With the 2011-2012 NBA campaign in the latter stages of the season, the playoff seeding races and MVP conversations are heating up. One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the turnaround of the Los Angeles Clippers, who, in the offseason made some huge improvements to their roster to go from a Western Conference afterthought to a legit contender.
Los Angeles' "other" team acquired Chris Paul via trade, signed Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers, added Caron Butler via free agency and retained DeAndre Jordan to compliment budding superstar Blake Griffin and give the Clippers a nice core for the present and future of their franchise.
Given the Clippers vastly improved play this season, their two best players, Paul and Griffin, are being mentioned as MVP candidates. The question that remains is, should they be in the conversation? I say yes for one and no for the other, and here are my reasons why.
First, let's take a look at Blake Griffin's MVP resume. Griffin is currently averaging 21.4 PPG (good for eleventh in the NBA) and is fifth in the league in rebounding, pulling down 11.2 a night.
On the flip side, Griffin is a below average free throw shooter, converting only 55 percent at the line (which is worth noting for a player that shoots 7.5 FTs a game) and is also inconsistent outside of 15 feet from the basket. Another point worth noting is that Griffin's production is higher in the Clippers' 16 losses (23.2 PPG) than in their wins (20.1 PPG).
In other words, when Griffin is putting up more shots, the Clippers are usually headed for a loss. Blake Griffin may be a huge part of the Clippers' attraction to fans, but his play is not indicative of an MVP candidate.
Now let's take a look at Chris Paul. When the Clippers pulled off the trade for Paul, many analysts were quick to jump on the Clippers bandwagon, and for good reason. CP3 is the type of player that would make an immediate impact on just about every franchise in the NBA, and his impact on the Clippers is evident with their current position in the Western Conference standings (fifth as of Monday).
Everyone is well aware of CP3's ability to get his teammates involved and fans were hyped for the Clippers to transform Los Angeles into "Lob City," but Paul's biggest contribution has been his ability to create his own offense in crunch time. Chris Paul is one of the top three fourth-quarter scorers in the NBA, behind Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant (who happen to be one and two in the NBA in scoring overall).
Paul has even upped his scoring as of late to keep the Clippers in the playoff hunt, putting up 24 PPG since the All-Star break.
Simply put, the Clippers may have been fun to watch with Griffin and company, but it's doubtful they would be a top-five seed in the West without Chris Paul. Blake Griffin's MVP candidacy should be put to a halt, but CP3's contributions to the Clippers' turnaround can make a legitimate case for some MVP votes.