We argue. You decide.
There is this perception that Deron Williams was always playing catch-up to Chris Paul. The truth is that Williams has been the best point guard in the world for a while.
Paul may have his Hornets sitting at a surprising 11-2. But who can forget what Williams did these past few weeks? He played 53 minutes and beat the Clippers with a tie-breaking layup. Then, he led a charge back from 22 down to punk the Heat in Miami. One night later, Williams went off for 30 and 14 in a win against the Magic, followed later that week by another second-half comeback in Charlotte, capped by his game-winning hook shot.
In head-to-head meetings over the course of their careers, Williams has gotten the better of Paul in every major statistical category. He has also shot 56% from the field against Paul, his highest versus any team.
Defensively, most will look at Paul’s career theft numbers (2.4 steals per game), and say he is stronger on this end. But Paul is disruptive in much the same way Allen Iverson was: by playing passing lanes and generally taking too many chances. Williams, on the other hand, is 6-3 and weighs anywhere from 210 to 220. Because of his size, he can play any type of guard without help and without cheating for steals.
Also, over the course of his career, Williams has missed just 24 out of 425 regular season games. With his frenetic style of play, Paul has worn down more than a few times. Last season, a knee injury limited him to only 45 games. Paul has missed close to three times as many games in his career as Williams.
Finally, as the “leader” of a team’s on-court performance, what is most often described as a point guard’s most important quality? The ability to make their teammates better. And win. I’m sure you may have heard, but in head-to-head match-ups over the course of their career, Williams has destroyed Paul. In 18 career games against the Hornets with Williams running the show, the Jazz are 14-4. That’s not some stat put together over a small sample size. That is five years of basketball, with different players and situations. I don’t even really need to mention that when they met in college, Williams’ Illinois team spanked Paul and his Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Williams has led Utah to the playoffs every year since his rookie season and has been to the Western Conference Finals. Paul has only one career playoff series win under his belt.
John Hollinger will have you believe that Paul put up two of the greatest seasons as a point guard in League history. He can have that acclaim because Williams is considered the better crunch-time player, has a more complete game, is more durable, has had more team success and in head-to-head meetings, he dominates CP both individually and in the win column. Plus, he has a better hair game. OK, that last one was a joke, but you get my point.
Dominance. It has been a staple of Chris Paul’s basketball career ever since his high school days. No matter where he is, his team’s play is automatically lifted when he is on the court.
As we saw in the 2009-10 season, the Hornets were able to go 23-22 with an injured Paul playing. When Paul was on the sidelines, the Hornets went 14-23.
But let’s not dwell on the past. What Chris Paul is doing right now is even more incredible. With quality wins over the Nuggets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Mavericks and Heat, the Hornets are no fluke at 11-2. Considering that the additions of Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli were their most significant, this just proves that Chris Paul can carry a team unlike any point guard in the NBA.
And he’s done the carrying while being efficient. According to John Hollinger’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating), Paul is the second most efficient player in the league at a 27.37 rating. Deron Williams, unfortunately, is 30 spots behind Paul with a 20.36 rating, which isn’t too shabby either.
In fact, Williams has had quite an impressive season as well. Dime’s Austin Burton made an argument for him to be ahead for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award race. While he does have some good points, there is one thing that really separates Paul from Williams: His ability to make players around him better.
Take a look at Tyson Chandler. His best years were in New Orleans. Chris Paul not only threw him a great amount of alley-oop passes, but he forced Chandler to perform well defensively since Paul took care of the offense. The same could be said for Emeka Okafor and David West. Okafor is averaging a career-best 2.5 blocks per game this year and West is quietly playing like an All-Star again.
This separation factor makes a huge difference. While Williams is a great distributor, he doesn’t make his teammates better like Paul. Williams is capable of taking over the game in the waning minutes (something he’s done all year long), but eventually that will catch up to the Jazz if they become too reliant on him. This wouldn’t happen with the Hornets, since Paul knows how to keep the scoring balanced.
Between his efficient scoring and his ability to make players around him better, Chris Paul takes the cake for the League’s best point guard and possibly the league’s best leader.
– LUCAS SHAPIRO
Who do you think is better?