I’m going to get straight to the point on this one (I swear I really thought I was going to, but when I re-read the article, as usual I didn’t), Chris Paul being injured for the next month or two is a good thing for the New Orleans Hornets.
I know I am getting people rolling their eyes when they read the above line. A NBA fan with half of a brain immediately questions my sanity when stating a player who was on his way to having a historical season for a PG (most people don’t realize this so I will show you) is good for the team he is on.
20.4 PPG 11.2 APG 4.6 RPG .504 FG% .420 3P% .862 FT% 2.3 SPG 2.5 TO
Steve Nash 05-06 MVP #2
18.8 PPG 10.5 APG 4.2 RPG .512 FG% .439 3P% .921 FT% .80 SPG 3.5 TO
Jason Kidd 03-04
15.5 PPG 9.2 APG 6.4 RPG .384 FG% .321 3P% .827 FT% 1.80 SPG 3.2 TO
Isiah Thomas 89-90
18.4 PPG 9.4 PPG 3.8 RPG .438 FG% .309 3P% .775 FT% 1.70 SPG 4.0 TO
Magic Johnson 88-89…second of three MVP seasons
22.5 PPG 12.8 APG 7.8 RPG .509 FG% .314 3P% .911 FT% 1.80 SPG 4.1 TO
Paul can’t be put into the same category historically because of longevity, but he is well on his way. CP3 dragged a dismal team with a pathetic supporting cast to having a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. (I thought they were going to be so bad that they would have no choice, but to trade the All Star PG before the trade deadline).
Let’s take a closer look at the numbers above.
First off, Nash, Kidd, Thomas, and Johnson all clearly had better supporting casts and more to work with (Kidd- Conference Semifinals, Nash- Conference Finals, Magic- NBA Finals, and Isiah- NBA Championship).
Paul averaged the least amount of turnovers between all of them and it wasn’t even close. Kidd averaged .7 more TO’s per game, Nash 1, Thomas 1.5, and Johnson 1.6.
CP3 averaged the most steals per game and was the second best defensive player in the group with Isiah Thomas clearly being the best.
The only player who averaged more points and assists than Paul was Magic.
Most impressive to me is how good Paul’s percentages are. Instead of looking at them individually let’s add FG%, FT%, and 3P% all together. Paul comes up with 1.786, Nash- 1.872, Kidd- 1.532, Isiah-1.522, and Magic- 1.734. Nash had the best total percentages, Paul/Magic are nearly identical, and Kidd and Isiah’s are pretty embarrassing for how good of players they are.
Overall Nash, Paul, and Magic seasons are the best statistically.
Nash I can’t put in the conversation because of his liabilities on the defensive end and his inability to get his team to the NBA Finals.
I think if you stick this year’s version of Paul (healthy) on the 05-06 Suns team he makes them better. As good as Nash was that year, Paul has a hatred for losing and determination that puts him in a category with few players (Kobe is the only one who hates it more), Nash does not have that same fire. He has interests outside of basketball whether it be making movies or playing soccer. Basketball is not life or death to Nash; it is life or death to Paul. That gives Paul a little bit of an edge mentally because he cares more.
To compare the 88-89 Magic season to what Paul was doing this year is a little bit more difficult for me. I was four years old and haven’t seen much besides a few games on ESPN Classic or highlights. Going based on straight statistics I got to give Magic the edge.
If you read my basketball articles you know I believe everything an NBA franchise does needs to be working towards the goal of winning an NBA Championship. Teams that are trying to sneak into the playoffs or continually settle for 4th or 5th seeds (perfect example is the Portland Trail Blazers – the more I think about it the more it makes me angry that they did not trade for Pau Gasol) are doing a disservice to their fans, players, and anyone else involved with the organization.
The Hornets have zero chance of winning the NBA Championship this season and they desperately need to reshape their roster.
If Paul’s healthy there is a good chance the Hornets sneak into the playoffs and get lambasted in the first round by the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavericks, or Spurs just like they did by the Nuggets in the first round last season.
This allows the Hornets to compile some losses over the next month or two to improve their status in the lottery. If they stink enough, they can get lucky and earn a top 10 pick in what should be a strong NBA Draft if the ping pong balls fell right.
Along the same lines, if the Hornets wanted to they could go with the tanking route. They could decide that even with Paul this season isn’t going anywhere so they keep Paul on the shelf even if he could return and lose as many games as possible.
Looking at the Hornets roster they have two young players with potential to help the team in the future; rookie guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
The rest of the roster is overpaid, past their prime, or just stink.
Peja Stojakovic – 2 years $29 million (value next year when he is an expiring contract) – also past his prime
Emeka Okafor – 5 years $62 million (one of the most overpaid players in all of the NBA)
Morris Peterson – 2 years $12 million (value next year when he is an expiring contract) – also past his prime
James Posey – 3 years $19 million (was supposed to be the glue to bring the Hornets to the championship level, much harder to be a glue guy when you don’t have Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen)
Past Their Prime
David West – 3 years $20 million (wasn’t a bad contract at the time he just isn’t the same player)
Darius Songalia (somehow getting $4 million per year so he could go in overpaid also), Julian Wright, Sean Marks, Aaron Gray, and Ike Diogu.
With the negatives out of the way let’s get back to the positives: Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
The injury to Paul allows the Hornets to find out what they have in these two guards. In the two games since CP3 got hurt, Collison had double-doubles with points and assists and played over 35 minutes in both games.
Thornton plays off the ball so he had been getting more minutes before Paul got hurt, but the CP3 injury allows him to play with the ball in his hands a lot more.
These two players could very well be the Hornets backcourt of the future. Paul has two years left on his contract after this season (player option for a third) and New Orleans has a tough decision to make.
Do you try and build a championship contender around him or is the rest of the roster so bear that they need to move him to increase their assets?
The key to the Hornets starting to turn their team around is Collison. He will never be as good as Paul, but if he tears it up while Paul recovers that gives New Orleans some options.
There is no reason to keep two point guards who need to play 35 minutes a night.
Here are three directions this could go: New Orleans thinks that Collison is an NBA starting level point guard and trade Paul (really tempted to put possible Chris Paul trades through the ESPN trade machine, but whoever is going to edit this is already going to kill me so I will leave that alone), Collison plays well enough to raise his trade value and they pawn him off before teams see he really isn’t that good, or Collison is nothing more than a back up PG and the Hornets are still screwed.
No matter what happens during the time Paul is out, the Hornets will have gained valuable knowledge about their roster that will help them move forward as an organization.
If Paul was still playing they would have been content to sneak into the playoffs and put off possible franchise changing assessments.