Top 50 NBA Players: #3 Chris Paul

Chris Paul
Resume: 16.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists (2nd in league), 2.4 steals (1st in league), 33.4 minutes, 48% FG, and 89% FT (6th in league, career best)… Team record in games played: 50-20 (6-6 without)… Playoffs: 22.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 53% FG (career best), 89% FT (career best), 2-4 record… All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, 4th in MVP Voting, 1st Team All-Defense, 1st Team All-NBA

Last year I used a Dr. Jack Breakdown to determine who the Best Point Guard Alive Championship would go to. Chris Paul got the edge over Rajon Rondo and went through the 2012-13 season defending his championship. In retrospect, a Dr. Jack Breakdown probably wasn’t necessary. By just about anyone’s account Chris Paul is the consensus best point guard alive and has been worthy of that title since 2007-ish. I’ve said it before so I might as well say it again, he’s the best I’ve ever seen play the position. I’m not talking about accolades either. That statement isn’t based on MVP trophy’s won, championship rings collected, or All-NBA honors, etc. I’m just telling you what my eyes are telling me, and my eyes tell me that nobody does it better than Chris Paul.

Apr 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen (9) and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) fight for a loose ball in the second half of game one in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Clippers won 93-91. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Paul plays the position like any owner, GM, coach, fan or teammate would want a point guard to play it. He controls the tempo of every game, keeping the pace exactly where his team wants it. He manages the game masterfully for three quarters and gets all of his teammates involved. When/if the game gets tight in the fourth quarter and his team needs him to put it away with his scoring, he will. His basketball IQ is through the roof; he’s so much smarter and more disciplined than just about everyone else—his new coach Doc Rivers recently called Paul “an All-Star and a genius”, which doesn’t sound too far off— and keep in mind, we haven’t even gotten to his talent yet. It takes someone special to be able to think the game like Chris Paul does. When you add the talent Paul has on top of his mind, just forget about it.

He sees passing angles and opportunities for alley oops that only .01% of human beings can see. He’s the best defensive point guard in the league and he’s had that title since right around the time he came into the NBA.  He scores efficiently from nearly every spot on the floor, as shown in this very handy shot chart. His handle is otherworldly, impossible to disrupt and even dangerous for defenders (especially big guys; I get an unhealthy amount of joy whenever a center gets switches out on Chris Paul at the top of the key off of a pick and roll… you just know it’s going to be good). Oh speaking of big guys switching out on Paul in pick and rolls, he’s mastered the pick and roll. How has he done this? Well, simply put, by doing everything I’ve already told you he does.

His handle is so good he’s able to get to any spot on the floor he wants. That means not only can he dribble his defender into his teammate setting the pick, but once the pick is set, he’s able to weave in and out of subsequent help defenders and his original defender, getting to any spot on the floor he wants. He scores efficiently from nearly every spot on the floor. Remember that shot chart I linked to thirty seconds ago? Well if you didn’t check it out, do so now and admire the amount of Green and Yellow zones, especially inside the paint. Those signify areas where Paul shot above or comparable to league average. Once he gets into the heart of the defense, it’s all over. He sees passing angles and opportunities for lobs that only .01% of human beings can see. Look, there was a reason Blake Griffin was as giddy as a starving man at an all you can eat buffet. He knew that he would be the beneficiary of a healthy share of Chris Paul assists. If Paul finagles his way into the heart of the defense he’s a good enough scorer that more attention needs to be focused on him. Help defenders leave their man, and even if it’s for a split second, Paul will take advantage of this and find the open teammate. 

So yeah, that’s what separates Paul from every other point guard. Am I missing anything? Oh yea, I am! Even while Paul plays with such great control of the game, he also has a fire burning inside him like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kwame Brown (just kidding). He’s a fierce competitor who carries himself on the court and acts much bigger than his 6’0, 175 lb. frame. He’s fearless on the court and he always plays like he believes he is always the best player in arena. Most of the time he isn’t wrong.