Throughout most of the season Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have been bandied about as the main candidates to be named MVP this season. While all three players are strong candidates to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, over the past few weeks a new candidate has burst onto the scene.
Who is this mystery man?
None other than Chris Paul, the point guard who’s diminutive in stature but whose play has New Orleans playing high atop the Western Conference standings.
“When you start talking to me about MVPs you obviously need to look at their stats, but you also have to look at what that person means to his team,” Byron Scott recently preached to the media. “He’s probably close to accounting for 48 or 49% of our offense. So that’s a big part of anyone’s offense and I think those numbers, his performance this year and where we are [in the standings] bode well for him to be considered the MVP.”
When you look at that explanation, there’s no reason why Paul shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Garnett, Bryant and James. But all four players obviously can’t win the award so there has to be a way of sorting out the eventual winner. Many writers in the past have taken a page out of Phil Jackson’s criteria and eliminated any player who doesn’t carry his team to at least 50 wins. With Cleveland currently stuck on 42 wins, you can cross James’ name off the list as he hasn’t guided his team to enough wins. Besides, as gaudy as James’ stat line of 30.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists are, you could make the argument that Paul’s averages of 21.6 points, 11.5 assist and 2.7 steals are superior since he’s on a team that’s won over 50 games in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
It appears that New Orleans Hornets head coach Byron Scott would be one of the people who agree with this assessment.
“I just think with his numbers and with what he’s been able to accomplish this year – he could be the first player in the history of this game to average 20 (points), 10 (assists) and 3 (steals) – that’s number one. Every statistical category has gone up from last year. He’s on the team that’s currently tied for the top in the Western Conference. So I think that says a lot a lot as well.”
When looking at an MVP you need to feel that player thrives under pressure and loves to compete against the other elite players in the NBA. When Scott was asked about Paul playing well against fellow point guards like Steve Nash and Baron Davis this season, he had to stifle a chuckle before he could answer the question.
“I think that means he’s pretty good. I think the thing about those two guys that you just mentioned, he knows how good they are so that’s a personal challenge to him. He gets up when he plays against who he considers the better point guards in this league. Deron Williams is another one in Utah and when you talk about Tony Parker in San Antonio. There are so many of them in the Western Conference that are scary, but he gets up for those types of challenges because he knows how good those guys are. That’s just the competitive nature that he has.”
As strong as Paul is currently playing, he’s only three years into his NBA career and things will only continue to improve for him. Unlike Garnett and Bryant who are in the peak of their respective careers, Paul’s style of play will continue to evolve, his body will get better at taking the pounding of playing every night against men larger than him and he’s learning about the game daily from the Hornets coaching staff.
It’s qualities like this that have many people who watch Paul on a daily basis talk about the bright future this point guard has in the NBA.
“It’s been a very young career, but right now I think he’s established himself as one of the top point guards in this league,” said Scott. “The thing about Chris is I’ve given him a lot of freedom and I’ve done that because I know that he has great basketball IQ. He doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes, he values the ball and if you look at his assist-to-turnover ratio for as often as he has the ball in his hands it’s remarkable. Especially in his third year at 21-years-old.”
Despite all the hoopla surrounding Paul, when you approach the talented point guard and ask him for his thoughts about possibly winning the MVP award this season he tries to change to topic.
“I don’t think about it to tell you the truth,” is all Paul would say when reporters recently asked if he thinks about being named MVP this season
When told he was considered one of the front runners for the award, Paul merely shrugged his shoulders and tried to direct the focus away from himself and back onto the strong play of his team.
“I appreciate it but what I want to do right now is make the playoffs. I just want to see that little mark on NBA.com, that little ‘x’ that says we’ve clinched a playoff spot. Once that happens I feel like the rest of the other stuff will take care of itself.”
When further prodded about whether he ever thinks or daydreams about winning the MVP, the diminutive point guard continued to shoot down the MVP chat.
“For what? That might mess us up. It’s never about that, it’s always about winning.”
A lot of times fans and writers became enamored with the player with the gaudy stats and often neglect the player that makes a difference to a team winning. Hearing Paul talk about the award it’s clear he doesn’t care about personal accolades, the only thing he’s thinking about this month is helping his team win some important games.
Isn’t winning games all a legit MVP candidate should be worried about?
Hopefully voters acknowledge this and dish out the first of many Maurice Podoloff trophies to Chris Paul this spring.
Photo Credit: ICON SMI