The statistics place Chris Paul among the absolute greats to ever play his position, but he is yet to experience their level of playoff success. How does he stack up against them given the gap between his stats and his résumé?
Paul is a four-time All-NBA first teamer and the best pure point guard in the league whose skills are well known to anyone reading this blog. He is a true floor general and orchestrator of his team’s offense. He is a maestro with the ball, one of the best distributors in recent league history and a multi-faceted scorer. He is also a relatively good defender – though not quite fully deserving of his six All-Defense nominations, as I recently laid out here.
617 games into his career, Paul is putting up averages of 18.6 points, 9.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals on 47.2% shooting. A true stat sheet filler, he already has 297 double-doubles to his name.
Historically, he is amongst elite statistical company. He is one of just five players to amass 11,000 points and 6,000 assists over his first nine seasons, and he currently ranks first all-time in PER among all guards – not a tell-all stat by any means but one that demonstrates his all-round statistical brilliance. Moreover, only five players have ever averaged 21 points and 11 assists on at least 48% shooting for a season. Only two have ever done it more than once: Paul and Magic Johnson.
The 1990 Draft is one of the least revisited in NBA history. It was relatively weak in terms of impact players, but full of interesting case studies.
It produced one Hall of Famer (Gary Payton), a 3-time champ (Toni Kukoc), a hugely talented disappointment (Derrick Coleman), a 48th pick who made the All-Star team (Cedric Ceballos), a professional boxer (Kendall Gill), and a Tourette’s syndrome sufferer who refused to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf).
Here are the top 10 picks and their profiles, re-ordered with the benefit of hindsight:
1) Gary Payton (picked No. 2 by Seattle)
1,335 games, 35.3 minutes, 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 46.6% FGs, 18.9 PER.
Best season: 1999/00 – 82 games, 24.2 points, 8.9 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 44.8% FGs, 23.6 PER, 45-37 record, All-NBA 1st team, All-Defense 1st team.
Several weeks ago, Karl Malone named his all-time NBA starting five. Upon close inspection, his selections were dubious. The Mailman, it turns out, is not the only great player with less-great knowledge of NBA history. This summer several all-timers have offered their takes on who’s greatest. Let us examine their picks.
Most recently, Gary Payton was asked to name his all-time top three. He went with Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell.
No Michael Jordan, GP? “I like old school dudes” was Payton’s completely incomplete reasoning. There is likely some heavy ’96 residue in effect here; it was Jordan’s Bulls who defeated Payton’s Sonics that year in their only trip to the Finals.
Payton always believed he could contain Mike one-on-one, and still maintains the Sonics would have won the series if he’d had the chance to guard him from Game 1 (cheers, George Karl). On the other hand, perhaps GP is just a flat out bad judge of talent. After all, he still considers Kobe Bryant to be the best player in the league.