The Chris Paul Effect

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Posts: 8769
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Good Article by DJ Foster:

At one point or another, we've all engaged in the great point guard debate. The usual names come up. Magic. Stockton. Isiah. But just as you're ready to jump in with your opinion, this always seems to fly in first:

"Are we talking about true point guards?"

You see, it's in this bubble of truth that players of unusual size or versatility can fairly be dismissed. Score-first point guards need not apply, either. The pure, true point guard is viewed as a selfless table-setter, a pass-first player who was born to play point guard and nothing else.

By that definition, Clippers point guard Chris Paul is indeed the truth. But while Paul's greatness is widely accepted, explaining it often leads one grasping at the immeasurable. There is no jewelry to point to, no scoring titles to bring up. We just know that Paul's biggest strength is his ability to make the players around him better.

But the question is: how much better?

The Chris Paul Bump

For as misguided as the "true point guard" qualifier may be, there is plenty of evidence that suggests Paul positively impacts his teammates' performance like no one else in the league.

Let's start on the team level. Last year, with Chris Paul on the floor, the Clippers posted an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 116.5. For the sake of comparison, the Oklahoma City Thunder was the league's best offense with a rating of 112.4.

Compare Paul's 116.5 rating with other players on better teams with better coaches, and he still shines. Tony Parker, a popular non-Paul choice for the best point guard throne last year, registered a 110.5 number. Russell Westbrook was at 113.7. Kevin Durant? 114.1. LeBron James? Tied with Paul at 116.5.

It's probably worth stressing that Paul played with a starting lineup that included Willie Green, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan offensively. That's not exactly a murderer's row.

Making lemonade

To that point, Paul has largely been saddled with average offensive players most of his career, but he's made nearly every single one of them better.

When they've shared the court with Paul over the last two years, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Matt Barnes, Willie Green, Chauncey Billups (11-12) and Randy Foye (11-12) have shot a combined 3.3% higher on 3-pointers than their career averages.

It's Crawford who might be the best example of Paul's influence. Without CP3 on the floor last season, Crawford shot just 32.9 percent from behind the arc. But with Paul next to him in the backcourt, his percentage jumped all the way up to 42 percent.

The effect in boosted 3-point percentages shows on the team level as well. In 2011-12, the Clippers shot 34 percent from behind the arc without Paul on the floor. With him on, that number jumped to 36.4.

The numbers were similar in 2012-13, where the Clippers shot 33.9 percent without Paul and 36.3 percent with him.

Location, Location, Location

All assists aren't created equal.

Paul's ability to get his teammates the ball in the right spots on the floor is a major reason why his teammates see an up-tick in efficiency when they share the floor with him.

A notorious chucker like Crawford transforming into a highly efficient scoring machine next to Paul is no random occurrence. You can go back and ask Rasual Butler or Marco Belinelli, two players who recorded career highs in 3-point percentage when Paul was with them in New Orleans.

Paul puts his teammates in positions where they can succeed, and those positions tend to be in the most efficient spots on the floor -- at the rim and from the 3-point line. Paul's combined 6.8 assists per game in those two areas bested everyone in the league last year, with Rajon Rondo being the only other point guard to record more than 6 combined assists from those areas.

Defensive assist

Although things like help-defense, ball pressure, and fighting through pick-and-rolls are tougher to quantify, we do know that teams score at a higher rate off turnovers, and Paul creates plenty of those.

CP3 has led the league in steals the last three seasons with his strong, quick hands, and any player who can get out on the break with him has benefited. That's part of the reason why Matt Barnes, at age 32, recorded the highest point-per-game total of his career.

Shooter's Paradise

Paul's biggest strength is probably his ability to suck the defense in and create open shots for others. When you think about it, that's one heck of a recruiting tool. Free agents and potential trade targets can look at the Clippers and know they have a good shot at having a career year shooting the ball. More points lead to more dollars, and so players can take a temporary paycut (and call it an investment) for a chance at a ring and the spoon-fed looks that lead to the inevitable stat bump.

With the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley on the wings this offseason, maybe the cycle has come full circle. Paul has proven over the years that he can turn all sorts of average wing players into good shooters, but that's no longer the objective. Can he take great shooters and make them elite? Can he take a great roster and turn it into a championship one?

To be the best -- not the truest or purest -- the answers will have to be yes. ... aul-effect

Posts: 4032
votes: 37

"Pure point guard" has always been an interesting label/term with loose definitions. Sometimes players who just weren't good scorers and would mainly pass are called pure point guards. Sometimes players who are better scorers at the PG spot and could still pass and run and offense have gotten slighted because they aren't "pure point guards".

To me the best PG's are the ones that look to run the offense, but when needed have the ability to create and score on their own at an efficient level. So they are "pass first" in a sense, but not pass only, and not pass first because I can't actually score very well.

