklahoma – it makes sense for so many reasons, but more about that in another post), but Paul will likely come up short this year. Let’s look for him in years to come, though, as he should be high on the balloting for a long time.