With the ambiguity regarding whether Chris Paul would play in the season opener due to the knee injury that eventually sidelined him for a month, I was hesitant to send this post in October.
Now he is not only acclimated to the D’Antoni system and his teammates, but his finger print on the style of play and his impact can be seen.
The unwarranted scrutiny for setting his sights on Houston and aspersions casted on him like “the Rockets don’t need him,” “they still can’t win against the Warriors,” and “He cant play with Harden,” can be all put to rest, evident by the great success they’ve seen in their first half season together.
Keeping this new style of play in mind, along with the career low 32 minute-per-game mark Coach D’Antoni has said he wants to cap him off at per night, let’s take a look at my 5 goals for Chris Paul this season.
Note: As it stands, through 27 games at 32.2 minutes per game, his current averages are 19.2 PPG with a 46/39/91 shooting slash. Also, 9.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, and a career high 5.9 RPG (as the shortest man on the court more often than not).
5.) Lead the league in assists per game… again
CP3, a 4 time assist champion who admittedly has an “OCD” about the precision of his passing and is no stranger to the higher ranks for assists per game, should have no problem being near the top once again. He has 8,495 assists on his career and the roster construct of Houston will undoubtedly play to his strength as a floor general as well. The only challenge will be to stay extremely productive and ultra-efficient in only 32 minutes a night. On his career, he averages 35.4 minutes per game, so for him to increase his productivity with 3 less minutes a night will be a challenge, but I expect for him to lead the league in assists come the seasons end.
4.) Allow for usage rate to drop
As if the construct of his previous rosters would have allowed for him to do so effectively, Chris has received plenty of criticism for “monopolizing the ball.” If you were to take a look at each of his teams rosters the every season of his career prior to this season, you would quickly realize that the only steady and reliable playmaker (not ball handler) was him, unless paired with any of his replacement point guards for stretches of the game. That problem has been addressed this season as James Harden allows for Chris to productively spend more time off the ball. It is currently at 24.6, which makes for his fourth highest rating career-wise, but that usage has spiked due to the 7 games Harden missed over the last few weeks. I hope for that rating to drop back down to around 23.0, which would make for the lowest rating since the second season of his career. This, in turn, will allow for him to be fresher come winning time in April, May, and June.
3.) Lead the league in steals… again
Had he played enough games to qualify for league leading ranks, his 1.9 spg mark would have him tied No. 7 in the league. As a player who takes great pride in holding his match-up below their averages, and is one of only a few players that can anchor a defense from the perimeter, racking up steals is nothing new. Paul, a 6 time steals champ, is the only player to lead the league in both steals and assists in 3 separate seasons. The constant switching and defensive versatility this Rockets team has to offer allows for Chris to, oftentimes, play center field and anticipate cross court passes. Chris is also the best guard pick and roll defender in the league, and gets his hand on plenty of passes intended for the roll man and disrupting the initial action in those instances. His IQ for realizing the situation, players involved, and what they are trying to do at any given point in the game, is second to none. Almost like a sixth sense at times. The Rockets will need this concerted effort on that end as extra possessions for them in transition are back-breakers for any opposition.
2.) Continued elite success from deep
Last season, one that saw Paul enjoy his most accurate season from beyond the arc while tossing up a career-high attempts, was a deadly one for him. He shot a career-best .411% from deep. This is the latest new addition to his already deadly attack as his game continues to age like wine. CP3 has found new ways to become better and better as he is towards the latter end of his prime. He is following up his most successful season from deep with an even more accurate one, while shooting 2.1 more 3’s per game. His .391% shooting clip has dropped a little after a cold four-game stretch prior to last weeks games vs MIN and GSW. Enjoying more catch-and-shoot opportunities playing with James Harden will allow for Chris to get cleaner looks from there as well. As of now, he’s at .366% on those opportunities, but expect for that percentage to rise closer to the .472% clip he registered last season. In D’Antoni’s system, he’ll have ample opportunities to better that percentage.
1.) Make more history by joining an exclusive club
In the history of the NBA, there have only be seven players to eclipse the elite 50/40/90 club while meeting the requirement for attempts at each distance. This mark is the golden standard in regard to shooting efficiency. If you can imagine, this is a ridiculously tough mark to accomplish as a primary option. Each of the seven players were one of the top two scoring options on their respective teams, those players being Steve Nash (4 separate times!), Larry Bird (2 times), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant. Each of these players are known as all-time great shooters. I would consider 2014-2015, a season where he played all 82 games, his best mark yet. That season, his shooting slash was .485/.398/.900. Shooting this efficiently across the board would make the combination of him and Harden even more tough.
Checking off on these goals will play a great role in how well this season can turn out to be for Chris Paul and the Rockets team success. You don’t get the nickname “Point God” without being an ultra-efficient player, and CP3 is well-known for his efficiency. A continued steady diet of efficiency from him will then lead to an all around efficient attack from the team. This will play a great part in helping to achieve the ultimate goal in June.
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Thank you for your time!
All statistics used in this article come directly from Sports Reference unless indicated otherwise and are accurate entering January 22.
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