Nobody has been more valuable than Chris Paul

And now, a word or two on something that’s been bothering me.

Listen, it’s no secret that I hate awards. Pretty much all of them. What purpose do they serve in sports really, other than some scrapbook picture of a particular season or whatever? Lamar Odom was the best 6th man this year, and all that. Nevermind that most of them range from unnecessary to convoluted to sloppily defined. I mean, do we really need a most-improved player award, or a “best player not good enough to start” one? And can we do something to more clearly define what the rest of them mean? Can anyone settle on one true criteria for MVP? What are the people who vote really looking for from coach of the year?

And so on…

Anyway, with that bitter missive out of the way, I have a statement to make: Chris Paul is the true MVP of the 2012 season. Really, it’s not even close.

Like I said, nobody really knows what the true criteria for this award is because nobody has ever clearly defined it. Sure, someone logical is left to assume is means “most valuable to his team” or something similar, but what sense does it make for an award like that to exist on his own without a companion “player of the year” award to go with it? To me, it’s makes less than zero sense to have one without the other, and if you are going to, player of the year should take precedence.

All logic aside, this is what we’re stuck with, and if the idea really is to reward the one player without whom his team would be up the river without a paddle, it has to be Chris Paul. It just has to.

While the rest of the world argues LeBron or Durant, I’m more or less baffled by the easy dismissal of CP3. If you check recent history, MVP has basically been earmarked for the best player on the best team, which is every bit as lazy as it is simple-minded, so while everyone else is busy debating between the two obvious choices, I’m left with a simple rebuttal: What one single player improves his teams’ fortunes the most?

Easy answer there.

If you’ve seen the Clippers any, you’re nodding your head right now. A team that won 30 out of 82 games last year won 40 out of 66 this year with the arrival of Paul. A team that struggles to create it’s own offense without him becomes a team full of wide-open jump shooters and lob-catchers flying in from every angle when Paul’s on the floor. Call him equal parts, superstar, coach on the floor, invisible whip and scowling competitor-deluxe.

And really, call the Clippers dead without him.

The 2012 Grizzlies: starring Tony Allen, OJ Mayo and Zach Randolph

So if you’re playing the ” where would they be without him?” game, CP wins by landslide. Where Miami and OKC would still be playoffs teams without their respective starters, the Clippers wouldn’t even come close. Where the Bulls still fought and clawed and scratched with the 76ers minus Derrick Rose, the Clips would go away with hardly a whimper, their offense deteriorating into a mess of  wayward three-pointers and  fruitless Blake Griffin post-up’s.

And now, on the playoff stage, Paul is left to put this team on his back and attempt to drag them to victory of a Memphis squad that is better, more talented and, to use an old phrase, “Tougher than leather.”

How exactly does LA sport a 2-1 series lead over Memphis, in a series in which they were down 27 points in game 1 before staging one of the all-time great comebacks, totally smothered in game 2 and down late in game 3?

Chris Paul, that’s how.

 

Yeah, Reggie Evans’ Incredible Hulk impression also deserves mention, but nothing else good has happened in this series for LA without Paul. Without him, nobody gets open shots, nobody gets pushed to the brink of their ability, and most importantly, nobody believes.

As for what happens now, I still can’t fathom them beating the Grizz two more times. Fact is, they simpler aren’t the better team, and the fact that their crunch-time line-up in game 3 consisted of Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye, Reggie Evans and Blake Griffin says it all. When it mattered, Paul was going to have to make the plays or they weren’t going to win, and make the plays he did. let’s be real here, winning 2 games with this roster against Memphis, let alone four, is a feat heftier than anyone else has accomplished this season. As much as the Clips’ have to look forward to in the future, the present-day reality is that this is a team with one superstar, one would-be superstar (Blake Griffin and his dynamic, yet incomplete game) and a whole mess of supporting players. Whether their run ends in this round or the next is still an open question. After that, they’ll need to turn their eyes toward securing the third serious scoring threat this team needs to get to the next level.

Until that happens, they’ll only go as far as Chris Paul can carry them, and in this game, nobody can go it alone.

That’s right. Not even the most valuable player.

-John Hathwell

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