Before I start my argument, let me preface it with two statements.
- If you told me Chris Paul was the league's best point guard, you wouldn't get an argument.
- If you told me Chris Paul was the 2nd best player in the league, you wouldn't get a spirited argument.
So as you can tell from the above statements I am not some unreasonable Chris Paul hater, he is clearly an excellent player. My issue with the Chris Paul's public perception is that he seems to be the only player in the league who is absolutely immune from criticism. Lebron James,the league's consensus best player, has had clutch ability questioned and his work ethic. Dwight Howard has been bashed for his robotic offensive game and free throw woes. Kevin Durant has taken some flack for his inability to create offense, the bloggers of the world almost revolted when D-Rose won MVP, because he wasn't efficient enough.Those same bloggers continually write love letters in the form of blog posts to Chris Paul. Its not just the bloggers, Paul is beloved by the mainstream media too. You won't find a negative Chris Paul article. On the surface I get it, Chris Paul is a clutch player and that keeps the Skip Bayless's of the world off his back and he is a pure point guard, a designation that means far too much(and also keeps the S.B.'s of the world off his back). But it causes normally rational people to become irrational. Case in point comes from this article by Ethan Sherwood Strauss. Based on the title, this article seems to be a little critical of Chris Paul, which would be a welcome change, but it of course isn't. I found two pieces of Chris Paul praise in this article particularly objectionable.
The first is that Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league by a "ridiculously wide margin." E.S.S uses the stat of PER to support this notion, mentioning that the next closest PER was D-Rose's at 23.10 and he only played in 39 games(what isn't noted is that until Rose was quite clearly slowed by injury he and Paul were neck and neck in PER). This is such a bold statement that there has to be ironclad proof to support it, and frankly it isn't there. In what is commonly referred to as the golden age of point guards Steve Nash and Derrick Rose have combined for 3 MVP to Chris Paul's 0. You could argue voter oversight, clearly CP3 is an MVP caliber player, but if Paul was the NBA's best point guard by a "ridiculously wide margin" this disparity wouldn't exist. Another thing to remember is that despite what revisionist history would suggest, Derrick Rose was clearly the best point guard in the league during the 2010-2011 season. Unfortunately what people remember about that season is the sensational playoff series Chris Paul had against the likes of Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant and D-Rose's struggles against the likes of Dwyane Wade and Lebron James 2 rounds later. It is forgotten that before the Heat series D-Rose had a similarly sensational series against the Atlanta Hawks (30 and10-45% shooting). Chris Paul deservedly wears the best point guard crown this season, but he didn't last year(and the year before that?) and I am not the only one who thinks so.
The next statement was that it was a credit to Chris Paul that the Clippers had a top 5 offense this year when they had two players that couldn't shoot in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Its a testament to Paul's reputation that Blake Griffin, one of the top 2 or 3 offensive power forwards in the NBA and a rookie sensation last year, has been turned into a burdensome player who can't shoot in the span of one season. Blake Griffin ranked 8th in PER and 2nd amongst PF's. He is a terror on the pick and roll and also is a very skilled passer, I am pretty sure D-Rose would trade Carlos Boozer(who can shoot) for Blake Griffin, ditto Rondo and Garnett. Jumper or not, Blake Griffin is an awesome offensive player who any team would gladly have, to suggest he would hold any offense back is ridiculous.
Chris Paul is a pretty great player, but in a time when every other star's flaw(s) are magnified i think it is only fair to bring up a flaw of Chris Paul's game. It isn't an obvious flaw and it is hard to concisely define unlike "he shoots too much" or "he doesn't play defense," but it is worth noting that Chris Paul's teams have never played fast. In the past 3 full seasons Chris Paul has played, his teams haven't ranked above 25th in pace. This is a mild criticism, but Chris Paul's control freak style of play forces his teams to play slow whether that's the rest of the roster's ideal style or not. Last year the Clippers ranked 4th in offensive efficiency, but didn't play to the strengths of a a defensively challenged roster that had the most athletic front-court in the league. Could Chris Paul lead an offense successfully if he were forced to play to his teammate's strength's instead of his own? Would his production suffer he did? Fair questions both. Russell Westbrook is bashed constantly for his playing style despite playing on the league's 2nd best offense, so why is Chris Paul immune from similar criticism? A critique of Steve Nash is that he struggles in a slow-it- down offense; is it any better to struggle in a fast paced offense. Our own Derrick Rose also played on a slow paced team, but it was due to roster constraints (Carlos Boozer) and coaching style (Thibs doesn't like his players gambling on steals, thus limiting the amount of fast breaks). I think it's fair to wonder if Derrick Rose, or Steve Nash would have made that Clipper offense even better last year.
The bottom line is that Chris Paul isn't overrated because he sucks, he is overrated because he isn't flawless.