Chris Paul: Most Improved Player

by January 30, 2008

By Khalid Salaam

It’s mid-season and every expert and so-called expert opine on why so and so should win this award or why so and so shouldn’t. Same thing every year. And as much as we all say that the system is broken we all accept the craziness for what it is. We hate the voting process for the All-Star Game, we scratch our heads at last year’s award winners etc but we participate in our own frustration by never challenging the status quo. Well no more of that.

Here’s something to chew on. Right now Hornets guard Chris Paul is a MVP candidate…and a Most Improved Player candidate. Actually it’s a blowout if you really want to know how I feel. I’m obviously aware of him winning the Rookie of the Year award 2 seasons ago and his numbers last year are more than impressive (17, 9, 4 and 2 steals). And the number increase for this season isn’t off the walls great (20, 11 and 4 and 2 steals). He did increase his FG% from 43 percent to 48 percent this year so for you out there who care, that’s something you can respect. A five point difference in that category is huge but you know how I do. Damn numbers. I’m about results and reality. The Hornets are leading the West in wins and without a great roster.

David West is a serviceable forward, good but without the ability to be truly great on his own. Peja, when healthy is the owner of one of the best j’s in the game. But he cannot create his own shot to save his life. Tyson Chandler is an athletic prodigy, lately he’s been on some Shawn Kemp sh*t. Just grabbing balls out the sky and ramming them home on any monkey-ass defender standing below. But he has no post game. None. Bobby Jackson is still effective at times but he’s 47 years old, Ryan Bowen is Ryan Bowen, Rasual Butler is a decent scorer but doesn’t bring much else to the table. Mo Pete is probably their most versatile player but still does this look like the roster of a team that on January 30th should have a record of 32-12?

I’ve been watching the Hornets play a lot lately and CP’s influence on the game is so literal that it demands an entire column of its own (next month maybe). The cliché of making other players better isn’t a cliché when you do exactly that. He see’s the deficiencies in his teammates and shrugs his shoulders and moves forward. You don’t have accomplished footwork in the post? So what I’ll just lob the ball to you where all you have to do is sky over the next man to score. You can’t dribble on the wing if someone is crowding you even a little bit? Fine, I’ll just dribble penetrate until your man is forced to cheat off and I’ll fire a laser pass to you at the perfect exact in-stride moment you need it to get your shot off in the best way. This is how they play. Coach Byron Scott has everyone motivated and CP3 rewards that by getting them the ball when they want it. Really when they need it. To me making the jump from a good player to great is a superior accomplishment compared to making the transition from just ok to good. CP is a top 10 player right now and arguably the best pg in the L. Every night you have to accept that he’s gonna get his numbers and make sure everyone does too. He’s consistently consistent with his. Everyone calms down and pays attention to getting to their spot on the floor when he has the ball. It is really a sight to see. He dominates players with his intelligence and then when need be, explodes past dudes on drives to the hole. On defense he can hold his own and gets the absolute most out of his 175 pounds. Now I’m not saying that they aren’t gonna struggle at some point. The law of averages says this roster can’t keep playing .700 ball but their dominance in that conference (23-8 vs. the West) and in that division (6-2 in a division that includes Dallas and S.A) is something to respect. The best player on the most improved team (Boston doesn’t count for obvious reasons) is the most improved player. Accept it.