What do Chris Paul and Dwight Howard have in common? Well, they were both born in 1985, they are both part of the next generation of NBA stars and they are both the best player on their respective teams. Last but not least, they both have ETO's (early termination options) on their contract in 2012.
Many teams will be jockeying for position when it comes to the rights to the services of these players. The question we have to ask ourselves as fans is not only who is the better player, but who is the more valuable player. It's obvious that Dwight Howard has had the more successful teams, but he has arguably had better teammates in a weaker conference than Paul.
If both players are free agents at the same time, teams are going to have to choose between the two. Obviously not an easy decision. If a team doesn't have a glaring hole at one of the positions it's going to be a close call. So who is more valuable? Well, let's do a head to head comparison and just make it easy.
Chris Paul, The Positives:
Paul is clearly one of the top point guards in the game today. This season Paul finished among the top six point guards in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, double doubles and field goal percentage. There's not much more you could ask for. He averages 19 points and 10 assists for his career, also adding 2.5 steals. He can score when he needs to and also make the extra pass.
Paul is lightning fast and is one of the flashiest players in the NBA. His quick hands allow him to play intelligently on defense and start fast breaks while generating extra possessions. His elite athleticism allows him to be versatile. He is one of the most exciting players in the game, and should put people in the seats.
CP3 doesn't have a long list of negatives. He is a good shooter and passer. He is also a good decision maker. I will say that the one thing that could deter teams from going after Paul is that a lot of times having your primary distributor also be your primary scorer can create problems for an offense. If you look at the top 6 teams in each conference, only two of them have their point guard as their primary or secondary scoring option. Whether or not this is a coincidence remains to be seen, but with this risk a dominant big man may be a safer option.
Dwight Howard, The Positives:
Dwight Howard is an absolute beast in the paint. He was in the top three among NBA centers in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, steals, blocks and had 29 more double-doubles than the next closest center. Not only was Howard an animal this season, but he has been at his best in the playoffs averaging an outrageous 32 points and 17.5 boards per game while shooting 67 percent from the field.
Statistically, Howard is one of the strongest players in the NBA. He scores, rebounds, and most importantly plays dominant defense. He is one of the most feared players in the league on defense. His crazy athleticism and jumping for his size widens the gap even further between him and his opponents. While Howard is a beast, he certainly has his drawbacks.
When you initially look at Howard's game it seems as if he's perfect. He does everything a good center should. He does however have flaws. First of all, he is a terrible free-throw shooter. He shot almost 60 percent from the line this season, which becomes a problem when we see exactly how many free throws he shoots. He is constantly at the line, costing his team points. It's dangerous to have him on the floor at the end of the game because of his poor shooting.
Another problem with Howard's game is that he doesn't have any mid range game and he doesn't have real post moves. He relies too much on overpowering people and dominating them with sheer athleticism. He clearly has a lot of talent, but he hasn't really been developing his offensive skills over the years. He's still in the same spot he was a couple of years ago which seems to indicate he has probably already peaked.
All in all, I believe that Chris Paul will be the more heavily sought after prize if he decides to use his ETO. Howard is one of the best players in the game, but Paul's speed and court vision is just too much to pass up. He is extremely polished and he will be great to play with. He makes everyone around him better. We still have plenty of time between now and the time these players hit the market to determine who is better, but for now, I say Paul.