Chris Paul is arguably the best point guard in the NBA. He has all the talent you would want out of your point guard. He is quick, and has supreme control over the ball. He is more than a willing passer and understands that it’s not just about to whom you pass the ball, but also when you pass it to them. Paul can also finish around the basket and has a very good jump shot from the perimeter. His leadership qualities have been praised since his rookie year with the Hornets. With all that being said, he has had inconsistent success in the playoffs at best. In his 8-year career, he has missed the playoffs 3 times and advanced past the first round only twice (both 2nd round defeats to the Spurs in ’08 and ’12). Despite his lack of postseason success, Paul is regarded around the league as a winner. Meanwhile, guys like Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and others are constantly being reminded that they can’t win if they don’t change their styles of play (yet both of them have reached the Western Conference Finals, Westbrook has even been to the NBA Finals). Chris Paul is a great player; those who say otherwise are fooling themselves. It would be unfair to call him overrated, but it isn’t a stretch to say that he is overvalued.
Let’s get this clear. It’s not completely his fault that we overvalue him. He happens to be playing in a golden age of point guards. Guys like Rondo, Westbrook, Rose, Williams, and young up and comers like Irving, Lillard, Wall, Holliday, and others make Paul’s elite skill set not so rare. He can contribute a lot to a team and can turn a franchise around the moment he steps in the building. Unfortunately for him, there are plenty of guys in the league that can come close to matching his impact on the game. Just as recently as last season, Grizzlies’ point guard Mike Conley essentially matched Paul’s production enough to lead Memphis to victory over the LA Clippers. Paul played very well in the series. It’s not his fault that his team lost. But to lose in the 1st Round with a team that was supposed to be a contender is a major failure. Not a result that one usually attributes to a “winner.”
Many people have said that he hasn’t had enough help to legitimately contend for a championship. In his days on the Hornets, this was true. But at the same time, he’s Chris Paul. He’s supposed to be one of the few guys that can turn a bad team into a competitive one on arrival. He seems to need a lot of help to really contend for a championship. Look at it this way. Would a team with Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes make the playoffs in the West? It would have been close, but I think they could have snuck in last year. Surely, the addition of a player of Chris Paul’s caliber should get them out of the 1st Round at least (it didn’t).
So why do we give Chris Paul a pass when it comes to questions of legacy? Before Lebron James won a ring, it was said that he had something missing. His critics claimed that he wasn’t a winner. Nowadays, it’s Carmelo Anthony who doesn’t play winning basketball. Soon, we’ll be wondering whether or not Kevin Durant will ever win a ring. Some will go as far as to blame Russell Westbrook for OKC never winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy (a claim that would be patently false). Meanwhile, Chris Paul can lob his way into our hearts as the best point guard in the league and a surefire Hall of Famer with minimal backlash.
He seems to be graded on a different scale. Is it because he isn’t extremely athletic? Or is it because we relate to his underdog persona? In an elite class of NBA superstars that can be reminiscent of the Justice League, Chris Paul is like Batman. He doesn’t have superpowers, but he’s great at what he does. I love Chris Paul as a basketball player; there are games where I literally sit and watch in awe of the way he dominates a game. But despite his great play, he doesn’t necessarily lead his teams to playoff success. So, is he still a winner?