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Kelly Dwyer

The NBA, A-through-Z: Chris Paul

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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For the next few weeks, I'm going to pick an NBA-related subject, A-through-Z, and tell you why it's worth your time, and why it's one of the reasons I love covering this league. Because that's why I wanted to become a scribe who's paid to cover this league. Sharing the things I know and love with those of my kind. All that stuff.

Because I'm lucky enough to have your ear for however long, I don't care that this might come off as a bit twee. A little embarrassing. A little too forthright. I'm OK with that. Hopefully you are, as well.

"C" is for "Chris Paul."

There are so many reasons to be interested in Chris Paul(notes). Mainly because he creates more questions than he does answers.

Is he the best point guard in the NBA?

This seems pretty cut and dry. It seems like the difference between him and Deron Williams(notes) is the difference between Kobe Bryant(notes) and Brandon Roy(notes), but if so many people still call it a tie, or see Williams as the better player, than what are we missing? Seems like we can't help but use the word "seems" a lot, and doubt ourselves a smidge.

Is he injury-prone?

It was a pretty silly tag, early on, just because the guy missed four games in his first year and 18 games since. And people would still bring up Paul being injury-prone and frail in the two years that followed, even if he missed only a total of six games between 2007-09. And then, right when the noise quiets down, the guy turns his ankle against Portland a year ago. Played only 45 games in 2009-10, half of them gimped-out.

Is he not only the best point guard of his generation, but well on his way toward being one of the best point guards of all time?

If you look at PER, Paul's career mark of 25.6 is pretty astounding. Amazing, actually, considering how PER usually tends to hate point guards because it rates rebounding so highly. But can this be possible? The guy that we're watching down in New Orleans every other night is working on a level unseen since Magic Johnson? Pace isn't a factor -- the Hornets don't run much, and PER adjusts for pace -- but is the set-up? Does Paul run an offense that basically allows him a point or assist just about every time down court?

His defense, is it great? The greatest? Just OK? He gets a ton of steals, he's led the league twice, but we've also seen him lose guys. Then again, everyone loses guys these days. There isn't a point guard in this league who isn't made to look silly on defense a couple of times a game. Something about not being able to touch guys while you guard them.

Is he kind of a jerk? He didn't ask for a trade this summer, but he let all sorts of people unofficially representing him toss out the idea that he'd prefer to be gonzo, nowzo. Save for the steady David West(notes), the we-still-don't-know Emeka Okafor(notes) and the underrated (by me, unfortunately) Marcus Thornton(notes), the Hornets don't have a lot of help around CP3. But then again, he signed that contract.

So what do we have? The man who could be the best point guard ever, playing for a team that doesn't win much (which allows for unfair comparisons to point guards who get to play with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), a team that he might not want to play for, but a team that we love to watch. Do we love to watch the team because of what Chris Paul is able to do with it? Sure, but we also loved it when Chris missed 37 games last season.

Is he a system guy, in spite of two, and soon-to-be three, career coaches? Or does he create that good fortune? Our eyes tell us he's dominant, up there with LeBron and D-Wade. The stats say the same thing. So why the disconnect? Why are we left -- after years of telling people how sure we were -- unsure?

Because that's what Chris Paul does, and it's fantastic. Keeps you thinking on your feet, as a fan. Keeps you questioning yourself, your take on the game and your approach to the way you analyze things. We could be watching the greatest point guard ever, or we could be watching a mirage that has duped us all. Clearly, we're leaning toward the former, but we're also loving every minute of it.

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