Why has Chris Paul fallen out of MVP talks?
If I asked you who the M.V.P was going to be this season, who would you immediately think of?
If those three enter your mind, then fair enough, each of them has an incredibly viable argument to take home the Maurice Podoloff trophy at the end of the year. Kobe Bryant is the best 'killer' in the league, and leads the Lakers to the top of the toughest of the two conferences.
LeBron James is the unquestioned leader of the Cavaliers and one of the most dominating players in the league. Dwyane Wade is having one of the best comebacks we've ever seen (no disrespect to Amare) and is putting up crazy numbers, dragging last year's last place Miami Heat into a playoff seed.
So yes, these are all M.V.P-worthy players, and could easily win the award, which leaves me with one question. Where is Chris Paul in all of this? Remember him? The probable best point guard of his generation guy? Last year, he was in the middle of all the M.V.P talk, and with good reason, he was playing an excellent game last year. And absolutely nothing has changed.
Chris Paul, CP3, is still the best point guard in the NBA ( Deron Williams is making a very strong case, but at this point it is still Paul's title). He can dominate the game in ways no-one else can, can make shots that simply have no business going in the basket. Last season, the M.V.P race was definitely a close one.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Chris Paul were all being talked about as award-worthy. In fact, towards the end of the year, with the Western Conference race heating up, it came down to pretty much just Bryant and Paul. Of course, the Mamba won the award, and I have no qualms about this.
So what has changed? Surely his numbers must have dropped dramatically right? Umm... not so much.
Last year, Chris Paul averaged a career high 21.1 ppg average.
This year, he is averaging 21.2.
Last Year, Chris Paul averaged 4 rebounds a game.
This year, he is averaging 5.4 rebounds a game.
Last year, Chris Paul averaged 48% from the field
This year, Chris Paul is shooting 50% from the field.
Not only that, but he has increased his free-throw shooting to 86% from 85% last year, and is still averaging 2.7 steals a game, leading the league in this category.
To be fair, Paul's three-point percentage has dropped from 36% to 33%, and his 11.6 assists average from last year has plummeted all the way to...11 assists a game. Not exactly a huge dropoff is it? Are you really going to penalize Paul for averaging 11 assists a game? Again, that is a league high, only the aforementioned Deron Williams is also above ten a game. So, Paul's numbers have actually improved. So that's not the reason he isn't included in the M.V.P talk. Right, so what’s left?
Last year the Hornets surprised the league by cementing themselves as a true elite team, finishing 56-26, good for 1st in the Southwest division and the second seed out west.
This year however, the Hornets have been underwhelming. Injuries have played a huge factor with almost all major contributors missing time. The bar may have been set too high last year.
They lost Jannero Pargo to Europe over the summer, as well as Bonzi Wells, both important scorers off the bench. Pargo especially was more important to the team than people think, playing the backup role to Chris Paul very well.
They did sign James Posey, who was hailed as the missing link to the championship, but has not provided the same kind of lift that he did for the Celtics and Heat (of course, the playoffs are Posey's time, so the jury is still out on that one)
Generally, the Hornets are not as feared as last year, and you can't really imagine them taking the first seed from the Lakers.
The Hornets, right now, are 37-22. They are third in the southwest now, and 6th in the west.
The injuries have ceased for the most part, and the Hornets are winners of 5 straight and 7-3 over their last ten.
They are one of the more dangerous teams out West, and you have to guess that if there was an upset in the first or second round of the playoffs, the Hornets are one of the teams more likely to be on the winning side. So, the Hornets aren't quite as well perceived as last year, but then Wade's Heat are no better and they play in the East.
So lets look at it in terms of sheer value.
I believe that the Hornets need Chris Paul more than the Lakers need Kobe, or the Cavs Lebron or the Heat Wade.
No, none of those teams win a series without those specific players, and the Heat especially would be hard pressed to win any game without Wade filling out the stat sheet.
But at least if the Heat lost without Dwyane Wade, they would have a chance of making it competitive. The Hornets however, become absolutely lost without Chris Paul. They become a bike without its front wheel, a chair missing a leg. They just look broken.
They suddenly have no idea what to do. You can almost imagine them just looking at eachother on offense, blankly looking at the ball and then to the basket until Tyson Chandler pipes up:
''Umm, isn't this when I jump up in the air and the ball appears in my hands?''
The definition of value is Chris Paul to the Hornets.
Please understand, this has not has been a huge argument for how Chris Paul should be the 2008-09 NBA M.V.P. Not at all. I don't think he wins it this year, though I'm pretty sure it won't be that long before he does. If I had to choose, I'd actually go for Kobe. But what I am arguing is that Chris Paul most definitely belongs in the conversation.
By Joe Buckley
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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