Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 wrote a great piece yesterday about how Chris Paul – the post-surgery Chris Paul, that is – has become almost an entirely different player, but how said player now closely resembles John Stockton. The statistics are undeniable. The resemblance is clearly accurate and of course, who wouldn’t want a Stockton-clone running their team? Regardless, I have had the exact same thought every time I’ve watched Chris Paul this season including last night’s putrid performance against my Knicks: I want no part of this guy in 2012 or before.
Full disclosure: unlike Schwan, I have not watched every minute of every Hornets game this season, not even close. I’ve probably watched him for a full game maybe six, seven times this season, both against the Knicks and during other nationally televised games. I’ve seen the exact same thing every time: a guy who may possess the single-highest basketball IQ in the league, inarguably has the best handle in the league, quite possibly has the best court vision, but is so amazingly immobile that he is a serious defensive liability. I know Phoney Douglass has a big game every so often, but he abused CP3 last night, running circles around him as if he was Oliver Miller circa 1995.
Offensively, while his shooting percentages have gone up and he boasts plenty of gaudy statistics across the board, all I see when I look at Paul is a guy who has almost no elevation, no quickness, and looks exhausted by halftime. By no means am I saying that he’s not rehabbing, working hard or playing hard. Not in the least. I’m simply saying that the meniscus tear he suffered more than a year ago in his left knee is very seriously impeding him on the court. Look, if you told me that he would continue to put up the numbers he’s putting up now and was able to get to a point defensively that was a significant improvement from where he is now, fine, great, I’d gladly watch him don the orange and blue. I don’t care how he gets it done or what it looks like so long as he’s effective. Problem is – again, based on the handful of games I’ve actually watched of his this season- I can’t say he’d be physically capable of actually achieving any of the above-referenced goals. If that does in fact turn out to be the case, why would the Knicks not go after Deron Williams instead?
Before Melo, Amar’e, and the inevitability of their 50 PPG got here, I leaned strongly in Williams’ direction when it came to the PG of the future. With the teams new look, we’d be much better-served going after a pass-first floor general a la CP3. Williams is an amazing PG, but we all know he likes to fill it up as much as he likes to dish it out. Add that mindset/skill set to this team and there simply might not be enough balls to go around. But again, the new CP3 doesn’t leave me believing that he can maintain Stockton-like numbers over the course of the next decade and for that reason and that reason alone, I just don’t see how it makes sense for the Bockers to go after him.
Assuming Paul’s free agent situation doesn’t come to a head during the upcoming summer, if I were the Knicks, I would do everything I could to not trade for him next year and hope he plays out the year in NOLA, which would allow him another full season to try and get some of his athleticism back. Keeping everything I just wrote in mind, I’ll say this: if anyone in the league has a chance of getting physically stronger in time, it’s probably Chris Paul. Look, the guy is (or at least appears to be) as committed an athlete as there is who seems to be as focused on his health and career as anyone out there. Couple that with the fact that he’s only 25 and there’s plenty of reason to have hope. But if this summer comes and the CP3 situation starts to resemble the Melo situation, I would not pull the trigger on a blockbuster move and commit a ton of money and years to this guy, not at this stage anyway.
If he can improve himself physically and he does come to the Knicks, I think it’s blatantly clear that our new Big Three would have more than a fair shot at Miami’s. That said, one season post-surgery is not nearly enough time to convince me that he’s the second coming of John Stockton.
By Jamie Fedorko