Chris Paul Version 2.0

by Jeeves

In my mind, going into the 2009-2010 season, Chris Paul was with out a doubt the best point guard in the NBA. He was unbelievable to watch. He had a quick first step, he could shoot, he could dribble, he could command an offense, he could do everything. Unfortunately for NBA fans everywhere, he tore his meniscus part way through that year.

The injury didn’t mark the end of Chris Paul, phenomenal basketball player. It has, it seems, affected the way he plays and has damaged his stake to the claim of best PG in all the land. Before we jump into things, let me establish a baseline for Chris Paul. The following table is a listing of some key stats from the 2008-2009 season, which I consider the peak of his basketball powers:

Year FGA FG% FTA Reb Ast Pts USG% TOV%
08-09 16.1 50.4 6.7 5.5 11.0 22.8 27.5 13.5

We’ll consider that the baseline of awesomeness.

Sadly, CP3’s numbers have all taken a tumble. The big box score numbers (pts/reb/ast) have fallen to 16.0/3.9/9.6. If those were the only numbers that had slipped from the baseline of awesomeness, well, I’d just chalk it up to Paul finding his game again after surgery and assume that by next year he’d be back to normal. Digging deeper, though, it looks like Chris Paul has fundamentally changed his game. It looks like he’s lost a great deal of his assertiveness.  Compare these two tables:

Shot Loc At Rim 3-9 ft 10-15 ft 16-23 ft
Year FGA FTA Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG%
08-09 16.1 6.7 4.4 64 2.4 52 2.3 51 4.7 44
Shot Loc At Rim 3-9 ft 10-15 ft 16-23 ft
Year FGA FTA Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG% Atmpts FG%
10-11 11.3 5.0 2.1 65.1 1.7 45.1 1.6 42.0 3.6 43

His FGA and FTA are glaringly down (as is his FG%), but more worrisome than just those facts are which shots are down. His At Rim attempts have plummeted as he attempts less than half from his baseline of awesomeness year. The second largest drop is in his 16-23 ft attempts. Typically, those are the lowest percentage shots and it’s often a good thing when a player cuts those shots down, but in this instance, I think it’s a bad thing. I think it is further evidence of Paul’s lack of assertiveness. Rather than taking his game to the opposition, he’s taking what they give him. It’s not just meted out in the stats, but is also something I’ve seen in games. He just doesn’t appear to be playing with the same gusto or killer instinct. To be honest, in comparison to his former version, he looks a little listless.

Usage% is a very interesting stat. It accounts for the percentage of team plays a player accounts for while on the court. Loosely, it factors in TO, Assists, FG, and FT, basically anything that accounts for the end of a possession. Paul’s seen his usage drop quite drastically from 27.5 to 21.0. That may not mean much, but that represents the a drop from say a Dwight Howard level of usage to a Luol Deng.

Paul’s role in the offensive, clearly has shrunk, and I’m inclined to believe that this isn’t an anomaly. I think next season (assuming he’s still with the Hornets…and assuming there is a season) his numbers will look closer to this year’s numbers than the baseline of awesomeness numbers. In and of itself that stinks because he was a sight to behold, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul is done as an effective, efficient players. In terms of PER (a flawed, but useful stat that quantifies a player’s efficiency and is good for quick and dirty comparisons), he’s still 6th in the league, meaning he’s one of the most efficient (and best) players in the league. Unfortunately, that also represents a drop in what was typical for Paul, who routinely used to be amongst the top of that leaderboard.

I hope that I’m wrong, and Paul bounce back to his former ways in the coming years. If he doesn’t, well get used to watching Chris Paul 2.0. He may be a little less assertive and a little less explosive, but let me tell you, he’s still one helluva of a basketball player.


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