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CP3 not MVP? Think Again.

By on March 15, 2009

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the MVP race is a three way contest.  Be it the writers at NBAtv, ESPN, Yahoo, or wherever: it’s all about Kobe, Lebron, and Dwyane.  What about the guy who came in second in the MVP voting last year, Chris Paul?  Never mentioned.  These major media outlets run through highlights, and someone almost inevitably says something like “CP is playing is out of his mind, and he’s not even in the MVP conversation,” with a tone that’s somewhat apologetic.  But then they move on.  They have bigger markets to address, after all.

I guess the first thought might be that CP is having an off year.  Wrong.  Higher FG%, FT%, higher rebound rate, more steals per game, and more points per game on less shots than last year.  Oh, but his assists are down 0.6.  But he still leads the League in assists per game.  Don’t believe me?  Check out Basketball-Reference.com.  A great site.  (I got the numbers below from there too.)  Maybe the lack of discussion of CP3 for MVP is the Hornets record?  Nope.  We’re only a few games below last year’s pace, and well ahead of Wade’s Heat.  Okay, so forget this year and last.  There are no answers there.  So ask yourself a more pertinent question.  Is CP3 having an MVP-caliber season?  I figured the best way to find the answer was to compare his stats this year to those of past MVP point guard seasons.  Any predictions on how CP will stack up?

Most Valuable PlayersYou hear now and then that Chris broke one of Oscar Robertson’s records.  Well, Oscar won the MVP in 1963-64.  Byron also likes to call CP a six-foot Magic Johnson; MJ won the MVP three times: in 1986-87, 1988-89, and 1989-90.  And, of course, the most recent point guard to win the MVP, was Steve Nash, back-to-back in 2004-05 and 2005-06.  So how does CP stack up?  Pretty damn well.  Not the best year ever by a point guard, but certainly within the spectrum of MVP-caliber play.  Let’s get to it.

Who's your daddy?  CP.One caveat must be given.  Oscar Robertson played in a different era, with different rules.  For starters, you’ll see he has no 3-point shooting stats.  There was no 3-point shot back then.  Also, they didn’t break the boards down into offensive and defensive, and didn’t count turnovers or steals. I’ve compared percentages and per game stats because obviously CP hasn’t played a full season yet this year.  The immediate impression that jumps out is that CP’s year is better really than either of Nash’s MVP seasons (something which the below stats will clearly confirm).  The other initial impressions are that Magic Johnson has some awesome years and the Big O played lots of minutes.

Minutes per game to me mostly means how important that guy is to their team.  One could suggest that CP’s longer minutes give him more time to accrue stats, but Nash and Magic played on higher paced teams.  (Yes, I know pace-adjusted stats are all the rage, but I’ll leave those to the real stat masters over at atthehive and hornets247 for now.  Plus, they don’t always work with guys as old as Oscar, as they didn’t keep all the same stats to input into the equations.)  Field goal percentage.  CP may be in the middle bottom of the pack, but he’s over the 50% threshold, which not many guards surpass.  His “weakness” if he can be said to have one, from looking at these stats, is 3-point shooting (one thing Nash excelled at), but CP’s kind of been on a slump from there lately, and he has 20 games to pull that  number up.

Free throw shooting?  CP may only come in at fifth here, but considering Duncan, Shaq, and Wilt have all been MVPs, well.  Yeah.  86% doesn’t sound too bad.  Rebounding, again mediocre, but notice that the only player his height, Nash, CP beats hands down.  Magic had 9 inches on Chris and Oscar had five.  Not bad, really.  Surprisingly, CP actually is only fifth at assists per game, as well.  You’d expect our little basketball wizard to be higher up, right?  Well, I’m going to cheat a little here and go to pace-adjusted stats.  We don’t have them for Oscar’s MVP season, but the best in his entire career was 37.8%.  Magic for his MVP years: 47.2%, 48.6%, and 45.5%.  Steve N with 49.2% and 44.4%.  How about Chris Paul this year?  54.8%.  Let me say that again.  54.8%.  By far the best.  You know how people say if CP played for D’Antoni, he’d average 20 assists a game?  Well, we need to start recognizing in the popular media the difference between pace and recognize CP’s greatness at any pace.

