With the 2012/13 season around the corner, Sportskeeda presents the NBA Top 20 – a countdown of who we predict will be the NBA’s 20 best players in the upcoming season. Six of the basketball writers on this website – Karan Madhok (hoopistani), Sabarinath Sankaranarayanan (sabarinath.sankara), Siddarth Sharma (sidbreakball), Siddharth Srikanth (darthsid), Sidhartha Patra (sidhartha), and Souvik Roy Chowdhury (souvik) – put their minds together to vote for the NBA’s best, the players who will be most “valuable”, not just to their team but in determining the course of how the upcoming season unravels. Enjoy!
How valuable is Chris Paul? He is MVP calibre without question. The MVP is seen as the player whose removal will plummet his team down more than the removal of any other player for their team. The MVP is someone who performs, come crunch time. Of all the teams in the NBA, there’s no other team which won more on the back of one player than the Clippers did last year over Chris Paul. Multiple game winners. Fourth in the league in fourth quarter scoring, in the final 12, Chris Paul shot 50.9% from the field, almost 11% better than Bryant who was 3rd, 8% better than Rose who was 2nd, and 4.8% better than Durant who led the league in 4th quarter scoring. Being at the top of the league in 4th quarter PER.
For context, the PER average across the league is always 15. But this here is only the 4th quarter PER
1.) Chris Paul – 38.7
2.) LeBron James – 33.1
3.) Kyrie Irving – 31.4
4.) Derrick Rose – 30.8
5.) Kenneth Faried – 28.7
6.) Kevin Durant – 28.2
7.) Andrew Bynum – 27.0
8.) Kevin Love – 26.8
9.) Greg Monroe – 26.6
10.) Tony Parker – 26.3
By the way, Kobe Bryant finished 13th on this list with 25.0. The gap here is stupendous. Here’s a little more info to hammer that point home. In the last five minutes of games with the Clippers within 5 points, Paul scored an NBA-high 137 points. Paul’s 358 points in the fourth quarter this season is the third-highest total in the league and his 358 fourth quarter points account for over 30 percent of all of his scoring. Since 2007, Paul also leads NBA with 10 game-winning shots in last 10 seconds of games.
Talk about clutch.
If I could emulate the game of any player in the league, it would be Chris Paul. Not be in the shoes of a player, that would be Griffin. But with my five foot nine frame, I’d pick to emulate Paul’s game in a heartbeat. What he excels at is reading the game and making the right choice most of the time. There are few players in the league as good as creating their own shot off the dribble than Chris Paul.
You just know. With some players you just know what is coming when they hold the ball and seize up their man. There’s a visible change in the mood of all the players on the floor. Even those concentrating on their assignments, keep looking out of the corner of their eye at what is about to unfold. Obviously you’ve got to keep one eye on the ball, but with some players, the eye gets wider with anticipation and knowledge that something is coming and it can’t be stopped.
He rocks the ball left and right, sizes up his man and with an array of hesitation moves, crossovers and fakes, carves his will on the hardwood and in his opponent’s skin. Possessing a deadly accurate jumper and a equally soft touch inside, Paul can drop 25 every night, but he chooses to play point first and get all his team-mates involved in the action. Even then, he gets an easy 20.
Despite all his point guard prowess, Chris Paul isn’t the fastest point guard in the league. Not even in the top three. Westbrook, Rondo and John Wall are three names who are more athletic than Paul. What sets Paul apart is his incredible mental toughness and will to win.
“Put me in coach. We got a shot.”
You could sense his dejected air of futility. Coach Vinny Del Negro must have felt like a parent trying to restrain a delusional kid from going up against Goliath. Down 24 vs the Grizzlies in the 4th quarter. All the more difficult to put him in, coming in the wake of Derrick Rose’s injury in the playoffs. The pressure on a coach to protect his superstar against injury was at an all time high. Chris Paul had suffered a groin injury later in the regular season and he was on the bench to start the fourth quarter. Clippers down by 24, the amount a team is expected to score in a quarter. Down and out, and Chris Paul insisted to his coach to put him in the game. Finally, coach Del Negro relented.
Result being a 28-3 run by the Clippers in the final 8 minutes to steal away a sure-fire victory from the Memphis Grizzlies and turn it into the most miraculous comeback in play-off history. That’s what you get with Chris Paul – A man oblivious to the odds against him, a leader who in his own words, hates to lose more than he loves to win.
This is the final year of Paul’s contract with the Clippers. That adds a sense of now or never to this scenario, even though Paul would be hard pressed to get to play with a better up and coming player than Blake Griffin. After having to carry a sub par Hornets squad on his back for years, it’s a welcome relief to get to play with the stars on the Clippers. Last season being shortened, the training camp gelling didn’t happen to the extent that the Clippers would have hoped for. This time there’s plenty of time.
Chris Paul is the best point guard the Clippers could have asked for. With the addition of Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Jamaal Crawford and other lesser players, Chris Paul has all the weapons at his disposal to make the Clippers among the top five teams in the league and to legitimately contend for the MVP honours.
Coach Vinny Del Negro would prefer that Paul light up earlier in the game. But being the leader and point guard that Paul is, he looks to get his team-mates going. Come second half of the game, that’s Chris Paul time. “As a point guard I try to make sure I get everyone involved early in the game. But when it’s winning time, you’ve just got to go.”
This season is winning time for the Clippers. And Chris Paul will lead them there.
SportsKeeda NBA Top 20
20. James Harden
19. Chris Bosh
18. LaMarcus Aldridge
17. Pau Gasol
16. Dirk Nowitzki (for 20-16, read here)
15. Blake Griffin
14. Tony Parker
13. Andrew Bynum
12. Russell Westbrook
11. Carmelo Anthony (for 15-11, read here)
10. Kevin Love
7. Dwyane Wade
6. Kobe Bryant
5. Rajon Rondo