by Khalid Salaam
Two years ago I started referring to Chris Paul as ‘The Definition.’ I wasn’t really feeling CP3 as a nickname (it makes me think of that corny gold-plated droid in the Star Wars movies) and I wanted to capture the essence of his game. So ‘The Definition’ was born. As in, he’s the definition of what you want in a point guard. It hasn’t really stuck, though. And his overall buzz has been on mute all offseason after that horrendous, hoc-spit of game the Hornets played to close out their First Round playoff series against Denver last spring.
In last postseason’s 5-game series loss to Denver, his assist numbers were still respectable (10.4) but his scoring was down 6 points from the regular season and he averaged damn near 5 turnovers, which nearly doubled his regular season numbers. Point blank, neither he nor the Hornets played well and their outlook for the ’09-10 season isn’t looking that hot either. This is a team with supreme limitations both on the court and financially, and their offseason moves (they drafted UCLA guard Darren Collison and traded Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor) don’t inspire much hope.
Paul’s too good for the Hornets to be terrible, and they’ll be solid for years to come, routinely winning between 48 and 54 games every season. The variable will always come down to coaching and the play of his teammates — his output won’t wane. We haven’t even seen his best yet; this is only his fifth season coming up. He’ll have a 27, 15, 5 and 3 year one of these seasons and grab an MVP trophy or two. Believe that.
But championship contender status will evade him and New Orleans until they improve their roster. For a competitor like Paul, this can’t be good, and if I was in charge of an NBA team I’d throw everything I could at the Hornets brass in trade offers (the Blazers can give them like seven players and Microsoft stock, what are they waiting for?) just to see what would happen. Still, it’s hard to trade a guy like Paul.
For a lot of the guys in the SLAMonline Top 50, uproars have been waged about spot location, true value legitimacy, etc. But I doubt if much can be argued in regards to Paul. I mean, c’mon, you give this guy a real NBA roster, and it’s gonna equal multiple championships. His combination of fire, skill, intellect, athleticism and leadership is ridiculous. There isn’t more you could ever ask for.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.