Thank you, Danny Leroux. You've made Clippers fan irrationally defend an all-time great point guard, Chris Paul, who is still in his prime - albeit, tail-end. ‘Irrationally defend' in the sense that the discussion shouldn't be happening.
Paul may have his lowest assist total since his first year in Los Angeles. His shooting percentage is his second lowest ever, with the worst three-point percentage ever. But, he's been dealing with nagging injuries to start the season. He's averaging the least amount of minutes per-game than ever before. And, the Clippers presumably had more roster turnover than Chris Paul's ever had except for the one time he changed teams. This Chris Paul defense shouldn't be needed, its befuddling to even think of trading a player in the middle of a championship chase.
If somebody thinks the Clippers aren't in championship contention, that's a different argument. However, the Clippers led for significant minutes in each game against the West's elite teams: Golden State, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.
Back to Paul. Against the Portland Trailblazers, CP3 played like the historically great point guard he is. Chris Paul had 21 points and 19 assists! He's only done that one other time, back in 2009 against Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups led Denver Nuggets.
Wednesday night, Paul had 80-percent of the teams assists and the highest net rating at plus-25.5. Paul attacked the Blazers more or less the same way he's gone at other teams - feasted in the midrange and made most of his passes going to his right.
Chris Paul bullies Damian Lilliard head-to-head. Paul's won eight of eleven averaging 22.5 points and 11.6 assists compared to Dame's 16 and 5.7. Throughout those eleven games, maybe Lilliard has learned that Chris prefers dribbling to his right.
In the play above, the Clippers run their HORNs set and Lilliard knows its coming. You see Lilliard looking to his left - Paul's right - anticipating the screen. Paul uses his own tendency for advantage, exploiting DeAndre Jordan's screen and attacking left hard. Lilliard's rocked by Jordan's exceptional screen. Mason Plumlee sits back in the paint, like most NBA teams, conceding the midrange jumpshot to Paul.
A few minutes later, Paul again springs loose for an uncontested pull-up. Credit DeAndre for the play call - he can be seen signaling for the screen on the opposite side approaching Paul. Jordan called for the screen on the side of less traffic, therefor less help.
Jordan lines himself on Paul's left side, the way the Blazers want him to go. Al-Farouq Aminu, ex-Clipper, jumps hard to Paul's right, hoping to discourage him from going that way. All jumping does is put Aminu is worse position than before, providing Paul more space for the jumper.
Against the Blazers, Paul shot 26-percent of his shots at the left elbow area. For the season, Paul's shot 5-percent of his shots in the same area. This was the third game the Clippers and Blazers played each other. Scouting reports deepen as the season progresses, and it's a good sign for Clippers fans if Paul shoots the left elbow shot, as teams will force him more and more to beat them from there.
With Blake Griffin nursing an injury, Paul's passing distribution chart has changed. Before, Blake received nearly 39-percent of Chris's passes. Now, J.J. Redick catches the most Paul passes, around 30-percent since Griffin sat, mainly because the teams ran more plays for Redick. Last game, the numbers hovered around the same mark.
Nearly every game the first play is for Redick. Here the Clippers run a Floppy set. Redick curls with Allen Crabbe trailing so far behind. Redick catches the pass for a routine one dribble pull-up.
Look at the precision of Paul's pass. As Redick comes off the screen, his hands raise, ready to catch the ball. Paul's pass lands right on the mark, with J.J. never needing to move his hands. Also, Chris times the pass perfectly when Redick gets his body underneath him after rounding the screen.
Early in the third, again, Paul puts the ball in the exact spot at the exact time Redick wants it. The details separate the great, and it's the precision of Paul's passes to Redick that make the combo so deadly. During Blake's absence, Paul's averaged about 5 assists per-game to Redick. On passes from Paul, Redick's shooting 64-percent from three and 60-percent from two.
Forced into the starting role, Paul Pierce hasn't received many play calls. Instead, Pierce relies on the playmaking of others, and specifically Paul. The future hall-of-famers connected for four three's while playing the Blazers.
Paul favors going right, just think Game 7. When he did get to his right hand against the Blazers, the defense collapsed a little more. Here, Paul hesitates nicely, putting Ed Davis on his heals. Meyers Leonard, guarding Pierce in the corner, rotates to Paul, who swings the ball to Pierce in the corner for the bucket.
Its such a traditional play, but star players turn normal plays into easy looks for teammates. Leonard probably wouldn't have helped as much if, say, Jamal Crawford had the ball. Chris creates opportunities that wouldn't exist with others, just because of who he is, not necessarily what he is doing.
6:48 remaining in the third, Paul on the fastbreak attacks the bucket with four defenders surrounding him. All four defenders frantically converge on the point guard, leaving a trailing Pierce wide open. Chris puts the pass right on the money, even under all the duress, for an easy bucket. Not many other players in the league draw the attention of four defenders, rendering them incapable of worrying about others on the court. Chris Paul is one of those players.
Maybe the hardest play CP3 turned mundane for many is the alley-oop. Paul's hall-of-fame reel eventually will be littered with lobs to DeAndre Jordan. Wedneday night, Paul and Jordan linked on four alley-oops.
HORNs set again for the Clippers, early in the first, this time Paul goes right. Look how indecisive Plumlee is after Paul comes off the screen. Paul's attacking the bucket with Jordan running the rim unabated - a pretty poor spot for Plumlee to be in. Paul tosses the ball up to DeAndre, and Plumlee surprisingly makes a good effort towards the ball, but Paul places it perfectly, just out of reach.
This lob is unthinkable for any other pairing in the NBA. I'm not sure if I have even seen this sequence before in the middle of a game. Paul throws a dime from straight on to Jordan, who looks back, catches the ball and finds the rim all within seconds. Jordan's degree of difficulty surpasses Paul's on this play, but the oop is only possible with a first-class pass.
The final points of the game, fittingly, end on a Chris Paul assist, no less a lob. Look at the tight, confident handles, look at the angle Paul throws from, look at the impeccable trajectory on the pass. Maybe Danny LeRoux has overlooked how good this Clippers team can be, and how good Chris Paul is. Against the Blazers, CP3 showed why he's one of the best point guards ever.