By: Sherwood Strauss

Poor Chris Paul, you’re frozen in time as rivals bolt forward. Every day, they create new memories for larger audiences; you languish somewhere near a thickening oil slick and Emeka Okafor’s rotting contract. Rajon Rondo just out-LeBron’d Lebron. Steve Nash gutted-out a series win with one eye tied behind his head. And De-rin-don’t call me De-Ron-Williams will go fishing sooner—but in short time he made short work of the CP3 consensus.  The basketball intelligentsia isn’t sure about Paul as the number one PG and who could blame them? Every playoff game brings a new, shiny floor general. I almost forgot Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose. That Jameer Nelson has no neck—if he did, he’d be nipping at their heels.

So today I stand up for a forgotten man. Chris Paul had a bad year on a bad wheel, and he wasn’t even that bad:  18.7, 10.7, and 4.2, on 58.4% True Shooting is nothing to sneeze at—especially if you’re Peja, because sneezing would hurt that back. Chris has been sub-Paul for one year and you’d think he descended into a Shawn Kemp spiral.  We’re only hurting ourselves with this amnesia, because Paul’s the greatest since Magic.  Here are his usurpers:

Chris Paul is better than Rajon Rondo

And trust me, I love Rondo. His only major flaw was settling for a half-price contract, which might be a virtue when you think about it. Oh, and then there’s the whole not being able to shoot a basketball thing. As I’ve groused in many a post, scoring is overrated. Rondo produces efficiently and does all the little things. Meaning that, he does all the things that aren’t so little, while getting little appreciation. But Rondo doesn’t really outperform a healthy Paul in any category—save for defense (barely). Weirdly enough, those two are roughly equivalent rebounders (Last year, CP3 and Rondo both averaged 5.2 boards).

Oh and Chris Paul can shoot.

Chris Paul is better than Steve Nash

And trust me, I love Nash. In Game 3, before the surreal Dragic show, Nash uncorked a familiar potion: Dribble side-to-side, get an Amare pick, split the defense with a bouncer, serve Amare with an easy dunk off the roll.  Nash didn’t just make the pass—he constructed the paradigm.  It’s like watching an alien move time and space with his hands.

I won’t rip on Nash’s defense because that criticism is overblown. Indeed he is the worst defender of the elite playoff point guards, but I don’t want to be cliché in piling on. Nash simply can’t touch Paul’s rebounding and driving ability. Nash’s best PER was 23.8. Paul notched a 30.0 last year.

Chris Paul is better than Deron Williams

And trust me, I hate the Jazz. Whoops, I mean, trust me, Deron was in “House Party II.” Whoops, I mean Williams is a beast and he sucked the marrow from Chauncey Billups’ career.  Look, Deron is a site to behold. He has size, athleticism, and a nasty crossover to pair with a deadly shot.  His passes are lasers, and he can switch onto off-guards. Deron also manages to dunk the basketball exactly like John Starks once did on that storied cram verses the Bulls. Anyway, D-Will is a great player…who isn’t at Chris Paul’s level. Offensively, Williams has never come close (Best PER: 21.1), and his defensive +/- has never caused a stat geek’s glasses to fog. Sorry Sheed, but I can’t agree. And if Deron can’t muster more against Derek Fisher’s ghost, then I really can’t agree.

Very Serious Profound Conclusion Paragraph

I once watched an episode of Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” and sank into an awkward debate. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat made a criticism of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and this got Chris Matthews fuming. Matthews wasn’t angry about Douthat’s point of view—Chris was mad because Douthat ripped a “man who isn’t around to defend himself.”

I don’t agree with Douthat on much, but I do believe that criticism shouldn’t just extend to the living. Chris Paul rests in basketball purgatory, unable to defend his reputation. That sucks, but it shouldn’t preclude others from egging his legacy.

Feel free, haters.  Chris Paul will be resurrected come Fall. I’m predicting he transcends that small market en route to longer-lasting respect. In the meantime, I hope you cherish memories of an unguardable blur with elite passing vision. Someone with the best handles, though Curry’s close.  A wee-mite who yanks rebounds and defensively hounds like a vicious little jackal.  He drops floaters, off-balance layups, hits his threes and nails his FTs. He can do it all. None of these other guys can. Let us remember.

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