Paul is equally capable of scoring at a high level and passing at a high level which is what makes him such a great offensive player. I don't think any reasonable and/or aware person has ever denied the impact he has on an offense, but it's not just his passing. If Paul just passed and didn't score a super efficient 18-20 pts/36 minutes and also turn the ball over very few times, he would not have the same offensive impact. It's the combination of all his attributes, including passing, ball protection and very efficient scoring that makes him such a high impact offensive player.

Posts: 5986
votes: 10

The best point guards are the ones that are elite scorers/shooters AND playmakers. There is a reason why point guards like CP3 and Nash are the highest impact offensive players at the PG spot and frankly in general. The same can be said for Lebron. A pg like Rondo does not have anywhere near that amount of impact since he is an offensive liability who cannot shoot or score efficiently even when he scores on low volume. He is a large reason why the paint is clogged since players sag off him as well. There are very few PGs I can think of that protected the ball as well as Paul, scored as efficiently and averaged as many assists. All of these are important traits for a PG. How many Pgs average more steals than turnovers? Stockton was close but he wasn't the dominate scorer that Paul was. There is a reason why Paul is always top 3 in every offensive metric I can think of.

Clipper All-Star
Posts: 2333
votes: 7

Making Lemonade ftw. I'll now be using that term for the rest of my life.

Posts: 3220

votes: 4

Great article. All the guys who think he's not the best PG in the game just got educated and owned.

Posts: 4674
Location: The Darkside
votes: 37

Anyone that doesn't want to admit that is probably a Faker fan

Clipper Rookie
Posts: 79
votes: 2

I've always felt badly for CP3 that he has not had an opportunity to play with big men (although Blake Griffin is nearing elite status) and coaching staff commensurate with his immense skills. He had a nice opportunity with the 2007-2008 New Orleans Hornets team, playing with David West and Tyson Chandler. I think that team was undermined by a mediocre coach in Byron Scott who did not maximize the talents of Chandler and West--note how Chandler blossomed on the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks such that he commanded near-max offers after their 2011 title run. Anyway, hopefully 2013-2014 will be a deep playoff run for the Clippers with a first-rate coach and some nice wing talent and a deep bench. However, their Achilles's heel is the center position and I'm worried this will hinder them from taking all the marbles. Hopefully DeAndre Jordan--and Byron Mullens--will improve considerably under Doc Rivers.

Posts: 4032
votes: 37

Can't really blame Byron. Chandler was great for them in 07-08, he would have gotten max offers if he was a FA in 2008. He played great defense on Duncan. He was injured the next season which hurt them a lot as well as no creator off the bench. That New Orleans team probably overachieved in the regular season, they had no help off the bench and started Morris Peterson at SG. Okay, they had Pargo off the bench, but in the grand scheme, he was a below average player.

SA was basically a similarly built team except with an elite SG in Manu, and their PF and defensive anchor was wrapped into one player in Duncan, then to top it off, they had one of the league's best perimeter defenders (still) in Bowen, and a really good PG. So it was basically if New Orleans improved in some areas talent wise, they would be SA. They went to 7 games against a more talented team that also had a better coach.

Was that series really determined by coaching or by Manu averaging like 21/4/6 vs New Orleans who had no real solid perimeter defender? They couldn't just focus on him either cause then Duncan was there, and Parker was there, and their wing defenders were Peja, Mo-Pete and Bonzi with Paul/Pargo sometimes at SG

Now, where I could see the argument that coaching actually did determine the series was Scott's decision to not rest his starters in game 7. MoPete and Pargo split SG minutes, but after them, Bonzi played 5 mins and Ely 3 minutes. Paul 47.5, West 46.5, Peja 44, Chandler 42 was probably overkill. Still, New Orleans was +6 in the 4th quarter and went into the 4th down 15 pts, they made a comeback attempt but seemed to hit a wall.

tl;dr, start here

Now, with that said, Paul has never been on a team that good since. If they could have preserved a healthy version of that team with some tweaks (MLE to get a combo guard scorer, sign a decent backup big), they could have been good. But they had 30 year old Peja suffering from injuries, and Chandler had health issues and got traded. They also wasted their free agency money signing Posey and didn't bring a player to replace Pargo's role. A lot of issues with team building there.

Last years team was equal record wise, but was not as good of a team (Chandler vs DJ difference plus coaching fit), last years bench plus that starting lineup (not VDN coaching) now that would have been an interesting team to watch.

Seems like it's sort of what we'll be getting this season (Paul = Paul, West = Griffin, Peja = Redick, MoPete=Dudley, Chandler = DJ???) based on what we get from DJ. Redick/Dudley/Crawford/Barnes/Bullock is much better than 30 yr old Peja/MoPete/Pargo/31 year old last NBA season Bonzi.

DJ is the X-factor.

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