Most Overlooked Facets of Chris Paul's Elite Game

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Most Overlooked Facets of Chris Paul's Elite Game
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Chris Paul is undoubtedly one of the best point guards in the NBA and has been for the past several years.  His ability to control an offense is amazing to watch because everyone on the floor follows his lead as he aligns them in the half-court before he begins his attack.

Paul has literally every skill a coach would want in a point guard.  He is a leader, can shoot, attack the rim and always seems to make the big play. Despite all those attributes, there are some aspects of Paul’s game that are overlooked.  They might not stand out in the box score, but when breaking down film, certain skills stand out.

Chris Paul runs the pick-and-roll as well as any point guard in the league because he controls the defense.  Something so simple goes unnoticed in the box score, but is a thing of beauty on the floor.

In the clip above, Paul shows why he is so dangerous attacking off a screen.

First, Paul sets up Chase Budinger, his defender, with a hesitation crossover behind his back.  This causes Budinger to freeze for a second and gives Paul the advantage when attacking the screen. Once Paul turns the corner, he faces up Luis Scola, who Paul knows cannot guard him. 

Paul brings Scola wide to the baseline in order to set him up for a quick crossover to reach his hot-spot on the floor, the elbow.  One of Paul’s favorite areas to shoot from is the elbow and odds are every team in the NBA knows this.

Once Budinger fights off the screen it is already too late.  Paul could easily knock down a jumper from the elbow but sees that Scola is out of position and unable to recover on DeAndre Jordan.  Scola is attempting to keep Paul for getting up a layup, but Paul is baiting Scola out of the paint in order to clear the lane for Jordan.  Once Jordan turns and attacks the rim, Paul sees him coming and throws a quick lob over his shoulder for an easy dunk.

Paul is a mastermind on the floor because he can see things before they happen.  In addition, Paul can set up his teammates by attacking the defense in order to draw extra defenders, leaving them open for rim-runs and basket-cuts. Watching Paul do this is like watching snow fall, it is mesmerizing.

Another aspect of Paul’s game that is overlooked is his low turnover rate.  According to ESPN, Paul has the sixth-lowest turnover rate among point guards at 8.5.  Paul clearly values ball security and rarely makes arid passes. 

Paul’s career turnovers per game are a mere 2.4, according to basketball reference.  Furthermore, Paul’s career assists per game mark is an amazing 9.8.  Combine those 9.8 assists with his 2.4 steals per game and one can see why Paul is so lethal.

His ability to make the smart play and set up his teammates for easy baskets is valued greatly.  However, it is Paul’s efficiency with the ball and his low turnover rate which makes him so valuable.  Paul does not give away possessions.

Finally, there is Chris Paul’s defense.  While he has been named to four All-Defensive teams in his career, Paul’s offense usually steals the headlines.  As mentioned above, Paul averages 2.4 steals per game for his career.  But steals and blocks are only a small sample of how well a player defends.

Defensive rating is a statistic used to estimate points allowed per 100 possessions.  Paul’s career average is a solid 104, but this season it is a stellar 98.  His ability to lock down opposing point guards on defense and jump out into passing lanes makes him a huge threat on the defensive side of the ball.

How is Paul’s one-on-one defense?  It has been somewhat average throughout the years, but this year he is well above-average.  According to 82games, Paul’s 48-minute player efficiency rating at point guard is an impressive 26.4—an impressive 11.4 points above league average.  This aligns with his great assist numbers and his scoring.

Where things become impressive is when viewing his opponent counterpart’s 48-minute PER rating.  Paul is holding opposing point guards to a 12.4 PER, resulting in a net 48-minute PER rating of plus-14.0.  Paul is able to play solid defense this year because the Los Angeles Clippers are so deep and DeAndre Jordan is available behind him to protect the rim.

Overall, Paul is definitely one of the best point guards in the league.  In fact, his numbers suggest he is one of the best point guards in the history of the league.  With that in mind, there are still aspects of his game that might not get as much attention as his highlight-reel assists and his scoring numbers.  His ball control is excellent, he plays good defense and he has obviously mastered the pick-and-roll.  Paul is a complete point guard; the statistics and video prove it.

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