stats2Now, the second set of stats make Chris’ case even more.  First, they show that CP is the master thief among MVP point guards.  Also, CP held onto the ball much better than any of these other guys.  Not surprisingly, thought, he’s not the best shot blocker.  Chris commits a few more fouls than anyone but Oscar, but as long as he’s not on average in foul trouble, which he’s not, who cares?  Magic and Oscar definitely kill CP in scoring, but CP crushed Nash.  Although, in fairness, Stevie was definitely the most effective scorer, as shown by True Shooting % and Effective Field Goal Percentage.

My final observation: CP dominates Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating.  Not only does he annihilate Nash, and handily beat the others, but he’s posting the highest PER ever for a point guard.  And guess what?  The guy who currently holds that distinction?  Chris Paul from last year.  And no one’s talking about this guy for MVP?  Seriously?  The case is clear.  CP3 is an MVP.  Not only that, but here’s a bonus stat.  Chris is in only in his fourth year; Oscar won the award in his fourth.  However, Magic won it in his 8th, 10th, and 11th seasons; and Nash won it in his 9th and 10th.  CP is just starting to peak.  Think about it.

Wanted: a six foot point guard who can dominate the game at will.The only remaining question is, then, is CP as good as Kobe, Lebron, or Dwyane this year?  One difficulty in making this determination is that they have different style games.  It’s like trying to explain why Nash beat out Shaq in 2006.  How do you really quantify what each one brings in comparison?  It’s apples and oranges.  Two 2 guards, a 3, and Chris at the 1?  You just can’t look at the same criteria for each one, but have to balance the overall impact of each player on his team, in some sort balancing test of shifting priorities.

Nonetheless, somewhat inexplicably, for “analysts,” all anyone ever says is that Chris doesn’t score as much as these guys!  If it was, Allen Iverson would have 4 MVPs and Tracy McGrady 2.  Yet, anyone who’s ever watched Chris play more than once or twice knows that he doesn’t try to dominate the game by scoring as much as these other guys.  That said, Hornets fans have seen him go off in a quarter for more than 20 on multiple occasions, just because he can, and the situation dictated it.  

But it’s not all about scoring.  It’s about making your team better.  CP knows it’s a team sport, and that even if he scores 50 or gets a triple double (the latter of which he leads the League with the most so far this year), and his team isn’t playing well, his team won’t win.  All that matters to Chris is winning, not personal stats, and his goal is a championship, nothing more, nothing less.  But along the way, he deserves to be mentioned by the rest of us as an MVP candidate.  And I say, as an MVP, period.  Here’s what some other people have to say:

I know this much, Chris Paul’s stats this year compare favorably to those of past point guard MVPs.  Not just All-Stars.  MVPs.  So anyone that doesn’t at least put him in that conversation is crazy.

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9 Responses to “CP3 not MVP? Think Again.”

  1. It’s simple, the dumber and more point obsessed fans get, the more angry letters the wimps who write those articles are gonna get, and the more they are gonna want to feel loved by putting up whoever gets the most love mail. It’s that clear, just reading some of the arguments makes me laugh so hard honestly I was unaware of how stupid people can be. If only there was a set distinguishing rule for MVP(and on that topic for sixth man too all this putting starters on the bench for the first three minutes then they play the whole game is ridiculous) but that is just my opinion, basically as long as Lebron has sprite, Wade has T-Mobile, and Bryant has helpless girls in hotel rooms….oh wait nevermind, as long as those are around Paul will not have a chance, sad to say he’ll continue to be screwed over.

