What Does Chris Paul's Return Mean for the Clippers?
Well, that free agent chase was quick. Just when the Chris Paul/Dwight Howard Double Derby was heating up, Chris took a cue from his brother Cliff and decided to give Clippers fans a little help. 5 years and $107 million later, CP3's going to be in the Los Angeles backcourt for a while.
While the composition of the team may not be the same - have fun elsewhere, Eric Bledsoe - Chris Paul's re-signing instantly keeps the team at a top-tier level. Without him... well, let's just say that it wouldn't have been pretty in Los Angeles.
In fact, I'm willing to go the extra mile and say that Paul's return to L.A. is the single-most important move in the entire offseason. Why? I'm glad you asked.
Offensive Efficiency Deluxe
Tyson Chandler led the NBA with a 133 offensive rating this season, posting the best mark since the NBA/ABA merger with 1.33 points per possession. However, much of his efficiency was due to the Knicks' style of play; Chandler would often only shoot in wide open or offensive rebound situations. Much more impressive to me would be a player with an offensive rating that high who also held a usage rating over 20 percent... I think you can see where this is going.
Paul's 127.0 offensive rating was the second-best mark in the NBA this year, despite the fact that he finished his team's possession over 10 percent more while on the court than Chandler. Paul's mark registers as the 15th-best single-season ORtg of all-time, and only now-teammate Chauncey Billups' 127.18 ORtg in '05-06 is better for pure point guards.
Just how bad would the offense struggle without nPaul on the court? Eric Bledsoe finished the regular season at a 102 ORtg. That means Paul gained his team a quarter of a point more every single play through him. That's an incredible figure that could easily drop L.A.'s fourth-best 110.6 team ORtg right down to mid-pack if he left.
This type of outrageous offensive efficiency is nothing new for Paul though. Since 2007-2008, Paul hasn't posted a single offensive rating less than 122. That places him (ready for this?) sixth, second, fifth, seventh, second, and second in offensive efficiency over the last six years. Even LeBron, for all of his offensive prowess, has only been in the Top 10 four times and Top 5 once over that same timespan.
And then there's this: Chris Paul could retire today, and his 122.2 offensive rating would be the single-best career mark all-time among qualified players. The. Best. Now that's some Hall of Fame efficiency it would kill the Clippers offense to lose.
Centerpiece to a Defense
Nobody ever said CP3 was a one way player, and in fact, his defensive accomplishments may almost rival his defensive ones. The stats say his two straight First Team All-Defense nods from the past two seasons are no fluke.
Well, maybe Chris Paul's 3.8 percent steal rate from this past season was the one fluke... because he usually finishes first, not second. Only Ricky Rubio's 4.2 percent steal rate (the best in the NBA since Ron Artest's 4.5 percent in 2002) kept Chris Paul from grabbing his third-straight season with the highest steal percentage in the NBA and the fifth season with the highest mark in his past six. The NBA has not had a better, more consistent steals artist over the past decade.
Paul's 102 defensive rating was also the best of his career, helping the Clippers drop 2.1 points allowed per 100 possessions between 2012 and 2013. This season, the Clippers' 103.6 DRtg ranked eighth in the NBA, and Paul's mark was second among the team's guards behind Bledsoe's barely-better 101 mark.
On Vs. Off the Court
What was that about how Paul and Blake Griffin don't like playing on the court at the same time? According to the numbers, that couldn't be a bigger misconception.
According to 82games.com, the Clippers' most used floor alignment during the regular-season consisted of Paul-Green-Butler-Griffin-Jordan. I'm sure that only surprises the people who don't know who the Clippers are, in which case I'm confused why you're reading this article. That group of five held an offensive rating of 115 and a defensive rating of 107, scoring 113 more points than they allowed over just under 700 minutes.
But if Eric Bledsoe replaces Chris Paul? The set of five still doesn't do too badly, with an offensive rating at 113 and a defensive rating at 107, but a closer look at the stats reveals a troubling trend. The Bledsoe-centric five only shot a .479 effective field goal percentage (eFG%), while the Paul-centric five shot .501 eFG%. And while the Bledsoe corps did hold a better defensive eFG% by .008, the slight bump in defense does not do nearly enough to offset the offensive strength.
Then again, it's not just Griffin that Paul helped out. Of the Clippers' 20 most-used lineups last season, seven scored .10 more points per possession than they allowed. All of those seven had either Paul or Bledsoe at point guard. Paul had five (including the most-efficient unit of Paul-Butler-Barnes-Griffin-Jordan), while Bledsoe only had two. And of those five that Paul had, eight different players were featured. The only player who seemingly played better with Bledsoe than Paul is Ronny Turiaf, who does not feature in a single lineup of significant minutes with Paul.