Since the 1955-56 season, the NBA has given out the Maurice Podoloff Trophy to the league’s Most Valuable Player. This year’s voting for the award will certainly be one of the closest ever. With LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett all considered for the award, the voters will have to consider what their criteria are and who is most deserving.
For me, the NBA MVP this season is Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Paul joined the record books among the leagues greatest little guys. In the NBA’s history, only six times has someone played in at least 75 games, scored 20 points per game, handed out 10 assists per game, and had two steals per game.
Beyond just having a great offensive statistical season, Paul was the leader of this Hornets squad, who improved their record from 39-43 in 2006-07 to 56-26 this season. New Orleans had the second best record in the Western Conference, competing in the Southwest Division, which also featured three other 50 plus win teams - San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Only the Lakers in the West and the Pistons and Celtics in the East won more games this season than New Orleans.
Paul also made those around him better. David West achieved career highs in points per game (20.6) and rebounds per game (8.9). Tyson Chandler reached a career high in points, averaging 11.8 per game. Peja Stojakovic shot a career best from behind the three point line (44.1%).
Paul didn’t just excel on the offensive side of the floor. He led the NBA in steals per game (2.7) and finished third in defensive rebounds per game amongst point guards (3.2). Upon trading point guard Bobby Jackson to the Houston Rockets on February 21, the Hornets played the rest of the season with no backup point guard to Paul. Playing with merely average defensive players in Morris Peterson and Stojakovic, Paul was forced to generally defend the other team’s best guard every night.
As a point guard, Paul also did an outstanding job taking care of the ball. Paul finished third in the league in assists to turnover ratio (4.60) and sixth in steals per turnover (1.08). Directing the Hornets offense, the team finished ninth in the NBA in fast break points with 13.6 per game and eighth in field goal attempts with 82.9 per game.
With a roster of players limited to scoring from the perimeter (Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, Jannero Pargo) or from inside the paint (Tyson Chandler, Bonzi Wells, David West, Hilton Armstrong), Paul was really the only true playmaker on the squad.
Some telling statistics of Paul’s dominance and where he ranked within the NBA:
FTM/Game for Point Guards
3P% for Point Guards
Bottom line: Chris Paul really did it all this season. He excelled on the offensive side - scoring in all different ways, handling the ball and creating shots for his teammates. On defense, he created fast break opportunities and extra possessions by forcing steals. His team exceeded all expectations from the media and won seventeen more games than last season. Paul made his teammates better – evidenced by several of them having career years. The Hornets won the second most games in the Western Conference, and their point guard, Chris Paul, is the main reason for the teams’ success.