The 21-6 Los Angeles Clippers are relishing the limelight atop the NBA ladder, trailing only the Oklahoma City Thunder for the league's best record. Though the team has received contributions up and down its deep roster during this 13-game win streak, a ton of the credit has to go to Chris Paul, the league's best point guard.
Paul is averaging a modest 16.1 points per game to go along with his 9.6 assists, 2.7 steals and 48 percent shooting, all of which are right on par with his career averages. However, the big difference is that he's doing all of this on a much better—and more balanced—team.
As Paul has continued playing at an extremely high level, the rest of his team has gotten better and smarter, leading to this extended run they've gone on.
You can really tell what affect a point guard has on a team when you watch him with his and the team's stats in mind.
Los Angeles has a pace that is slower than the majority of the league, averaging just over 91 possessions per game, 12th fewest in the NBA.
Somehow, however, the Clippers are able to score 101.2 points per game, fourth-most in the entire NBA.
Watching Chris Paul play makes it incredibly obvious as to why. Not only do the Clippers make the most out of their possessions, Paul runs the offense in a methodically patient way, kind of like Peyton Manning using the entire play clock to read the defense, call audibles and keep the defenders on edge.
There just aren't any other point guards in the NBA that can compare to him in every aspect of the game.
Paul is capable of scoring as well as guys like Deron Williams and Brandon Jennings, but he's three or four notches more efficient. In fact, the only point guards in the NBA who can match his high threat to score with a terrific efficiency are Tony Parker (19 points, 50.5 percent), Jrue Holiday (18.3 points, 45.3 percent), and Kyrie Irving (22.8 points, 47 percent).
He's second in the league in assists, behind only Rajon Rondo who is sitting pretty yet again with 12.2 per game.
Paul's defense among point guards is once again tops in glamor stats, beating out Mike Conley for the lead in steals (Conley is at 2.4 per game, Paul has 2.7), but he's also just a very smart and tenacious on-ball defender.
If he were to hold that steals lead, it would be the fifth time in his career that he has led the league in steals per game. Only Michael Ray Richardson, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson have led the league three times, Paul has done it four times already.
When we break it down to intangibles, no other point guard compares.
On a team where he seems to be considered to be more of a head coach than the guy actually coaching the team, he's the unquestioned leader of the offense and defense.
At this point in the season, I don't think you could argue that any other point guard in the NBA is an MVP candidate, but Paul has to be a top-five guy, if only because of the success of the Clippers in the first third of the season.
Paul is having a season that only he is capable of having.
In fact, since 1946 only 10 players have averaged at least 16 points, nine assists and two steals per game, while shooting 47 percent. Four of those people are John Stockton, four are Chris Paul, while Tim Hardaway and Mark Price round out the rest.
If we narrow that down a bit further and only include seasons on that list with an assist-to-turnover ratio of at least 3:1, we drop down to seven players, knocking out Price, Hardaway and one of Stockton's seasons.
Paul is playing at a historic pace at this point in his career, and if he keeps it up he could end up carving out a place for himself in the history books as one of the greatest point guards of all-time.
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