Apr 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Thunder 92-77. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
We had all seen Chris Paul play before he came to the Clips. We all knew he was an elite point guard with a terrific will to win games. But I don't think you can appreciate his game fully until you witness him on a nightly basis. He is a magnificent orchestrator of offense in the half-court, always keeping team mates involved. He is as sure handed with the basketball as any player you will ever see, and has an uncanny ability to create space and knock down mid range jumpers. He is a fantastic set shooter from the 3 point arc. There's absolutely no reason a player his size should be able to finish at the rim as well as he does, yet he pulls it off. To top things off, he brings it on the defensive end. You truly couldn't ask for more from your star player.
It has been a good season to be a Clipper fan. When the Clippers landed Chris Paul this off-season, there was little question that he would instantly be the greatest player to ever suit up in a Clipper uniform. Without playing a game, the Clippers became relevant beyond sports-center highlights. Paired with Blake Griffin, the Clippers now had a dynamic duo that was going to win some games. They did just that this season, and there's little question it has been the most successful regular season in Clipper history.
Chris Paul is not going to win the MVP Award this season. The statistical freak that is Lebron James will probably take the award home, and I really don't have much of a problem with it. Or Maybe it will go to Kevin Durant, who is about to lock in his third NBA scoring title. The thing is, the most valuable player is hard to define. Is it an award for the best statistical season? Is it the best player on the team with the best record? Maybe it goes to the player who is most valuable to HIS team? Is there pressure on the voters to refrain from giving the award to the same guy every year? Even if he deserves it? All of these things factor into the decision, fair or not.
So maybe Paul doesn't win the award. It wouldn't be the first time he's had a fantastic season and lost out. But everyone should at least take notice of exactly what he accomplished this year. The following stats are all from basketball-reference.com: 19.8 ppg, 9.1 asst, and a league best 2.5 steals/game. He boasts and NBA best assist to turnover ratio of 4.4. If advanced statistics are more your thing, he is 2nd in the league in both win shares/48 and PER (behing only Lebron James in each category). He ranks first in offensive win shares. He is second behind Lebron James in offensive rating, or points produced per 100 possessions. Perhaps most impressive is how great he has been at the end of ballgames. Chris Paul has won a lot of games for the Clippers this season, putting the team on his back in the fourth quarter on a regular basis. In "clutch time", defined as the final five minutes of a game where neither team is ahead by more than 5 points, Chris Paul shoots 95% from the free throw line while getting there 15.5 times per 48 minutes of clutch time (82games.com). Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is that his ability and will to win has had a noticeable impact on the collective team confidence. The Clipper players and their fans now know that a game isn't over til it's over. With CP3 on the floor in a close game, the Clippers have a great chance of getting that last bucket, and everyone knows it. You can't measure it, but that is the real VALUE of of having Chris Paul.
The MVP is a funny thing. Sometimes it's clear cut. Sometimes it is not. It's one of the great individual accomplishments in the sport, yet ultimately, it doesn't matter one bit. I'm sure Dirk Nowitzki would trade his MVP season for his championship season every day of the week. I think Kobe Bryant's vast accomplishments (5 NBA championships, 7 finals appearances, 2 time finals MVP, 14 time all star,9 time all NBA FIRST team,2 time scoring champ, 81 points in a game, 9 time ALL NBA defensive First team) say more about him than the fact that he has won only a single MVP award. So Lebron gets the MVP, and it is hard to argue that he doesn't deserve it. But I am not sure you could convince me that there is another player in this league more important to his teams success than Chris Paul. Without Chris Paul, the Clippers do not make the playoffs. With him, they are a genuine threat to make it at least as far as the western conference finals. Chris Paul is a game changer, and even if he never wins an MVP, I for one will be one happy hoops fan if he spends the rest of his career here with the Clips.