Name: Chris Paul
Age: 31 (Turns 32 May 6)
2015-16 Stats: 19.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 10.0 APG, 2.1 SPG, 46.2 FG%, 37.1 3P% and zero foul outs.
Experience: 11 years (6 years with New Orleans, 5 years with Los Angeles)
2015-16 Salary: $21,468,696
Contract Status: One more year guaranteed at $22,868,828, with an early termination option for the 2017-18 season.
Before the start of the 2015-2016 NBA season, Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers said that if the team doesn't improve from the previous year, then it is a strong possibility one or more of the All-Stars on the team may be traded. A Chris Paul broken hand and Blake Griffin torn quadriceps ended the team's postseason hopes and essentially ended the season.
A few days later, Rivers said "I think they all want to come back, and we're going to make a strong effort to bring all our guys back." Even with those words, a collection within the Clippers fandom considers the team stale, and a trade must be made to push the team past the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. Some believe the team must trade Blake Griffin, thinking his interior play from the power forward position is a square in a circle fit in the modern NBA. The other side desires to trade Paul, accusing the future Hall-of-Famer being past his prime. A 31-year-old point guard with a missing meniscus in his right knee does not sound to be in his prime in the "Pace and Space" era, yet, Paul just produced one of his best seasons, and production-wise is still in his prime.
Narrative-wise, the Clippers lost Blake Griffin for 47 games, and still somehow finished fourth in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the future Hall-of-Famer, Chris Paul. He was elected to the 2015-16 NBA All Defensive First Team and placed sixth in MVP voting.
Looking at the raw per-game numbers, the 2015-2016 season middles in the hierarchy of all his seasons. His points-per-game, assists, and rebounds were all around the fifth best of his 11-year career. However, he did have his lowest minutes-per-game played ever in his career. And, when he was on the court, Paul manufactured arguably his best numbers ever in his career.
Per-36 minutes normalizes a player's production and evaluates how productive a player was when on the court, and how the stats would look if played the same amount of minutes. In the most recent season, per-36-minutes, Paul scored 21.5-points, a career high. Only one other time in his career had Paul scored more than 21-points at the same rate, back in 2008-09, the year he finished second in MVP voting. Paul also had his second highest assist per-36, at 11.0 this past season, coming second to the 11.1 assists per-36 he posted in 2007-08. He even posted the second highest assist percentage, an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while on the floor, meaning he set up teammates as well as er. His rebounding per-36 was a half rebound away from his career high. And most other stats, on a per-36 minute basis lined with his career highs, at the age of 31.
The most glaring discrepancy is his free throw rate, meaning he isn't attacking the bucket as much. And if there is any indication Paul is past his prime, this is it. The year he finished second in MVP voting he shot 356 shots at the rim. Last season, he shot 148. As he's aged and slowed, he's been forced to change his style of play.
Currently, Paul is one of the best, and debatably the best, midrange shooter in the NBA. He's an above average shooter from every location, and out of the 262 midrange shots he made, only 19 were assisted. Without Griffin most of the season, defenders rarely left Paul, forcing him to beat them off the dribble and create his own.
Just because he is scoring differently than he used to does not mean Paul is not in his prime. Athletically, no, he is not the same player. But, from a production standpoint, Paul is as good as ever.
Game of the Year
Easily Paul's best game happened February 26 against the Sacramento Kings. His will alone kept the lethargic Clippers in the game in which he finished with 40 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds. Albeit it was the Kings, but he advertised the mastery of his game.
Moment(s) of the Year
Chris Paul had two dunks during the regular season, and they both happened during the same game! His first dunk was an unexciting cherrypicked slam. However, his second dunk caused flashbacks to his pre-knee surgery days. Get up old fella!
This is a J.J. Redick highlight, but unnoticed by many was the nutmeg Paul pulled off to place the ball in Redick's hands. How many players in the league have the audacity to attempt this pass? Not many.