Monday night, the game of the night was played at Madison Square Garden. In the odd regular season game that genuinely matters, the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns played down to the wire.
At least, until the Suns most valuable player had something to say about it.
Now, I’m not saying Chris Paul is the Suns best player, but he’s inarguably their most valuable. And, for a team in second place in the West, and only a game out of first, should find himself back in the league MVP conversation for the first time in over five years.
Paul hasn’t had a top five MVP finish since 2013. If the season ended today, he would most certainly be in my top five.
The case for CP3 as the league’s most valuable player is almost like one you’d make for coach of the year. Unlike the traditional MVP candidate who has super sexy counting numbers, what Paul has done for the Suns has been much more about impact.
|Statistic||2021 (Suns League Ranking)||2020 (Suns League Ranking)|
As you can see in the table above, from offensive rating to defensive rating to pace and turnover percentage, the Suns have greatly improved. Of course, some may chalk that up to general young player improvement with guys like Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker but, how can you explain the pace?
That pace they play, brutally and beautifully slowly is as trademark of a Chris Paul team as ball movement is for Stephen Curry’s. Paul is the quintessential point guard who wants to control any and everything he can with pace always being at the forefront.
This also helps to explain the lowering of turnovers. By bringing in Paul, the team went from solid players like Ricky Rubio to the man they call the point god for a reason.
|Clutch Games||2021 (Suns League Ranking)||2020 (Suns League Ranking)|
|Record||20-11 (5th)||16-21 (19th)|
The other trademark of a Paul team is exceptional clutch performance. The 2021 Suns are no exception, especially when compared with last season’s iteration.
In terms of record, the team has gone from a disappointing 19th to a championship contending fifth. Although the offensive and net rating and turnover percentage shifts are impressive, the pace change is jarring.
The point god’s classes have been in full session in the valley this season.
Like I said above, his counting numbers are uninspiring in MVP terms. However, his advanced numbers make an interesting case.
He leads the Suns in player efficiency rating, offensive win shares, offensive box plus minus, box plus minus and value over replacement (VORP). Paul also sits second in defensive win shares and win shares per 48 minutes.
As far as the whole league goes, he’s top 20 in win shares, offensive win shares, defensive win shares, win shares per 48, box plus minus and VORP.
Now should he beat Nikola Jokic, probably not. His counting numbers aren’t quite at the level you historically need even if you look at Steve Nash’s.
But, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get the recognition of being in the discussion.
Monty Williams was the coach last year so that isn’t new and the only major offseason addition other than Paul was Jae Crowder who has been ‘meh’. Booker, Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and the rest of the young core have improved obviously but not enough to show the kind of team growth Phoenix has experienced.
Paul took them from probably a low-level play-in team to maybe the conference and league’s best record. His career has been marked time and again by raising franchise’s floors.
Whether it was in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston or last year in Oklahoma City, Paul has always made his team better. And, in his sixteenth NBA season, he’s doing it again.
At 35 Chris Paul is putting on a point guard masterclass. It’s the type of season that deserves one thing: a spot on everyone’s MVP ballot.