Ralph Ellison would love Chris Paul. Despite the mounting evidence that screams for attention, the New Orleans guard remains the NBA’s Invisible Man, largely unrecognized, largely ignored.
Oh sure, some have noted and celebrated his gifts. But few (if any) have said the obvious: Chris Paul is the best point guard in pro basketball.
Moreover, Paul belongs in any discussion regarding the league’s 2008 Most Valuable Player. In fact, right now, he’s at the top of my ballot.
Go ahead, make your case for Kobe or LeBron. Bring it on. Either would be a fine choice. In fact, both are better than CP3, as he’s know in N’awlins. But dang, not by much. And picking one of them would be safe. This is what I think of safe: Zzzzzz.
First the numbers: He leads the league in steals (2.7) and is second in assists (10.8 per game). He’s averaging more than 20 ppg (18th in the league) and shooting 48% from the field, highest among guards in the Top 20.
The team: The Hornets have been the best team – start to finish – this season. Not that they have the best record (fifth-best, 38-18). But they’ve been consistently good, avoiding the kind of long losing strides that have tripped up even the better teams. Their recent-three game slide matched their longest losing string of the season.
On Wednesday night, Paul erased any doubt regarding the league’s top playmaker. In fact, he made two-time MVP Steve Nash look like a wide-eyed D-Leaguer. He had 25 points, 15 assists, six rebounds and 3 steals. Nash failed to even score in the first half, and finished with 8 points on 1-of-6 shooting. If you watched the game, frankly, it was as if Paul was the only point guard on the floor. New Orleans won in a blowout, 120-103.
A week ago, Paul took advantage of a disoriented Jason Kidd, playing his first game as a Mav, to make the Hall of Famer long for the New Jersey swamp he left behind. He abused Kidd for 31 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, and 9 freakin’ steals. He shot 55% from the floor. The Hornets won, 104-93.
Interestingly, he and the Hornets are still void of the proverbial “respect” that gets bounced about when discussions begin about MVP and teams that could win the title. The Hornets have been dismissed with the same brush-off that once was used against a certain presidential candidate – lack of experience. Fair enough, neither Paul nor his two best teammates – center Tyson Chandler and all-star forward David West – are playoff tested. Heck, they three they’ve played 19 playoff games between them, almost seven times fewer than Kobe (131.) Even 23-year-old LeBron, who’ll probably break ever “youngest to…” record in the books, has more post-season seasoning (33 games).
But I like their fire, their consistency and the fact that their coach has a bit of a chip on his shoulders from being fired after twice leading the Nets to the NBA Finals. Revenge can be a great motivator.
For his production, his consistency, his team’s success and his downright dominance of his peers, Paul should be the leading chocie for MVP. Just as neither youth, nor inexperience has deterred support for that certain presidential candidate, those traits should not sway MVP voters against Chris Paul, either.