Chris Paul, LA Clippers Dicing Up Defenses Masterfully in NBA's First Week

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2013

It hasn't been LeBron James or Kevin Durant, and it certainly hasn't been Derrick Rose

One week into the 2013-14 season, Chris Paul has been the league's best player. That much was confirmed on Monday night when the league's top point guard led the Los Angeles Clippers to a 137-118 shootout victory over the Houston Rockets

The 28-year-old is now averaging 26.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 13.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He's also shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from three. 

In 33 minutes, Paul shot 7-of-13 from the field, dropped in a tidy 23 points, dished out 17 assists and committed just two turnovers. He also grabbed three rebounds and racked up two steals.

After the game, CP3 seemed pleased with how his team is faring thus far, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN: "Offense is pretty good. It's all about our pace. We're up-tempo. If a team misses, we're running."

It was the 31st 20-point, 15-assist performance of Paul's career, and his fourth double-double in as many games. According to Basketball-Reference, Paul is the first player since Nick Van Exel in 1999 to produce 23 points and 17 assists in one of the season's first four games. The only other players to do so since 1985-86 were Kevin Johnson, John Stockton, Magic Johnson and Tim Hardaway. 

And Paul's not the only one who's benefited from a scalding hot start. The Clippers boast the league's top scoring unit, averaging 119 points per game. They also hold an offensive rating of 116.6 and enjoy a shade over 102 possessions per 48 minutes, per

The reason for those inflated stats is an offensive output that saw the Clippers tie a franchise record with 78 first-half points Monday night. 

Nine of Paul's 17 assists were to J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, who dropped in 26 and 15 points, respectively. Looking at how the Clippers offense has come together, it's quite evident that L.A.'s perimeter attack is already significantly improved from where it was a season ago. 

In 2012-13 the Clippers shot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked 16th overall. Through four games this season, L.A. is shooting 39.6 percent from distance. 

And it's not just the outside shot that's much improved for the Clippers. Check out the team's shot chart to date, courtesy of 

It's a cyclical effect.

Paul commands the attention of multiple defenders, which allows him to find open shooters on the wings. When defenses start to turn their attention to the Clippers' bevy of snipers, the middle opens up, and Paul is able to find Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for easy finishes at the rim. 

Given Paul's court vision and the Clippers' new spread attack, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Doc Rivers' squad is shooting a gaudy 65 percent in the restricted area, and better than 46 percent from both mid-range floor locations.  

According to SportVU, Paul has already separated himself from the league's other floor generals when it comes to running his team's offense.

Through three games (the most recent data available), Paul created an average of 27 points per game through his assists, nearly three points better than the second-place Ricky Rubio. He also leads all players in passes per game with 82.7, more than seven better than the second-place Kemba Walker.

Paul's selflessness was evident against Houston, as his willingness to pass helped guide six other Clippers players into double figures. And if numbers don't quite cut it for you, take a look at some of the highlights Paul produced in the blowout win. 

First, it was Paul abusing Jeremy Lin with a filthy series of crossovers that resulted in an easy lay-in. 

Then it was a spectacular lob to Blake Griffin to cap off the night.

Paul and the Clippers are for real, and their offense is quickly emerging as the league's best. Now, if only their defense would follow suit.