Chris Paul is the best point guard to ever play the game. That sounds insane, especially for someone with zero MVPs, zero NBA Finals appearances, zero championships and yes, zero conference finals appearances. But beyond the stats, Chris Paul really is the best to ever play the position, and this year, he and the Los Angeles Clippers have a legitimate shot at the NBA Finals.
Granted, it has only been two games, but Paul’s dismantling of the San Antonio Spurs in game one showed exactly what the Clippers can do when their offense is firing on all cylinders; Los Angeles had an offensive rating of 112.4 in the regular season. If the Clippers continue to play well offensively and prevent the Spurs from getting open looks, then Paul and his star running mate, forward Blake Griffin, may very well topple the defending champs.
Still, Paul’s claim to the status of best point guard of all time is lofty, especially given that many pundits do not even consider him the best point guard in the current NBA, deferring to Golden State’s golden boy Steph Curry. However, the distinction is quite simple: Steph Curry is the best player to play point guard, but Chris Paul is the best point guard.
Curry’s dribbling, passing skills and stature serve him well at the point guard position, but Paul’s entire game and demeanor make him the ideal point guard. In a Grantland piece earlier this year, Zach Lowe determined that Chris Paul was one of the best midrange jump shooters in NBA history, with percentages hovering near 60 when shooting around the free throw line extended.
Moreover, Chris Paul defends with a ferocity unlike any other point guard in league history. He has made six All-NBA Defensive Teams (four First Teams, two Second Teams) and led the league in steals per game six times. When analyzing data from Synergy Sports Technology and SportVU, it is clear that Paul routinely holds opposing point guards to several percentage points lower than their averages from their favorite shooting spots. Compared to some of the other “best point guard of all time” candidates, Paul’s defense ranks among the best. Magic Johnson, arguably the best point guard of all time, was “a world class defensive liability” according to Bill Simmons, and the stats back up that billing. Not many point guards in league history have taken pride in their defense quite like Paul does.
And that is just his shooting accuracy and defense. Paul’s passing has put him atop the charts in assists per game four times. Even more impressively, he has placed in the top four every season he has been in the league, sans his rookie campaign. He was the catalyst for one of the smoothest pick-and-roll offenses in the NBA when he played for New Orleans with forward David West and spot-up shooters Peja Stojakovic and Mo Peterson. Now, he commands Lob City, routinely throwing up jaw-dropping alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Paul often finds himself on highlight reels for his excellent passing, and as a result his pure scoring ability is too frequently overlooked. With a 21 points per game average in the playoffs – as well as nearly ten assists per game and shooting percentages of 48, 39 and 81 from the field, three-point range and free throw line, respectively – he holds his own as an efficient and effective scoring option. Against a stalwart Spurs’ defense, Paul poured in 32 points on 65 percent shootingin game one, hitting shot after shot, with each one looking more improbable than the last. It was an incredible performance. He had the mentality of a killer, and he took what he wanted in a way that dismantled every inch of the Spurs’ elite defense. Paul dissects his opponents and then eviscerates them. For lack of a better term, he is cold-blooded.
Finally, Paul does not just have everything a coach would ever want in a lead point guard; he has everything the NBA wants in a superstar. From bringing basketball to Oklahoma City when the Hornets had to relocate in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to returning home to New Orleans to inspiring a ravaged city to making the Clippers the hottest ticket in the same city as the iconic Lakers, Paul has put the hopes and aspirations of several fan bases squarely on his shoulders.
Not only is he a leader on and off the court, but Paul has also transcended basketball to become an icon. He plays his sport the way it is meant to be played, he endorses it the way it is meant to be endorsed and at the end of the day, he does it so consistently that people barely take notice. So let’s be clear here: Chris Paul is the best point guard in NBA history. And a title run would give people no choice but to take notice.
Paolo Santamaria is a freshman in the College. This is the final appearance of SAXA SYNERGY this semester.
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