  2. So when the talk of MVP started with Kobe and Viscount (for you, mW), I thought it was only about players on division leader/conference leader teams. Now the talking heads are bringing up Wade’s name, which throws out the whole best team concept, but a great player on a playoff team. So WHY NOT CHRIS PAUL? You want highlights, big stats, a player that the team would be absolutely lost without? I doubt you can leave CP3 out of the conversation without completely being a total “I hate the Hornets and their fans” douche.

  3. Great post, you nailed pretty much everything.

    All in all, the MVP is a bogus award. Steve Nash winning one, let alone two, is absolute garbage. It’s a bunch of guys trying to convince people that their extremely subjective criteria are actually highly objective. That’s why you’ll often see the same writer slamming “stat geek stats” and then turning around and talking about how awesome Kobe’s 10 40 point games are in the same article.

    The other part is that it creates a vicious cycle. Once people get a set impression of a player- say Kobe- in their minds, they won’t let it go. Even if Kobe goes 12-35 with 6 turnovers, they’ll choose to remember the 30 point night on the basis that he’s a “closer” or that he “knows how to win.”

    The MVP has no value to me, but my order right now is 1. LeBron, 2. Paul, 3. Wade. LBJ has been the best offensive player and very good according to all defensive metrics. Wade has been more efficient than Paul offensively, but defensive metrics suggest that he’s been below average on defense. Paul, on the other hand, has a strong case for one of the top 3 defensive PG’s in the game.

    Kobe doesn’t crack my top 5. Not only are D-Howard and Duncan’s offensive efficiencies very comparable or better, they blow his overrated defense out of the water.

  4. Wow. Strong reactions. I think the MVP award does have value, but one of the big problems with it in the NBA is that there are the concomitant effects of “career earnings” and “hot now”; that is, you have to 1) “put in your time” to become eligible (why CP lost last year), and 2) if you’re in the right system, at the right time, with the right media coverage, you win (a la Steve Nash both times).

    That said, I’m surprised atthehive has no love for Kobe. I do think Kobe is one of the best players in the game, certainly better than Lebron, who I feel is an overrated dunk machine. Wade, since the Olympics, has been on a complete tear, wanting to prove to the world that he can recover from his injuries and be better than ever, lots of respect there.

    I have no problem with Duncan or D-Howard being in the conversation, but I feel like they fall behind CP, Wade, Kobe, and Lebron. If Kobe beat CP last year because of his team’s better record, I expect Kobe to beat out Lebron this year. And if Lebron does beat Kobe, I expect Kobe to take it out on Lebron in a 5-1 or 4-0 Finals rout. Wade, I would love, actually. Because with both Wade and Kobe having MVPs and Rings, that leaves both contests down to CP and Lebron as the guys who haven’t joined the club. I’d be down for that media coverage.

  5. YoungFella says:

    Real nice work – Obviously CP3 is as important to the Hornets as any player in the league.

    Personally I don’t really give a crap about the MVP award though. I just want the Hornets to get the 3rd seed and reach the WCF. That’s what will probably have to happen to allow CP3 to get true MVP consideration next season anyhow. It’s kind of like with the NFL – can you name who the MVP was this past season? Seriously – I’m a die hard NFL fan and I think it was Peyton Manning, but I’m not 100% sure. It really matters a lot less than who gets to the Super Bowl.

    I love the post though just for the substantive information. CP3 is da man.

  6. I Guarantee You That if you ask Charles Barkley or Allen Iverson to trade there MVP award for a championship.. THEY’LL SAY YES IN A HEARTBEAT

  7. sus me “their'”

  8. No arguments on the MVP vs. Rings argument. Winning is what matters. But that said, you can’t have a serious MVP conversation without mentioning CP3.

  9. Unfortunately the reason CP3 is not in the conversation IS because of the Hornets record. Sure, the Hornets are still on pace to win 50 or more games… but its all about expectations. The Hornets were expected to challenge the Lakers for the 1 seed or at the very least have the 2 seed all locked up by now. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. The Hornets are seen as underacheiving and for whatever reason people don’t want to include Paul in the conversation because of that. It doesn’t make sense to me.. but that’s how it is.

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